The future of custom site search
Search is now the go-to tool for finding content on the web. Why click around when you can find what you're looking for in a heartbeat? Search is only likely to become more vital in the future, making custom site search on your website a must-have feature. But what will site search look like in the coming years?
Voice search is quickly gaining traction with consumers thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and home assistant devices such as Amazon Alexa. This has led some industry insiders to jump the gun and make wild predictions like "50% of searches will be voice search by 2020" or "30% of searches will be made without a screen in 4 years". While these divinations are a little outlandish, there is, thankfully, real data that hints at the technology's future.
According to research by GlobalWebIndex, 27% of the global online population already uses voice search on mobile and a recent Statista poll found that – across all age groups – over half of respondents used voice assistants at least once a day.
No matter how you slice it, it's clear that voice search technology is being adopted at a rapid rate. This isn't surprising considering it's a convenient and natural way of searching for content. Custom site searches of the future need to offer the option of voice search – not just to keep up with the Joneses, but to deliver something that people increasingly expect from a search engine.
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Need for speed
People seem forever short of time these days. They're always multi-tasking, always on-the-go, and they expect their search engines to keep pace.
Our demand for instant content means that slow search is no longer acceptable. The more time your search takes to load, the more likely people will simply abandon your site. A study by Akamai found that it takes just 8 seconds of page load time before you lose a quarter of your traffic.
Speed is of even greater importance for e-commerce sites, where the buyer's journey needs to be as swift and seamless as possible. Slow search will harm your bottom line, while speedy search will boost it. This is demonstrated by Walmart, who found that for every second of load time improvement on their site, their conversion rate grew by 2%.
Going forward, your custom site search engine must be ferociously fast if you want to keep users engaged, on your website, and away from your competitors.
Search with smarts
Users want search engines to know what they want before they do nowadays. It's no longer good enough to just present results that match their keywords – you've got to serve up autocomplete suggestions and arrange your results in the most useful way for each user.
Semantic search functionality, alongside synonym and hypernym recognition, is also important. If your users search for sweet potato recipes, they should be presented with yam recipes too (although the two vegetables are technically not the same). If they search for articles about AI, it makes sense that they should be delivered results about machine-learning and natural language programming as well. A truly smart site-search engine will ensure that whichever words your users search with, their intent is interpreted, understood, and results are delivered accordingly.
Google has undoubtedly spoiled internet users with its incredibly intelligent algorithms and has set the bar for other search engine providers. In the future, users won't settle for anything less than hyper-smart site search.
In a development that will come as a shock to no one – mobile has officially overtaken desktop to become the most common means of browsing the web. It's therefore never been more vital for site search engines to be optimized for small screens.
Navigating through swathes of articles or products on a 5-inch screen isn't the most comfortable user experience, so it's no wonder people naturally reach for the search bar when using mobile sites.
It's far too early to announce the death of the desktop, but it certainly looks like we're heading in that direction – in terms of numbers at least. To ensure your website is ready for the mobile-first world, it's imperative that your custom site search looks and performs great on mobile devices.
As user expectations of search continue to soar, custom site search engines must do all they can to rise to meet them. Middling search offerings will lead to site abandonment, tarnished brand reputation, and potentially lost sales.
Is your site search prepared for the future? If it's looking a little rusty, or perhaps you're looking for a great Google Custom Search Engine alternative, sign up for a free trial of Site Search 360 today.