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March 20, 2024

The Impact of Federated Search

Aggregating Content from Third-Party Systems – Including Your Community – Can Supercharge Your Website

Guest contributors to Higher Logic’s blog are valued members of our community who have offered to share their insights. The content contained and the opinions expressed in the blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Higher Logic or its employees. Higher Logic does not endorse or make any representations regarding the content and disclaims any liability related to the blog post.

Are your members struggling to locate the information they need on your association’s website?

Is content scattered across disparate systems, creating a frustrating user experience?

A unified search solution – i.e. federated search – may be the key to making the knowledge discovery process easier for your site users, ending the struggle and frustration that could lead them to leave your website and look for valuable industry information elsewhere.

What is Federated Search?

Federated search aggregates content from various sources – including your online community, Learning Management System (LMS), AMS, publications, and other third-party platforms – allowing you to present results from multiple sources on a single search results page. So when someone uses the search field on your website to look up a member benefit or a hot topic, the results page will show them relevant resources from across your association’s digital ecosystem.

Adam Hostetter and Johnny Clayton from FUSE Search will be diving into the impacts of federated search during their upcoming Super Forum 2024 session on April 11. Join us to learn more!

woman using federated search to find what she's looking for on organization's website

How Does Federated Search Work?

There can be several different coding methods at play in federated search like APIs, structured feeds, stored procedures, data dumps, and content crawls. 

The very first step is to programmatically connect – using one of the methods mentioned – with the content stored across your various systems. 

Then, based on pre-set parameters, the platform gathers data from each system and saves it to an indexed database. 

That database then serves as the centralized source that your website searches against. Once in place, you’re ready to present a comprehensive, user-friendly search experience to your members.

3 Key Benefits of Federated Search

  1. Centralized Content Hub: The Knowledge Powerhouse at Your Members’ Fingertips
    Federated search transforms your website into a complete knowledge hub, creating a world where members can find information easily.And this is what you get in return:

    • Engagement Increase: When valuable content is easy to access, members become active participants. They consume, discuss, and contribute within your digital ecosystem, fueling a vibrant and self-sustaining community.
    • Member Happiness: Intuitive search and a cohesive user experience replace frustration with satisfaction. Members feel valued and supported, strengthening loyalty and increasing the perceived value of your association.
    • Thought Leadership Elevated: By consistently delivering the right knowledge to the right people, your association becomes synonymous with reliable insights. You establish yourself as the definitive industry resource, attracting new members and solidifying your authority.
  2. Content Visualization: Understanding at a Glance
    Federated search transcends the limitations of mere text-based results. It unlocks the power of visual communication, delivering information in ways that resonate deeply with members:

    • Topic Maps: The Big Picture Revealed: Complex topics can be communicated through interactive maps, helping members grasp the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what,’ unlocking an even deeper level of learning.
    • Infographics and Visualizations: Clarity over Complexity: Technical data, statistics, and processes are transformed into eye-catching infographics. Members absorb knowledge quickly and retain it for longer, saving valuable time and effort.
    • Relevant Snippets: Laser-focused Insights: Federated search can pinpoint the most relevant sections of lengthy articles, videos, and presentations. Members get the core information they need, fast – helping them make informed decisions without extensive time commitments.
  3. Harnessing the Power of AI Integration: The Future of Personalized Discovery
    By infusing your federated search with AI, you can create a self-optimizing system that delivers hyper-contextual content experiences:

    • Personalized Recommendations – Beyond Search, a Guide: AI becomes a digital concierge, learning each member’s needs and interests. It suggests content that’s genuinely relevant, creating an affinity for your site’s content.
    • Trendspotting – Data-Driven Strategy: AI can analyze vast quantities of search patterns, revealing the topics your members care about most. This allows for you to be more proactive in your content creation, ensuring your association stays ahead of the curve.
    • Auto-Summarization – Time is Your Most Valuable Asset: AI distills lengthy documents, extracting the essence into concise summaries. Members can quickly evaluate what’s worth their time investment before deep diving, maximizing productivity.

