Site Search: 6 steps to successful site search implementation

Webmasters are often quick to install a site search tool on a web site. However, the wrong search appliance or a poor implementation can actually hurt your business. Used wisely a site search tool can quickly improve business as well. Here is how to choose and use a site search tool to your advantage.

Take a restaurant site for example. They implemented a site search tool thinking it would help their clients find foods of interest quickly instead it hurt business immediately.

If they specialized in sandwiches but found, after a time that many people searching their site were missing the boat.

Typically people search a site because they are confused by the site and lost or just expect the site search will be the best tool to find what they need. They assume that the site search is effective and comprehensive.

The restaurant was in a metropolitan area where people used a variety of names for sandwiches. People were coming to this site searching for: Subs, submarines, hoagies, wraps, grinders, torpedoes, Poor Boys, and finding nothing. The restaurant offered a wide variety of sandwiches and could have easily filled these needs. If you had walked in the front door and asked for any of these options, the countermen would have handled it perfectly however the web site failed.

Here are six important steps to successfully using
search on a site.

One: Insure that the search tool records the search terms that people enter so you can review them at your convenience.

Two: Insure that the search tool is able to be modified to “map” results to existing and new terms. So that, for example, a hungry Cajun from New Orleans can enter “Poor Boy”  or even the colloquial “Po Boy” and find it mapped to the sandwich results instead of getting a “nothing found” response.

Three: Review the results and you may find many people entering “peanut butter and bacon”, something you had never offered but could easily add to your menu to increase business.

Four: Place your search box in one of the two places people expect it to be found: top right corner or near the nav bar at the top of either the far left or far right columns. Make the search box field large enough to handle most inquiries without the search term scrolling to the left as it’s typed. Follow the convention of using a “go” button to the left or right, along with the term “enter search” in the search field. Of course, make sure “enter search” disappears as soon as the first character is entered in the search box.

Five: Map misspelled variations people are searching for to the proper results.

Six: Monitor the search terms carefully and use the information to improve your site. People may be asking for a variety of information which should be apparent at first glance. They should never have to search for contact information, basic product categories or your location. Even though it will be obvious to you, if others are searching, consider modifying the site to improve its visibility.

You often get only one chance to make a sale and many folks won’t come back if they don’t find what they need. Use the right search tool and optimize its results and you will increase conversions and improve customer satisfaction (and loyalty).

For More Information

See Improving Conversion Rates, Usability & Web Analytics for an overview of how we can help improve conversions on your web site