People who use the site search function are looking for a specific product to buy.
Your site search should be able to match a shopper’s search intent with the product they’re looking to buy. When people search for a product, and find it, they are 6-10 times more likely to convert into paying customers.
Sadly, many eCommerce sites do a poor job of matching shopper intent and shoppers hate searches that return no results - this creates a bad experience for them.
Let’s highlight two stats to help you understand why site search matters:
⅓ of visitors use site search. Your visitors want to find products that match their desires.
Conversion rates are 6x higher when people use site search.
Some websites expect customers to search using only specific terms already found in their product catalogue. Other websites work like primary school teachers and reject searches with bad spelling.
Chances are, your site isn’t leveraging site search best practices, which means you can do better and earn more money.
Here are 11 fresh tips to help you improve user experience and increase revenue through enhanced site search.
Create a Friendly Search Bar
The simplest way to improve your site search function is to create a search bar that is easy to find, big enough to use, and tells shoppers what to do.
Those three phrases are the hallmarks of a great search box.
Here’s a little more detail:
Easy to Find. Don’t make up a clever place to hide your search bar. Put it at the top of the page. Most people look in the middle of the page or on the right side. Your customers are already looking for products. Don’t play hide and seek with the search box, too.
Big Enough to Use. Tiny search boxes don’t allow long search queries to be fully displayed. Most queries will fit into a 27 character search box. This should be your minimum size.
Obvious Purpose. Your site search box can be another point of information to talk to your customer. Using pre-filled text that says, “Search Here” is a great start. You could also show them you care by using friendlier messages such as “What can we help you find?”
Filtering the Results Page Enhances User Experience
You may have the exact product a shopper wants to buy, but if they can’t find it amongst your other 1,794 products, then they won’t buy it. There is a great way to help customers find exactly what they want: faceted filtering.
Faceted filtering is using the characteristics of your products - their facets - to narrow down search results. Faceted search differs from filtering results.
Here is a quick explanation:
Filters allow searchers to narrow down results based on categories.
Faceted search allows shoppers to create filters based on product features.
Faceted search is so common now that it is not optional to have. Customers expect websites to provide faceted search to show them the best results.
You can find a thorough guide on faceted filtering here.
Handling Long-Tail Semantic Searches
Long tail searches cause problems for poor site search solutions. Matching a shopper’s desire for “royal blue short-sleeved striped shirt XL” to a specific product is difficult for site search engines that only use limited matching capabilities.
You can improve your customers’ experience dramatically by using natural language processing (NLP) to turn these long queries into successful searches. The premise simple: users type a search query into the box in the same way they would talk to a person.
NLP and semantic search features boost conversion rates by 15.8% and online revenue by 47%. Matching your customer’s desire to your products is a powerful way to increase your business revenue.
Using Intelligent Autocomplete Guides Customers Gently
You can gently guide your customers to your products. They may never even know you are actively marketing something to them because you are being so helpful. All you have to do is finish their thoughts for them.
Using an intelligent Autocomplete solution adds the last few letters or even words to customer searches. From the customer’s perspective, this seems useful because they don’t have to type more and your site seems to have expected their desires.
From your perspective, Autocomplete increases the number of searches leading directly to products. The search queries generated by Autocomplete are always going to lead somewhere. Decreasing the number of zero result searches increases revenue. Intelligent autocomplete does this for you and your customers almost invisibly.
Including Smarter Breadcrumbs Helps Navigation
No, we’re not talking about cooking or fairy tales. Breadcrumbs are navigation items, usually at the top of a page, that show visitors where they are in your site. For example, a breadcrumb trail for a shoe website might look like this:
Home > Men’s > Walking
These little pieces of browsing history help your customers know where they are in your website. They can also help customers navigate back to a part of their search if they feel stuck.
As a customer is searching your site, they may want to go backwards. Intelligent breadcrumb navigation helps them. The more you do to help your customer find what they want, the more your customers buy.
