The Power of Internal Search Engine on Your Website
Most websites do have an internal search engine. A search engine is useful to your visitors, so they have the option to quickly finding what they are looking for, be it products, ideas, or some specific content. If you don’t have a search engine in your website, you might be losing some customers ad it could actually affect user experience negatively.
Some customers can’t find what they are looking for, and some customers find navigating your site too difficult. In this blog post, you can find more information about web shop search engines, and why they are important.
Type of Querries Made Through On-Site Search
It is worth considering that, as with web-search, the type of queries made through on-site search can be grouped into categories of 'intent':
- Navigational: The immediate intent is to reach a particular page that the user has in mind, either since they visited it in the past or because they assume that such a page exists.
- Informational: The intent is to acquire some information assumed to be present on the site. No further interaction is predicted, except reading the contents.
- Transactional: The intent is to perform some web-mediated activity. The interaction constitutes the transaction defining these queries, and they are the most difficult to evaluate.
Search Analysis: The Starting Point
Not a tip, but the place to start is by collecting some data about the way users search on your site. Your analytics package should include a feature to monitor the use and effect of your on-site search. Google Analytics hides this under Content -> Site Search. Follow the instructions to expose your search query parameters to Google, and you'll be able to view a Mixcloud dashboard - showing metrics such as the percentage of visitors making refinements to their initial search, the average time spent on the site after searching and the percentage of searchers who left the site after seeing the search results.
Benefits of a good search engine and how it should look
Developing and making the perfect search engine for your site can be time-consuming. This is due to the importance of ensuring that it is of benefit to website users rather than a hindrance, for the site visitors.
You may want to put yourself in your customers’ shoes when it comes to figuring out how your search engine should look, and what it should be able to do. The greater your focus on your customers’ needs, the greater the chance that your search engine will actually fulfill those needs. In fact, for many customers, the web shop search engine is every bit as important as the shopping cart and payment options on an ecommerce store.
There are several critical factors when it comes to what the search engine should be able to do, and how it should look. These factors are:
- The search engine should be visible and easy to locate. Don’t you ever place your search engine at the bottom of the page. It is definitely better to place it at the top or in the middle.
- Make it obvious that it is a search engine: Your search engine being obvious is important for sales.
- Optimize the search engine for spelling errors and synonyms: When your customers are looking for a product, they may not always have correct spelling or write the name of the product exactly. Therefore, the search engine should account for both spelling errors and synonyms. Otherwise, you may soon be losing customers, because your products won’t show up when your customers search for them.
- Use Search Behaviour to Guide Site Structure A simple review of this information can often give actionable items.. For example, a lot of searches are for specific genres of music. This suggests that the users may prefer to find content based on a style they like, and the site architecture or navigation could be adapted to suit this behaviour. Fourthermore,: a simple change could be to add a 'Genres' menu / tagcloud / etc - and populate it with the most searched-for terms.
- User experience could be further improved by helping users get straight to the pages which receive the most navigational search queries - for example by giving a front-page feature link to the mixes.
- Use Search Behaviour to Guide Site Content. A massive opportunity for many larger sites is to look at the search terms that receive high volume, but result in a high percentage of people leaving the site. In these cases, your users are telling you precisely the type of content or products (for e-commerce sites) they'd like you to provide! You can, and should, action this right away.
- Using Constrained Search. Since search can be considered as a navigational tool that helps users to find the page they need in a more effective way than browsing through long category lists, sites which have a fairly strict site architecture can reflect this in their on-site search. Instead of having a 'free search' text box, they can have a number of fields which 'constrain' users to search in a way that matches the structure of the site.
For example, you can have a 'search feature' which asks users to enter a place type and a postcode. This type of search form ensures that users are entering enough search information to ensure a quality result on the first search. If the results are disappointing (by being too broad, for example) then they will have to refine their search, or may simply leave the site.
Hijacking Search Queries In many searches with navigational intent, users will benefit from being taken directly to a content page, rather than a results page. For example, a search on for 'ranking factors' could be improved by taking a user directly to the Ranking Factors page, rather than the search results page for that query. The main SEO benefit of taking users to a content or browse page, instead of a search page, is that it encourages users to link to your well crafted page for 'widgets' rather than just the 'widgets' search results page - which is less likely to rank in Google and less likely to convert. It wouldn't take long to do a review every week / month of the top hundred searched-for terms, identify navigational searches, and map these to the intended target page.
