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Problems search engines have indexing government web sites

Here is bad news about public access to government information. In an article (Agencies Take Steps To Make Web Data Searchable by Daniel Pulliam, National Journal’s Technology Daily, February 21, 2007 PM Edition. [subscription required]) about efforts by Google, MSN. and Yahoo to index government web pages using the Sitemaps tool, J.L. Needham, a strategic partner development manager at Google, criticizes government information access.

Despite months of meeting with nearly every government agency, Needham said there is a lack of understanding about search engines. He said most agency officials do not realize that about 80 percent of visitors to their sites come through search engines.

Most sites under the e-government initiative of the President’s Management Agenda remain unsearchable, Needham said. “Literacy about search engines is lower in the federal government than in the private sector,” he said.

Because about half of all government Web pages are not searchable, a substantial percentage of people conducting searches are missing information they would otherwise find, Needham said. Managers cite other priorities and a potential increase in bandwidth use, which could drive up costs, as their primary concerns about optimizing their sites for searches, he said.

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