A core component of the USAGov content team’s job is to make sure the public can find what it’s looking for on our site. One of the main ways we do that is by researching to zero in on the keywords people are using when they search for a topic. Then we incorporate those keywords into our page titles and content summaries.
Last fall, we worked on a project to come up with a label that describes the group of benefits that includes food stamps, low-income housing and other related government services. Our main goal was to add a category, titled with this new label, on the USA.gov pages that lists important resources in each state. We refer to these as our state directory records. Our challenge was to find a common naming convention for those benefits so people would recognize it, regardless of where they live.
Five Steps for Finding a Link Name
1. Research Gathering - We created a spreadsheet listing all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia. Under each, we listed the name of the agency that handles food stamps and other government benefits. We were surprised by the variations in names:
- Arizona - Department of Economic Security
- Georgia - Department of Human Services
- Guam - Department of Public Health and Social Services
- South Carolina - Department of Social Services
- Texas - Department of Health and Human Services
- Washington - Department of Social and Health Services
2. Google Trend Analysis - Next, we conducted Google Trend searches that compared words using three- and 12-month time frames in order to look for seasonal changes and year-over-year patterns. Words we used included social services, human services, food stamps, welfare, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and other benefit terms. The word “welfare” was the top term used.
3. Anecdotal Evidence - We looked at a presentation done by a local nonprofit agency that offers charity benefits on how the term “welfare” is perceived. The word is not used in current material for distribution, so we eliminated it from our list.
4. Report Analysis - Our final report shows how we narrowed our options to “human services” or “social services.” We then forwarded these findings to our user experience (UX) team for one last round of testing.
5. Unofficial Poll - The UX team created an anonymous poll to help us get a sense of which term the average person might use. While the results weren’t scientific, they helped validate some of our other findings.
What We Decided
Based on our research, we decided to use the term “social services” to label the category that references this set of benefits available at the state and local level. We’ll be adding this new category to our current state directory records pages in the coming weeks.
Sandra Abrams is a Content Writer for USAGov.