Have a unique URL for each search result.If your search results URL isn't unique to the search query submitted (e.g.: because you have used a POST form directly to the results page) means you could be missing out on the opportunity for lots of search traffic. Google typically avoids returning search results pages in it's own reults, but in many cases, the 'search results' are atypical and could be a relevant page to return. For example, My IP Neighbors a very useful site. If their search page redirected to a URL that looked like www.myipneighbors.com/check/www.mydomainname.org then they could well compete in the long tail of web searches for domain names.
PPC Landing Pages. One piece of social-research could show that users searching for singular terms (e.g.: toaster) are further along the buying process, and should be sent to a product page, where as plural searches (e.g.: toasters) indicate that the user is looking for comparisons and responds best to being offered a range of options. For people managing paid search campaigns, this means that site-search results pages are a quick way to generate a comparison landing page - and these pages typically have low bounce rate as users tend to visit at least one or two returned results. The 'toasters' search demonstrates a lot of PPC campaigns using this quick and valuable technique, including sites such as MoneySupermarket and Lakeland Plastics. By contrast, Asda are using this technique to send 'washing machines' traffic to a page that reads "We're sorry but there are no results for your search" - please don't waste your PPC budget like this!
Using web search keywords. I think this is a brilliant idea for anyone who can apply it to their site. If the visitor has come from a web search engine, then you can pre-fill the search box with their search term. One very good implementation of this was on Flickr. If you went from web search to an image page, the site-search box would be pre-filled, and a pop-up message over it indicated how many more images could be found for that search term. For example, it would say "Search Flickr for 809 other images matching 'mexican wrestler mask'". This aims to keep people on the site for longer (and from not going back to web- or image-search) but for some reason, this feature hasn't been seen on Flickr for a while.
Why it is important to have a search engine in your website
It makes no difference, if you have a website that sells clothing for example, or if your website sells toys. If you have a website filled with content or products, it is important that you add the internal search engine to your website.
But why is it so important? When some people find your website by using search engines like Google, they are typically searching for one or several specific needs. If they can’t find what they want after clicking directly onto your website, it is very likely that the customer will click back to Google in order to find another web shop.
You can avoid this with a search engine that ensures a fast and easy solution for visitors, so they can easily find what they want..
With a search engine, you increase your chances of visitors actually staying with your website in order to find what they want. Therefore, an internal search engine is a great option for hanging on to potential customers.
Advantages of having a search engine in your web shop
Most websites understand the importance of having a search engine for customers to use when they are looking for a particular thing. This is because an internal search engine provides several advantages. To show you the importance of a search engine, we have identified the main reasons why it is a key element of your website.
1. Search engines improve the user experience
Studies show that only about 30% of visitors to a website spend time looking for a product in the various categories.
Instead, most visitors find the website’s internal search engine and enter the term for the product or service they want. This gives them results related to their search – without spending time looking through categories and subcategories.
Owing to a search engine in your website, the number of visitors leaving your site is reduced, which in turn increases conversions. Customers find your what your website offers such as your products quickly, after which they can figure out whether or not they should purchase them. If a potential customer is unsure where to find what they are looking for after a few seconds, the person will leave your website.
2. Search engines can increase the number of other sales
Sometimes a visitor is looking to buy a specific product that turns out to be sold out or not in stock. Without an internal search engine, there is little you can do for the customer, unless the person contacts your customer service. It’s not likely that this will happen, so the person will most likely find another.
But what if you do have a search engine? You can capture your visitor’s attention in a very specific way. By using a search engine, the customer is referred to related or supplemental products. For instance, a customer might be looking for shoes in a certain color that is sold out. Instead, the search engine will show several similar models, prompting the customer to take a closer look at your other products, which often leads to a sale.
It is not just useful when the product is not accessible, however, since it is also optimal for accessible products. For instance, a search engine may also show products related to the product the customer is looking for. These may be shoe cleaning products, shoelaces, etc.
3. Search engines facilitate searches for other items and website content
Some products are hard to spell. There are also products that are difficult to categorize. How can customers find these products? Here, a search engine can come in handy – especially a search engine that predicts what your visitor is shopping for.
A search engine like that helps with spelling errors, synonyms, etc., which keeps the customer from clicking out of your web shop due to a failure to receive search results.
A search engine without the ability to detect such things as spelling errors and synonyms is not useful, because only a small percentage of people enter the product name correctly.
4. Search engines provide valuable data for optimizing your website
A search engine can help optimize your website when it comes to researching search words. By using various analysis tools, such as Google Analytics, you can find all the search words visitors have used in the search engine.
You can use this to your advantage, because it is your customers telling you what they are looking for in your website.