Let's say you're looking for some publicly available government information online. Maybe you're searching for property records or background on your local school district. Chances are, you'll start your quest not by typing in the URL of a government agency website, but by visiting Google or another search engine. Unfortunately, that may not produce the results you're looking for. In fact, much of the content that government agencies make available on the web (about half, by our estimates) doesn't appear in search results because of the way many government websites are structured.

Google has been working to make publicly available government information more accessible to the public. We're doing so by helping government agencies implement the Sitemap Protocol, a technical standard that makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index pages on a website. Tomorrow, a Senate committee will take another important step toward addressing this problem.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will consider S. 2321, which extends and updates the E-Government Act of 2002. Part of the bill directs the Office of Management and Budget to create guidance and best practices for federal agencies to make their websites more accessible to search engine crawlers, and thus to citizens who rely on search engines to access information provided by their government. It also requires federal agencies to ensure their compliance with that guidance and directs OMB to report annually to Congress on agencies’ progress.

Implementing Sitemaps is an easy way for government agencies to make their online information and services more visible and accessible to the citizens they serve. We’ve already worked with states like Arizona, California, and Virginia, and federal agencies in the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Health and Human Services. We've also supported the sitemapping of large databases by Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration.

We welcome this Senate legislation and encourage governments at all levels to participate in this effort to become more transparent and accessible to citizens.