On-site search is essential for businesses who want to place user experience (UX) and findability at the heart of their website.
Studies show that companies who optimize their online platforms with UX in mind experience higher conversion rates and greater customer retention. Visitors enjoy greater usability, shorter search journeys, and return more appropriate results from their queries.
Considering 30% of users will perform a search, it’s important to implement an effective tool that can deliver a fool-proof search experience for your users, so they’ll never be hit with the dreaded ‘0-results’ page or hundreds of irrelevant results.
Is site search overlooked?
Many companies are guilty of neglecting their site search tool. The navigation menu is often the focus of UX design optimization as it is an obvious starting point when navigating a website. However, no matter how well-optimized your navigation, there will still be visitors who don’t want to use it or who would rather navigate via search.
Here, site search rises to prominence, but sometimes, companies fail to take advantage of the enormous opportunity it presents. Visitors who utilize the site search tool are typically in the late-stage of the buying cycle and want to experience a short and highly-relevant journey to products. If the search tool performs badly, is too difficult to use, or takes too long to load, they’ll simply move on.
For example, imagine entering a website and not knowing where to click next. Even the well-optimized navigation menu is proving fruitless, and the on-site search bar may return disappointing results – adding friction to your journey.
When we find ourselves in this position, many of us simply perform a quick Google search and redirect to an alternative website that’s likely to return better results. This poor experience means you’re less likely to return, and the website is doomed to repeat a vicious cycle of user exits. And all the while, the website owners are blissfully unaware of, or unsure of how to fix, their site search inadequacies.
By implementing an effective site search tool, businesses can reduce the likelihood of their visitors bouncing off their site, but first, they must assess which aspects of their site search are causing visitors to leave.
What to look for in a site search solution
When choosing a site search tool, there are a few factors you should consider before investing both your time and money in a new solution. On-site search has the ability to truly empower your website optimization process, so it's important to choose a tool that allows you to get the most out of search. Here are seven universal qualities of a robust search solution that are vital to look out for when choosing a new solution:
1. Results page optimization
A poorly designed search engine results page (SERP) can greatly hinder the visitors' experience of your website. If a user is met by hundreds of irrelevant results, it’s unlikely they will sift through them. Moreover, a cluttered SERP that is filled with third-party advertisements can be a turnoff for visitors or lead them straight to your competitor’s website.
Choose a search tool that allows you to customize and curate your SERP using query mapping. Smart site search tools let you redirect certain queries, boost particular pages/products, and even hide pages from results – allowing your business to deliver more relevant outcomes to a query. An impressive SERP will delight your customers, increase engagement, and mean they're more likely to return.
The look and feel of a search tool can often be overlooked, and it’s easy for visitors to be thrown off when the search bar looks out of place, is hard to find, or redirects them to a page that looks off-brand.
By choosing a customizable solution, you can ensure that the design of your search is consistent with the branding on your site. This creates a more uniform and streamlined journey through the site, so the search tool becomes part of a continuous journey for your customers, rather than a fork in the road.
3. Semantic search
Semantic search refers to a form of search processing that understands the user intent and contextual meaning of a query. It's safe to assume that your website visitors will not know the exact keywords for your products or pages, so semantic search bridges the gap between 'human' queries and rigid computer algorithms.
Without semantic search, basic search tools may only return results when a keyword is matched, and even then, the returned search results may not match the contextual meaning of the search query. Consequently, on-site search becomes a trial-and-error process until the correct search term finds the desired item - but it's likely that by then your visitors have already dropped off.
Make sure that your chosen site solution has the capability to account for 'human-like' search queries. Search engines are becoming more adept at recognizing conversational language, so leave your doors open to search tools that already utilize natural language processing (recognizing informal 'human' language, synonyms, or statements), and semantic search.
4. Easy-peasy deployment
Put simply, installing and deploying a site search solution doesn't need to be a headache-inducing process. Avoid solutions that require advanced programming skills or extensive amounts of external support to get off the ground, as this can become costly to both your time and finances in the future.
An out-of-the-box solution can be both easy to deploy and encompass all the essential elements of an effective custom search, without over-complicating your search integration or eating into your valuable time and resources.
5. Maintenance and support
When you adopt a powerful new search solution, sometimes it can be hard to imagine your website without it. So, what if there's an issue with your search? Make sure the necessary support is available for your chosen search solution, so you'll never be left in the dark if something breaks, or goes wrong.
Similarly, it's important to check that your chosen site search solution receives regular maintenance to ensure it's up to date with the latest-and-greatest search trends. If your chosen solution uses processes and methods that are stuck in the past, it's likely your business will fall behind your competitor website's capabilities, and your users will be stuck using an outdated search.
It's likely that your website's data or query volume will constantly be changing, so it's important to check that your chosen search tool is flexible enough to scale your search domain's resources up or down as needed.
By choosing a scalable solution, your on-site search can remain responsive to surges in traffic and seasonal demands, or automatically give you further flexibility and scope for scaling/growing your website in the future.
An on-site search tool provides the perfect opportunity to harness the search terms and queries of your visitors to gain deeper insights into your customers' behavior. Powerful analytics can infer exactly what your customers are searching for, how often they're searching, trending search topics, and much more – providing a wealth of data that can be used to optimize your website in response to your visitors' search habits.
Data-driven decision making can not only help your business perform better, but also give you valuable insights into how you can improve customer experience on your website and optimize your UX design. It's imperative to not skip out on analytics, as they are an effective measure of how your website and search tool is performing.
The choice is yours
A powerful site search tool can take the leg work out of your visitors' search experience, remove the hassle of irrelevant search results, and streamline your users' journey through your website.
When selecting a solution, it's important to make sure your chosen tool has the capabilities to not only deliver great results to your visitors, but also provide your business greater insight into the ways your customers behave, and how you can optimize your website with UX in mind. Put simply, great site search is an optimization opportunity that's not to be missed.