Types of Content that Can be Included with Federated Search

  • Pages, documents, and images from your website/content management system.
  • Content that lives in your CRM/AMS.
  • Courses from your learning management system (LMS).
  • Calendar listings from your event management system.
  • Products from your e-commerce platform.
  • Open positions from your job board.
  • Data from your Intranet or Cloud-based storage.
  • Articles and books from publishers’ websites.
  • Videos from apps like YouTube, Vimeo, Brightcove, Wistia, and more.
  • Posts and discussions from your online community.
  • Messages sent via your email marketing platform
  • Announcements and interactions from your social media accounts.
woman typing on computer

Beyond Your Website with Federated Search

Federated search is not limited to just improving your website’s search capabilities. It is a flexible and scalable tool that can collect data and streamline information delivery in many ways.

Unifying Data Across Internal Systems

Organizations like yours usually have a multitude of systems and databases that your team uses internally. Federated search enables you to connect these sources and improve your staff’s communication, data gathering, trend tracking, and more.

Streamlining Document Management

Federated search integrates with your document management system, allowing users to snag documents, files, and records from multiple repositories using a single search box.

This streamlined approach obviously saves time and effort, ensuring that your team can locate the right documents quickly and efficiently.

Enhancing Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

Federated search facilitates collaboration by breaking down content silos within your organization. It allows your team to search for and share insights across various systems and databases, promoting a culture of knowledge-sharing and collaborative problem-solving.

With federated search, your team can tap into the collective of the organization, accelerating innovation and fostering continuous learning.

Enhancing Customer Support and Service

Federated search can serve a vital role in improving customer service. By leveraging your customer relationship management (CRM) system, knowledge bases, and support ticketing platforms, federated search can empower customer service representatives to quickly troubleshoot issues efficiently, access relevant information, and provide accurate responses to customer requests.

Overcoming Security and Access Concerns

Your association likely handles sensitive information that requires certain protocols. Federated search can work within your existing security ecosystem.

You can also seamlessly integrate with Single Sign-On (SSO) and enable role-based access.
This allows you to designate what content members are authorized to view without compromising data security.

Boosting SEO and Website Visibility

Federated search can positively impact your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By consolidating relevant content from various sources, your website becomes a richer resource for search engines to index.
And, content from traditionally ‘hidden’ sections (like member-only communities or courses) can be indexed securely. This enhanced indexing can lead to increased visibility for your association’s content within search results.

Future-proofing Your Content Strategy

Technology and member expectations constantly evolve. Federated search provides a scalable and adaptable foundation for your future content plans.

Suppose your organization creates a podcast, launches a new e-journal, or collaborates with another association. In that case, these sources can be easily incorporated into your federated search engine.

This flexibility allows your knowledge hub to grow alongside emerging content strategies, ensuring continued relevance for your members.

The Federated Search Advantage

Implementing federated search positions your association to deliver a superior, streamlined content experience for members. It’s a powerful strategy for maximizing the value of your existing content assets, boosting engagement, and establishing a reputation as a valuable knowledge provider.

Attend the Super Forum 2024 session by Adam Hostetter and Johnny Clayton from FUSE Search to learn more about how you can leverage federated search to make your association's website experience better!

Guest contributors to Higher Logic’s blog are valued members of our community who have offered to share their insights. The content contained and the opinions expressed in the blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Higher Logic or its employees. Higher Logic does not endorse or make any representations regarding the content and disclaims any liability related to the blog post.

Adam Hostetter

Adam Hostetter co-founded FUSE with one problem in mind: your content isn’t on just one platform so why should your website only connect to one of them? Having devoted the last decade of his career to serving associations, he’s on many the speed dial of association peers, client executives, and staff because he has a pattern for developing trusting relationships and anticipating needs. Fun facts about Adam: he learned to ski when he was 44, likes DIY projects around the house, and appeared on the Price is Right in 2006.