According to a report by Econsultancy, up to 30% of visitors use the site search box on your eCommerce site. These visitors also convert at a 1.8x higher rate than visitors who don’t use site search. Despite the numbers, the report shows that only 15% of companies dedicate resources to optimizing the on-site search experience.
For an industry that focuses so heavily on data-driven marketing, it’s sacrilege that we don’t pay enough attention to on-site search. Not only is such a user engaged, they have high purchase intent. In fact, post-search, their on-site customer journey is almost always on of the following:
- “Add to cart”
- Consume your content
The mistake that many site owners make is to view site search as just a tactical tool. At best, site search is looked at in context of UX. However, if you look closely, on-site search is what some experts have called “a younger sibling of SEO” and it deserves similar attention.
Enhanced User Experience
Even if you look at site search simply as a tool to enhance user experience, there is a lot you can do. Simply put, the better the site search experience you offer, the more time and money shoppers are likely to spend on your site. If you can’t deliver great experiences, you will lose your customers to competitors who can.
Purely from the user experience perspective, you could identify the search terms that have brought in a lot of conversions and those that have brought in a lot of revenue. Viewing the start pages for each search term can help you make the association between what a user wants and where they are on the site. In turn, this helps you make website updates to improve user experience.
Furthers User Intent
Moving beyond user experience to the important aspect of user intent, site search provides vital data to website owners and marketers.
- For starters, it offers you data on which products are becoming increasingly popular, so that you can focus your attention there.
- In case there is a sizable amount of search on products or brands that you do not stock, it’s an important insight to add it to your inventory.
- It also gives you impeccable evidence on what are the exact search terms that your buyers use. In turn, these can be great tools for your PPC campaigns.
Optimizing on-site search
While the benefits of optimizing on-site search are undisputed, before you undertake the process, it is fairly important to understand what is the kind of data that is available. Broadly, this data could be classified under 3 categories:
- Search Behaviour
- Content findability
- Quality of results
1. Search Behaviour
As its name suggests, search behavior has to do with the actions the user takes on the website. An important metric to track in this context is CTR. You could, in turn, look at natural search CTR but also deep dive into aspects such as Sponsored Result CTR, Promoted Section CTR and more. By studying these closely, you can identify opportunities for CTR optimization.
Some of the other metrics to study search behavior include aspects such as:
- Revenue per keyword and more
2. Content Findability
Findability has a lot to do with the content’s rank on particular keywords. Checking for which piece of content the user clicks on, along with its rank, is a good way to measure the findability. What you need to get to is clearly whether valuable content is being found enough and if non-valuable content is frequently being found.
3. Quality of result
Essentially, it’s important to determine what is the quality of results for the given keywords. Tracking the number of times a SERP appeared versus the number of times it resulted in a conversion, could be a good indicator of the quality of results.
Points to Remember with Optimizing On-Site Search
Of these 3, search behavior is clearly the most important aspect of optimizing on-site search. Some of the ways it can be done include:
1. Check the health of your on-site search
This will include checking the overall on-site search CTR. If this tends to be low, it will be worthwhile to look for answers to questions such as:
- Does your site have good landing pages to help in conversion?
- Do you need a boosting system to push top-of-funnel pages to top of search results?
2. Look at content in terms of search performance
It is not only important to see how much traffic a piece of content gets from on-site search, it is also important to look at the CTR. If a particular piece of content ranks for a keyword, but delivers no clicks, it perhaps ranks for a keyword that has no relevance to it. Additionally, if there are people searching for things that deliver no results, it is not only an indication to add it to your inventories, but also get your content team to write around it.
Essentially, therefore, implementing comprehensive analytics is incredibly important for optimizing your site. Some of the other best practices to follow when it comes to improving the functionality of your on-site search include:
- Search query autocomplete: This can guide the visitor to in-demand products. Research has shown that it leads to increasing the relevance of results all right, but also increases your user’s time on-site.
- Focus on Mobile Search: A well-optimized search has even more relevance for mobile shoppers as shopping can quickly become tedious with the products per view being limited. Better filters with facets, a quicker interface, and a well-optimized search all contribute to increased conversion rates.
- Natural language processing– With users typing queries in the way they speak, a natural language processing interface can go a long way in offering the customer just what they want and thereby speeding up the buying process.
3. Implementing review filtering
As user generated reviews offer credibility to the product and lead to conversions. Similarly, using social proof, such as displaying how many times that product has been bought in a particular week or day also acts as a big enabler.
With search users being 4-6 times more likely to convert than the average web page visitor, it is important to optimize on-site search. With users largely having an idea of what they want to buy, the job at hand is to remove any obstacles that may come in the way of their finding it. Looking at the data that on-site search throws up and experimenting with it, can set you up for success.