You get to a website. You know exactly what you want. You click the search box in the top right hand corner. You type in what you want... and nothing returns from your search. You try again, dumbing down your search to see if that thing you really wanted will pop up. No luck. You click off the page and get distracted by a cat video your friend just shared on Facebook.
Does this sound ridiculous? It’s not. On-site search might sound like a bore, but the truth is if you have a website that sells anything or gives information away, on-site search is more important than you think. It actually deserves quite a bit of your attention. People who search on your site are 1.8 times more likely to buy than the average site visitor. While not every person who ends up on your website is going to search, the segment that do are likely to convert.
In this post we take a closer look at how to tweak your on-site search to improve your search results and provide your customers with an outstanding customer experience, full of meaningful data. But before we do that, let’s look at why it matters.
Why your website’s on-site search matters
While only an estimated 5.75% of website visitors use search, research has found these people are 4.63% more likely to convert. Compared to the average on-page conversion rate of 2.77% for regular visitors, it’s worth investing time to make sure search results are relevant.
People using your on-site search function are likely to:
- Be a returning lead who has compared you with a competitor and has chosen your product.
- Know what they want, hence searching for something specific.
- Be in the late stages of the buyer’s journey and will want to know prices rather than functions.
- Possibly be return customers who know the product works and that you stock it.
About 56% of eCommerce companies said search functionality was critical, but only 21% said their current on-site search solution was effective. How do you improve your on-site search? Let’s take a look.
How to tweak your website to improve on-site search results
- Enable autocompletion in your search box
Autocomplete gives suggestions on what you might have been searching for. It’s worthwhile implementing this to help users see what others have searched, which will give them more relevant search terms and results.
- Educate your user if no search terms return
If no search result is returned, don’t write “We’re sorry we couldn’t find what you were looking for” and leave it at that. Go a step further and help provide your customer with useful tips to help them find their product. For example, suggest they try a different term, check for misspellings or even list a number for them to contact support for help.
- Leave the search query on the page
Another clever idea is to display the search query at the top of the page in the search bar. If no results come from the search they will be less likely to be distracted, and are more likely to search again. They might realise there was a small typo and fix it before searching again.
- Cater for alternative product terms
Site searches must consider synonyms for products and items, as well as what the public refer to items as. This is why it’s so important to study your site search data to determine the terms actual customers are using to look for your products.
- Make your search box visible
Sleek and minimalistic design is beautiful. But if someone can’t find where they need to search, it’s a wasted opportunity. Think of Google. The home page is so minimalistic it only has a search box!
- Get on-site
Not all sites have search functionality. Without it you could be losing sales opportunities. If your website doesn’t have search, speak to IT and implement it. Depending on what content management system you’re using you can get plugins, for example Wordpress and Joomla have a number of options. These plugins give you more customisation and tweaking options. There are paid on-site search solutions for larger organisations who need more sophisticated and intuitive systems to help with their digital indexing.
- Enable visitors to search by product code or model number
If a customer searches by product name or code, you want to make sure they can find it straight away. If they can’t track it down, they are likely to assume it’s out of stock or no longer carried by your company. Depending on what you’re using to manage your searches you can manually enter terms and results, if this is the case enter product codes and model numbers. You can also ‘weight’ which options should be displaying first.
- Plan for people to misspell words
Fast touch-typing and busy schedules mean typos happen on a regular basis. Low-level on-site search options will not return any results even when just one letter is incorrect. To beat this, you should list in your search engine possible solutions the customer could have been looking for. It’s worth studying your website’s data and Google keywords to see some possible misspellings to list.
- Give filter options after the first search
Once the customer searches and gets results they’re looking for, give them options to filter the search and make it even more relevant to them. For example, if your website provides driver downloads for a printer, enable filter options to narrow down manufacture dates and model numbers.
- Make sure search is fast
Speed is everything. Not only is it important for your Google ranking. It’s also important to keep your website visitors happy - nobody likes waiting around for websites to load. The same theory applies to your search, you want to provide meaningful data in a quick period of time. If your search is taking longer than a few seconds speak to your IT team to help with clearing cache and irrelevant database data.
- Leverage search options to show related products
Search gives you a fantastic opportunity to provide your customer with a better experience and provide them with more relevant information and related products. Did they buy a license for Microsoft Word? Maybe they need a product key for Adobe’s Creative Cloud too? Whatever your website users are searching for, you can use data to enhance their experience.
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