(Slow) Speed Kills. Faster Site Search Generates More Revenue
Imagine, just for a moment, a man walking into a department store to buy a blue shirt. His stride is fast. He focuses on the men’s section. He walks directly towards the shirt rack. He picks up the shirt he wants, buys it, and leaves as quickly as possible.
If the store delays him, he can’t find his shirt, or he has to navigate a maze of clothing racks, then he won’t go into the store. He will buy shirts somewhere else.
On your website, slow page loading speed is like putting obstacles in this man’s way. Your visitors will leave your site because of slow page load speed.
79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again. Even a 1-second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversion rate.
Speed up your site search speed to boost your revenue.
Decipher Typos to Help Shoppers Shop
People make spelling errors and typos often. On mobile devices autocorrect causes mistakes.
Why point these mistakes out to your visitors by showing them a zero results page?
Instead, you can turn their errors into a service.
Here are a few ways to do this:
Research common misspellings and map these to products. Include phonetic spellings to help customers find the correct item. Check the queries that are frequently misspelled on your site and be sure to update these ASAP.
Use a gentle text to show customers your helpfulness. For example, at the top of the page, you could say, “Your search for ‘Bike Break Pads’ produced no results. Here are our top Bike Brake Pads:’
Semantic searches use NLP to return related results so customers find options for their desired product.
A strong tolerance for errors results in a better search experience for visitors.
Happy searchers find products and buy them. Win!
Product Names in Search Terms Should Help Customers
People may not know the exact name of the product they’re looking to buy.
If their search query doesn’t match your product names, what happens?
There are two outcomes:
Your site returns zero results. The customer gets frustrated because they wanted a ‘McLaren baby buggy’ and you only sell ‘MacLaren baby buggies.’ The visitor bounces away to a competitor.
Your site isn’t restricted to strict product taxonomy (names). It suggests ‘MacLaren baby buggies’ to the customer. They find a cute one in teal and grey, buy it, and everyone is happy.
This applies to how you name, describe, and categorize your products. Related searches and matches offer options to your customers. Any option that leads to a product is better than a zero result search.
Abbreviations and Industry Terms Should Be Mapped to Products and Search Terms
You should not expect your customers to know all your industry terms. Instead, you could map these terms to search terms and products in advance.
To do this, you can look through your product list for abbreviations and then check how they might be used in a search query.
Your site search tool could also produce a search terms report identifying queries that led to zero results. This report could show you search queries that could be answered by mapping abbreviations and industry slang to specific products.
Synonyms and Substitute Terms
People call things by different names. A simple example is fizzy drinks. In America, these are referred to in at least three different ways:
Brand names such as Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite
All called ‘Coke’
All called ‘Pop’
In one restaurant, a person ordering a coke might receive a Coca-Cola. In another restaurant a person ordering a coke might be asked which kind of coke they want.
This use of synonymous terms can confuse search engines. People might want the same thing when they search for work gloves, leather gloves, and construction gloves. Synonym management can be a game changer for site search. Again, synonym matching will produce fewer zero results pages. This means more revenue for you.
Excluding Irrelevant Search Results Improves UX
Irrelevant search results are like the third page of Google’s results. No one really wants to see them. If your visitors find three pages of irrelevant search results, then they won’t stick around to find the product they desire.
A great site search function uses Natural Language Processing to eliminate irrelevant search results.
Another option is to use search analytics and reporting to identify the most popular products connected to specific searches. You can highlight these products at the top of the search results to help your customers find the most relevant product.
Now that you understand the importance of site search in generating revenue and providing shoppers with a great experience - you’re ready to implement the tips we’ve included above.
Once you do that, you should see a positive change within your store.
Be sure to start with:
Creating a friendly search bar large enough for typical queries
Leverage faceted filtering
Having a strategy to handle long-tail, sematic searches
Implementing intelligent autocomplete
Including breadcrumb navigation
Paige is the Head of Marketing at Prefixbox, a leading eCommerce site search solution provider. She’s an American who’s been living in Budapest since 2017 and loves giving #alwayslearning sessions to help people optimize their online stores.