When it comes to improving site search, marketers and website managers are often their own worst enemy. For a large website with thousands of visitors, even the most miniscule improvement in the number of conversions has an impact on revenue. Analyzing the data coming in from the website, blog, marketing automation and CRM systems has become a science. So why aren’t more marketers utilizing their website’s internal search to move the needle?
We have assembled some tactics marketers and website administrators can implement to improve site search to see a higher conversion rate.
The Big Picture
- Let go of outdated beliefs about search. It’s time to start paying attention to search. Econsultancy found that due to the higher level of intent, site search users convert at a rate of five to six times their counterparts not using search. If you’re not paying attention to search, like most marketing and web teams, you are certainly missing out.
- Understand the role search plays in your user experience. Where does your search results page land in terms of traffic? Does the frequent path of users include a specific search term? The analytics engine on your website can help you answer this to see if your users are using search at all, and at what stage of their process. After this, try to find out what type of content visitors are seeking to provide more relevant results.
- Use the language of your customers rather than your own. Every company has their own internal jargon they use for what they are doing and often their own view of how life-changing their products are. Your customers don’t want buzzwords. Spend some time talking to a sample of customers and find out how they view your products and services and position your message accordingly.
- Enable users to organize results. Filters and sorting makes it easier for web visitors to narrow what they need. Don’t provide too many facets; those can be overwhelming. The list of facets should not outnumber the list of results. Consider facets by source type (blog, website, customer portal, etc.), or by product line as a start.
- Place your search box where users can find it. Make your search box at least 25 characters wide and put it in an obvious spot on the page. You can also A/B test the placement to see if there is an uptick in usage.
- Make your pages visually interesting It is a shame when beautifully designed websites lead to bland, text-only search pages. Invest just as much time in making your search results visual, by including small previews and images.
- Don’t forget mobile. Your website needs to be optimized for mobile, and so do your search results pages. It’s important to go beyond just having pages that are functional for mobile users, but also make changes that correspond with having a small screen space, such as limiting the number of facets and character count of results descriptions.
- Search the actual content, not just metadata. If someone searched blog.coveo.com for “search user experience best practices,” just searching metadata may not put this blog post on the first page for results, but there’s some valuable content in here for that search term. This is why it’s not just metadata that needs to be searched.
- Help your users with suggestions. Users don’t know what they don’t know. Thanks to external search engines, they are comfortable with – and even anticipate- search boxes autocompleting suggestions.
- Experiment with language around the search box. Testing small language changes can make a big difference in search usage and conversion rates. Try swapping terms like ‘Go’, ‘Find’, or using the magnifying glass icon and see what your audience prefers.
- Don’t let users get to a “dead end” of no results. “No results” is a clear invitation to go over to an external search engine, and your competitor. Avoid losing your users by finding other ways to engage the customer, like providing a link to a “contact us” email address, FAQ page or the customer service line.
- Capitalize on users’ context to narrow and boost results. Context matters. If your visitor is mobile, how they came to your website, the previous pages they looked at – all of this needs to feed into what search results the visitor’s query returns.
- Create a roadmap for how your site search experience will evolve with your website. Marketing is a fast-paced world, just as customers’ expectations are constantly evolving. Don’t let your website roadmap live in a silo separate from your search management. Strategize how your search capabilities can continually enhance the website user experience.
- Leverage search activity in your content strategy. Your search queries are your visitors telling you directly what they’re interested in from your site. Looking at the queries that return no results or results with low click-through rates is a great place to start building your content strategy.
- Track, track, track. Just like your website, increasing the conversion rate from site search is an ongoing process. Make it a habit to track the impact of every change on the total number of conversions.
The bottom line: improve your site search and watch conversion rates increase. This is a high-level overview at what site search can do.