Recently I have been con­cen­trat­ing on meet­ing with mar­keters across a vari­ety of indus­tries to take a close look at their exter­nal web sites and eval­u­ate how well their site search is per­form­ing.  It has been very inter­est­ing and enlight­en­ing.  The fun part for me (as a site search expert) is how rel­a­tively easy it STILL is to uncover what could be done bet­ter for the vast major­ity of these web­sites.  Quite frankly, there are a few lead­ers out there who have site search nailed and are reap­ing the ben­e­fits, but most sites still have some basic yet poten­tially very fruit­ful work to do.   One inter­est­ing (non-scientific) tid­bit has been that Inter­net pure play busi­nesses seems to be doing the best job of site search opti­miza­tion.  Makes sense, I guess as this is their one oppor­tu­nity to sell, but an inter­est­ing find­ing none the less.

A few take­aways from these infor­mal web­site  “audits” come to mind.

For exam­ple:  The search box should be the 2nd ele­ment that is seen when your vis­i­tors land on your home page, right after your com­pany logo.  This is because vis­i­tors who search for items are 3x more likely to con­vert than those who use nav­i­ga­tion and browse only.  On many of the sites that I’ve seen recently, the search box is still small, not tied into the company’s brand­ing and may have a mes­sage in it that “turns off” users instead of engag­ing them.  This is sim­ple to fix and can really help vis­i­tors with high intent, convert.

Another site search best prac­tice is to offer auto sug­gest func­tion­al­ity.  An exam­ple of this is when a vis­i­tor begins typ­ing in “glov” in the search bar and “gloves” pops up and the vis­i­tor then click on gloves.  Auto sug­gest fea­tures are still not uni­ver­sally used and this can be a lost oppor­tu­nity. Help your web­site vis­i­tors get to where they’re going, faster.

Being able to mer­chan­dise goods and ser­vices via site search is also very impor­tant.  For exam­ple, being able to push higher mar­gin items or high­est con­vert­ers to the top of a search results page will hope­fully move the nee­dle in terms of meet­ing your busi­ness goals.

Lastly – using ana­lyt­ics to do some dig­ging is really impor­tant.   Check to see if there are search terms that are ren­der­ing null results.  Could you add prod­ucts to your inven­tory that cus­tomers indi­cate that they want via search  so that they do not aban­don your site or could you tweak your search results so that sim­i­lar prod­ucts are dis­played that might poten­tially ful­fill a cus­tomer need instead of hav­ing them get a “not found” mes­sage? Don’t let them leave frustrated.

Hope­fully some of these tips prove use­ful as you work to opti­mize your website’s search expe­ri­ence.  Happy searching.