Search is the primary way that shoppers find what they are looking for on an e-commerce store. And if your search index is not updated or well-built, chances are your potential customers will not be able to find relevant products or content, giving them a reason to leave and never return to your site. In fact, shoppers’ frustration with unsatisfactory search experience often lead to high churn rates – as much as 68%.
While indexing your site correctly can be a complex process, it is equally important to ensure a smooth and intelligent search experience for users. This is pivotal, since 39% of shoppers are influenced by a relevant search. This blog will be your guide to building a robust search index for your e-commerce store.
What is search indexing, and how does it work?
A search index is a database of all the pages that a search engine has crawled and indexed. When you search for something on a search engine, it uses its algorithms to look through all the pages in its index to find the ones that are most relevant to your query.
You can think of a search engine's index like a library catalog. It's a big list of all the books in the library, and each book has a unique entry. When you want to find a specific book, you can look it up in the catalog by its title or author. The same goes for searching on a search engine—the key difference is that there are billions of web pages out there, so search indexes have to be much larger and more complex than library catalogs.
When someone performs a search, the search engine looks through its index to find web pages that match the query. The results are then ranked according to relevance, with the most relevant results appearing first.
Search Indexing through crawlers vs. APIs
There are two main ways that search engines keep their indexes up-to-date: through crawlers and through APIs.
To build its index, a search engine sends out what are called crawlers (sometimes also called spiders). Crawlers are programs that browse the web and read webpages. As they read each page, they follow any links they find on that page to other pages, and they keep track of all the pages they visit. When they've finished crawling, they have a big list of all the pages on the internet (or at least, all the pages they were able to reach).
To use a web crawler, you'll first need to create a robots.txt file in the root directory of your website. This file tells the web crawler what pages on your website it should crawl and index. For example, you might want to exclude pages that are only for logged-in users or that are under construction.
Crawlers work well for static websites, but may be difficult to manage when you're dealing with a lot of dynamic changes on your site. This is where APIs can be helpful for search indexing. API access allows websites to deal with dynamic content and data changes by promptly adding new data sources. For example, you could use an API to retrieve customer reviews from a third-party review service.
APIs, or application programming interfaces, provide some of the most accurate data for building a search index. APIs allow you to tap into the databases of popular social media platforms and other websites. This data is typically more accurate and up-to-date than what can be found with a crawler alone. Most search engines these days offer APIs that allow developers to interact with the engine's index in order to add or remove content.
5 Best practices to improve your search indexing using crawlers and APIs
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when using APIs and web crawlers to boost your search index and performance -
- Leverage schema.org formats
Schema.org is a set of markup that you can add to your site to help search engines understand your content better.
Adding schema.org markups to your site can help you appear in rich search results, get better click-through rates, and generally improve your visibility in search.
In addition to helping with search indexing, using schema.org can also help your pages appear in rich snippets. Rich snippets are special search results that include additional information about the page, such as the page's title, author, and publish date.
- Add business and other data to your search index
Adding business data to your search index can improve the overall quality of your e-commerce site's search results. This data can include product information, customer reviews, store locations, and more. By providing more relevant and up-to-date information, you can make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for on your site.
When you add important data about your business and products to your search index, it can help your business perform better in more ways than one -
- Improved search accuracy
- More relevant search results
- Comprehensive search (which can include both product listings and informative articles about the products)
- Use off-site data to build a comprehensive index
Off-site data, such as from social media can be a valuable source of information for building a more expansive search index. The type of data can range from third-party review platforms such as Yelp to filtered and faceted data.
By expanding your search index with relevant off-site data, you can help consumers find the right information about your e-commerce store easily, resulting in improved user and search experiences.
- Add campaign and merchandising data
It's a good strategy to include product data, such as prices, descriptions, and images in your sitemap. This will help crawlers index your site's content and make it more relevant to searchers.
E-commerce stores offer seasonal discounts, holiday sales, and other campaigns on a regular basis, which is why adding this data to your search index can enhance your overall search performance. By adding a discount or sale field, you can equip your search engine to calculate the time of sale and display the most cost-saving and relevant results for the shoppers.
- Add a layer of personalization to your search results
Personalization is one of the most effective search optimization strategies for ecommerce businesses. Most search engines these days provide some form of personalized search, which tailors results based on the user's past search history and/or location. In such cases, it is important to add this data to your search index for the best user experience.
Conclusion - A well-defined search index is key for prime customer experiences
An effective search index is one that can find, understand, and organize your site data. However, ecommerce businesses need more than that. They need their products to be easy to discover for your users at the right time.
Your search functionality thus plays a crucial role in defining your user experience and effectively, your sales. This is why you need to invest in building a search engine that is both expansive and intelligent. Zevi’s AI-powered search and discovery solution offers that, and a lot more for e-commerce businesses to build a state of the art search experience.
Book your demo today to take your search engine’s capabilities to the next level.