The purpose of this paper is to analyse if citizens’ searches on the internet coincide with the services that municipal websites offer. In addition, the authors examine municipal webpage rankings in search engines and the factors explaining them.
The empirical study, conducted through a sample of Spanish city councils, contrasted if the information that can be found on a municipal website fits with citizens’ demands. This has been done by comparing the most-searched keywords with the contents of municipal websites.
A positive relationship between the supply and demand of municipal information on the internet has been found, but much can still be improved. Analysed administrations rank the basic data of the organisation, as well as some of the fundamental competences thereof, at the top in search engines, but the results are not entirely effective with some keywords still highly demanded by citizens, such as those related to employment or tourism. Factors explaining internet ranking include the number of pages of the municipal website, its presence in social networks and an indicator designed to measure the difficulty of ranking the municipal place-name.
The results obtained from this study provide valuable information for municipal managers. Municipal websites should not only include information in which citizens are interested, but achieve accessibility standards, have a responsive web design, and follow the rules of web usability. Additionally, they should be findable, which also requires improvement in terms of the design of the municipal website thinking in search engines, particularly in terms of certain technical characteristics that improve findability. A municipal website that wants to have a good positioning should increase its contents and attain the maximum degree possible of visibility in social networks.
The analysis reported in this paper was supported by Grant ECO2013-45568-R from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science and the European Regional Development Fund and by Grant Ref. S-14 (3) and S-86 from the Government of Aragon.
This paper forms part of a special section “Social media mining for journalism”.
Serrano-Cinca, C. and Muñoz-Soro, J. (2019), "What municipal websites supply and citizens demand: a search engine optimisation approach", Online Information Review, Vol. 43 No. 1, pp. 7-28. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-02-2018-0042Download as .RIS
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