Site Search Optimization: Essential for Online Businesses

September 30, 2022
Search optimisation

Many business websites today come equipped with a search feature that enables visitors to find what they’re looking for. In order to keep visitors (i.e. potential customers) engaged and get them to make a purchase, it’s important that your site search be optimized so as to provide visitors with the smoothest search experience possible. 

If you’re a website or online store owner, you’ll know that growth comes with a paradoxical challenge: the more you grow, the more data there is on your site, which can make it more difficult to provide relevant search results to your visitors, which can then negatively affect growth. As site search optimization can help with this, you should consider it to be a vital piece of the growth puzzle. 

Let’s start by understanding exactly what site search optimization is and the benefits it offers to website or online store owners. Lastly, we’ll take a look at the best practices to adopt when optimizing the search functionality on your website/store.

What is site search optimization?

As hinted at above, ‘site search’ refers to a search functionality that is embedded in a website or online store, and that only retrieves results from that website/store. This is to be distinguished from ‘web search’, which involves looking for matches all across the World Wide Web.

Now, people who use site search on business websites are known to have a higher level of purchase intent than those who don’t, resulting in conversion rates that can be 5 to 6 times higher. Thus, it’s important for website/store owners to take steps to ensure that the site search on their website/store satisfies the requirements of searchers. 

In other words, searchers should be able to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible, with as few complications as possible. Moreover, if a searcher is looking for something relatively generic, a good site search functionality should suggest the most relevant or useful results. For instance, in an ecommerce context, this could mean highlighting products that are highly rated but inexpensive. On the other hand, in the context of a content-oriented website, this could mean nudging the searcher towards content that has the most views. 

In addition, the design of the search functionality can also have a huge impact on the user experience. Search results should be easy to scan and clutter-free, but should still provide enough information for searchers to decide what to click. 

Taking all of the above points into consideration and providing site visitors with a streamlined and intuitive search experience is what is referred to as site search optimization.

And its importance cannot be overstated: site search optimization can improve conversion rates by a whopping 43%!

Features that help optimize site search

Modern site search engines provide numerous features that help optimize site search. Let's take a look at some of them below:

1. Auto-suggestion and recommendations 

Netizens these days are used to seeing search suggestions appear in the form of a drop-down menu as they type in a search query. The top suggestions will often be items that the store recommends. Such a system works well to minimize the time taken by a searcher to find relevant results, and also provides website owners with an opportunity to promote the items they want.

2. Filters/sorting

Providing website visitors with a large amount of control over search can also help them find what they want quickly, especially if they’re looking for something very specific or niche. Two common ways to provide visitors with such control are filters and sorting. With filters, searchers can only look for search results that meet certain specific criteria (for instance, they can filter clothing by color, or blog articles by author). And sorting enables them to sort products on the basis of various criteria, such as ratings, date of issue, price, etc.

3. Digital analytics

Typically, when a website visitor uses a site search engine for finding relevant items, their activity generates data, which can be tracked. This data can then be analyzed to acquire useful insights about search trends from your store. These insights can then help you further improve the search experience for your visitors. Moreover, these insights can even help you develop your marketing strategies.

4. Boosting and pinning

Boosting can be very effective for promoting certain products or areas of your website/store. With this feature, you can choose what search results will always appear at the top of the search results.

Pinning, on the other hand, enables you to always display certain results for specific search queries.

Benefits of site search optimization

Having seen a variety of concrete features that can be implemented to optimize your site search, let’s now take a look at some of the benefits of optimizing your site search:

1. More views and purchases

This is probably the biggest reason why online business owners should take site search optimization seriously. A study has shown that almost 60% of online store revenue comes from online search users who are very particular about what they want. Thus, having site search that provides the most relevant results is critical to ensuring that your customers find what they want: this will improve the proportion of visitors who make a purchase or view a piece of content, which in turn will improve your revenue.

2. Greater visitor satisfaction

Given the high level of competition online, optimizing your site search is essential because a good on-site experience translates into greater visitor satisfaction. Moreover, satisfied visitors are more likely to keep visiting your website and recommend it to others, which can boost future revenue.

3. Scalable business growth

As mentioned above, the growth of your online business can make it more difficult for visitors to find relevant search results. However, by implementing the right kinds of optimization (such as boosts and pins), you can ensure that visitors will always see highly relevant search results regardless of the size of your database. This means that you can scale your business confidently.

Best practices for optimizing site search

Site search optimization has been around for a long time, and several best practices have developed around it. Some such practices are:

1. Optimizing your site for web as well as mobile users

With the rise in the usage of mobile phones even in the remotest areas of various countries, large amounts of revenue are being generated from mobile users. Therefore, in addition to optimizing your site for the web, it is also essential to ensure that mobile users have a hassle-free search experience.

2. Being transparent with customers

Good site search optimization should always take into consideration how genuine your website seems to visitors. For example, in an ecommerce context, if you always boost products that are very expensive, visitors might get the impression that your focus is on maximizing your revenue, rather than providing them with the best experience. This can lower trust in your business.

Instead, focus on ensuring transparency on your store. For instance, you should indicate shipping charges and taxes at the add-to-cart stage, rather than annoying your customers with extra charges at the check-out stage. Similarly, you should make sure that out-of-stock products are marked as such up front. In addition, make sure your product images accurately reflect what the actual products look like

3. Addressing zero-click results

As the name suggests, zero-click results are search results that have never been clicked. The two main reasons for users not clicking a certain search result are: it might not be relevant in the context of their query, or it might be relevant but not attractive or interesting enough. 

Thus, such results can help website owners make tweaks that might make the site search engine produce more relevant results. They can also indicate that there is something about the relevant product/content listing that can be improved, such as the title, description, tags, or other metadata. By making such changes, website owners can improve their visitors’ site search experience over time.

Unlock more business value with site search optimization

Ultimately, your online business will do well only if you provide your visitors with value, a large part of which is their site search experience. Site search optimization helps ensure that your visitors come away with a positive impression of your business, and can also help increase your revenue.

To get started with an advanced AI-based site search engine, consider Zevi. Zevi’s site search engine uses machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to augment the various optimization features discussed above. Learn more about how Zevi can help your business.