Is it time for you to improve site search?

You’re a marketer, looking at 2018 with a hefty set of goals and revenue that you need to deliver. Traditionally, your site search is an afterthought to your website project, not nearly as important as your navigation and other aspects of your user experience. But you’re looking at your goals and your website metrics and realizing that something needs to change.

That “something” could be your site search.

If you’re like most marketers, you will probably jump to the content strategy, campaign messaging and more first. But you may be overlooking one of the most important aspects of your user experience – and missing out on revenue. Think about it: how often do you browse from page to page on a vendor website? How often are you just “casually strolling” through content? For many, thanks to the advent of consumer-grade search engines, the answer is rarely and it’s happening less and less. For customers today, the search box is their first instinct. Motivated consumers know what they need and they use the search box to find it.

You may wonder where this avalanche of search usage is in your website metrics and where the customer emails are protesting your search experience. You won’t find them. What you will find: very few search queries. Because you have not invested in your site search experience, your users are not bothering to use it. There also could be design issues, outlined in this post, that are affecting usage. But again, if you haven’t invested in providing best-in-class search, why bother persuading people to use it?

You’ll also find the poor site search user experience reverberate across your marketing metrics, in terms of lower conversion rates, high bounce rates, lower time on site, lower returning users, etc. Those customers who leave your website without getting their questions answered won’t write an angry email about the experience, not when your competitor is two clicks away.

For marketers using Sitecore, this is particularly frustrating. Putting in all of the legwork to personalize with Sitecore is no small task – but the Azure, Solr or other search tools you’re using with your Sitecore instance may be the issue getting in the way.

How to Know When it’s Time to Improve Your Site Search

Symptom #1 Personalized marketing is in your short-term and long-term plans, but you’re having trouble getting your website admin to deliver.

Personalizing your website is not easy. It’s very resource-intensive for your admins to set up and implement, let alone invest in testing and tweaking. You may have tried to get around this by utilizing more personalized and targeted landing pages and emails, but these efforts are not getting you anywhere when your customer starts to do their own research on your website. For example, with Sitecore, the xDB offers incredible capabilities for personalization, but the heavy lift required to set up personas and profiles, tagging content, and more is daunting.

Here’s where upgrading and improving your site search solution comes in. Best-in-class solutions enable you to personalize your experience – without the heavy lift required. Machine learning will automatically learn from your users what content is relevant based on their context, behavior, and intent, and apply those insights to deliver a personalized experience. You can extend this beyond the search box with search-driven and personalized content pages, as well as “recommendations” panels that predict where your visitor needs to go next. Forget about manual tuning; you can apply insights from your data automatically without putting an enormous burden on your Sitecore or website admin.

Recommendation: Read the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Insight Engines to start researching how to apply an insight engine to your website.

 

Symptom #2 You have done the work to build the xDB, but you aren’t able to integrate the xDB with your site search on your Sitecore website.

This one is a specific issue for marketers using Sitecore – and one we hear often.

You’ve accepted your visitor’s first instinct is to search – but struggling with bringing the profiles and personas set up in xDB to life in your site search experience. Now that your visitors are searching more, you’re missing a crucial opportunity to provide relevant and personalized content right when they need it, as well as gain crucial insights to help you fine-tune your personas and profiles.

Fixing this issue may be easier than you think and when you do, you will combine machine learning with the advanced capabilities of the xDB to keep your digital experience meeting your users’ expectations. 

Recommendation: Get started today by reading our latest whitepaper with our friends at Valtech, “Simplifying Personalization in Sitecore xDB.

 

Symptom #3 You’re not hitting your conversion goals with the content you’re creating.

Since the boom of content marketing, many marketers are on the “content treadmill” with no sign of stopping. Marketers sit in a room, identify the content that needs to be written, and go.

There are two problems with this approach. First, you need to use data to identify what your customers actually want to see on your site. As a marketer, if you don’t have easy access to this data, you won’t create the content that will keep your visitors engaged and converting on your site. Second, you need to investigate the issue of findability on your website. Are you creating content that no one sees? Are you automatically recommending the content your visitors will need next? If you’re not, you can expect that  you will have some “leakage” of your visitors exiting the site to find the answers they need as they search for content.

You can make your life easier and solve both of these issues by upgrading your site search experience. First, looking at your search usage data to identify the queries that return few or no results, along with results with a low clickthrough rate, will help you close the gaps in your website content. Rather than creating content as an educated guess that your visitors will need, start “listening” to them with more powerful analytics. It’s time to improve your site search.

Recommendation: Check out how other marketing departments use site search in “Intelligent Site Search for CMOs.”

 

Symptom #4 You have a lot of content on your site in multiple databases, and expect your content to grow that content base over the next five years.

If the amount of content on your website is overwhelming to you, imagine how your visitors feel. With the rise of mobile devices and the coming age of voice-based interactions, browsing through content and providing long lists of keyword-matched results will no longer cut it for your users. Imagine how long you would listen to Siri or Google Home read out a list of 10 results when you ask for an Italian restaurant within five miles of your home. Read more about chatbots and digital assistants.

Prepare now by unifying all of your content from all your data sources, through search. Make your site search experience a one-stop shop for answers, and then focus on providing relevant results to every user. How? Machine learning automates the analysis and delivery of your insights.

Recommendation: Learn more about how search can unify your content and understand how unifying content is crucial to your strategy.

 

Symptom #5 Your pageviews, bounce rate and are lagging behind expectations.

Going through a full redesign. Overhauling your content. Commissioning a study of your visitors. You can do all of these things in order to try to fix these metrics, or you can follow the expert advice: fix site search. Search Engine Watch cites site search users as “spearfishers,” or your consumers who are on a mission to find the content they need from your website. If they can’t find that information on your website, they will quickly move onto an external search engine and other websites.

Many web administrators have only bothered with setting up basic keyword matching search and this is where they are losing these “spearfishers.” Think about how you search on an external search engine. How much do you expect that search engine to know when you type your query? For most queries, your location, browsing history, previous searches are all essential information. And don’t forget synonyms and misspellings as well.

This is why it’s important to improve your site search with an AI-powered search and relevance solution. Your search technology will be “self-learning,” automatically improving its results and understanding of your users over time.

If you are using Sitecore, you can get started today by downloading our latest whitepaper, “Simplifying Personalization in Sitecore xDB.

Did we forget anything that you or your clients have experienced? Tweet at us @Coveo to let us know!

About Rachel Schultz

Rachel Schultz is the Content Marketing Manager at Coveo. She blends her background in journalism seamlessly with her B2B marketing expertise and obsession with data to create compelling content for the Coveo community. When she’s not working, you’ll find her reading (strictly non-fiction), hanging out with her puppy or taking in all NYC has to offer with her husband.

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