Become a Site Search Superstar

Learn to Maximize Searches Conducted on Your Website

Information publishers and service providers (at least those with massive and deep archives of information) are finding that site search isn't just useful for Internet retailers. After all, the better the search experience, the more likely it is that users will convert and even return, to these digital properties.

In fact, depending on the search box's prominence on a website, and its successful use by visitors, it's possible to see a significant portion of a digital audience regularly using the search box - some reports indicate it could be as high as 20-30 percent.

On-site search is an important, but infrequently discussed topic. The reason? It's challenging to master (not to mention implement). To be a true site search superstar, a number of elements must be addressed. For example, it's imperative to concentrate on the actual visibility and functionality of the search experience (e.g. if it is a useful and efficient feature of the website for the audience) and the design of the results page (in order to maximize interaction). Finally, it's essential to analyze and understand the results of site search's use so that it becomes a contributing factor in your website's current and future success.

The Search Experience

In Website Magazine's "Rethink Your Search Box Design" article from May 2012, it was suggested that:

"In order to be effective, a search form should be easily visible, in a location consistent with other websites, and with enough space for the user to enter their query and still read it. The search button should be clickable, large enough to click and include a search-related icon such as a magnifying glass, or simply the word 'Search' as a label."

Yet those suggestions were mostly about design and presentation. That's useful, of course, but there's so much more that must be addressed. Webmasters must consider more than search box position, design and labeling. The use of auto-suggest, auto-complete and advanced search features, which enable users to filter by date or exclude specific terms, are just some of the other elements to consider.

Results Page Design

Every website visitor will encounter the search box, but as previously mentioned, only a small percentage will ever use it. This makes the few results pages that visitors do encounter a significant opportunity for brands.

There are numerous elements to consider including on the results page outside of just a document title and description alone, of course. First, address how much content should or could be shown to search users, as well as the type and variety. For instance, will you only include pages, or is there an opportunity to include videos, images, etc.? Is there some essential information element, such as a rating, that can be included to improve the returned page's quality in the mind of a user? Likely so; it's just important to find out what it actually is that improves the number of conversions and the quality of the interaction. Is it the number of saved/shared votes it received from the audience? Is it a "richer" results page, which includes images? Only your users know what will motivate them to click and keep clicking.

Site Search Analytics

If you've made changes to your website's search experience, bumping up the prominence, including additional features and rethinking the search results page to create the optimal experience, you won't know if any of those modifications worked if you don't dig into the analytics. Depending on the vendor or solution selected by your enterprise different metrics will be provided in reports - from the total number of searches, to refined searches and with a little tracking code, just how many searches ultimately resulted in conversions. In order to understand if improvements are working, every possible interaction must be tracked if becoming a site search superstar is in your sights.

Site Search Showcase 2013

Most discussion of Web improvements is theoretical in nature, but it does not have to be. Website Magazine has put together a two-part showcase of what our editorial team believes are some of the most elegant, sophisticated and functional site search offerings in action on the Web today - from the search box to the results page. See which brands are doing it well and how large digital retailers compare in Website Magazine's Site Search Showcase 2013.