Custom sort options

Search optimisation is a well-discussed and documented marketing strategy to increase the visibility of your site and help customers find you.

But when we talk about search, most marketers focus their energy and investment in optimising content keywords, search engine ranking positions (SERP) and often overlook the power of an effective on site search engine.

To really make it work, it’s important to decide what your onsite search strategy is:

  • Are you looking to index unstructured content to give rapid search results and improve navigation?
  • What content do you have and how advanced do the search filters need to be?

Content first

A good strategy starts with a solid understanding of your content and how customers use your site, and then you can decide how your content can be retrieved to get you the best possible conversion rate.

Effective site search is not just important but almost essential for online retailers, travel agents and real estate brokers, for example, where web visitors require specific information and personalised criteria for their search in order to make a buying decision. 

This is about delivering the most relevant and personalised information as quickly and easily as possible for visitors. Most customers know what they want to buy and don’t want to browse and navigate through the entire site, so search functions can significantly enhance the overall customer experience and drive sales.

Giving the customer what they want

For example, people searching for a summer holiday online will have specific needs and will want a personalised package to suit their preference in terms of budget, holiday type, location, time period and airlines.

If your site cannot guide visitors to the information they need within a few clicks you are unlikely to keep them on the site as competition is fierce.

So when developing an onsite strategy you should consider the following functions:

  • Ease of use. Make it easy for customers to refine their search criteria such as product colour and size, auto complete for the search terms, and the ability to cope with misspellings and support result sorting based on price and distance, for example.
  • Multichannel search.  The ability to pull content from your website, including user-generated content and related social media activity will enhance the richness of your search results and help to drive product sales through customer reviews and ratings.
  • Search in document. Apart from the actual data and merchandise on your site you may want to enable search in different formats such as Microsoft Word, PDFs, Apple iWorks, XML and video.
  • Multi-language support. If your website operates globally you should make sure your onsite search is developed to support cross-border online setting and languages of the countries that you sell to.
  • Geo search. The ability to index geographical coordinates and make them searchable is particularly useful for businesses with a shop front and to help drive footfall.
  • Scalability. Ensure your onsite search engine is scalable as your product or merchandise range grows over time.

On-site search is an often overlooked but is a powerful way to improve customer experience and boost sales quickly on your website. In the long run, what you learn from onsite search analytics will also help you identify gaps and learn from customer behaviour for site refinement over time.  

Maria Wasing

Published 24 July, 2012 by Maria Wasing

Maria Wasing is VP of Marketing Europe at EPiServer and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

24 more posts from this author

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Comments (4)


Web Design Agency

Google's web search api is usually the best solution.

about 6 years ago



SLI Systems site search solution is pretty good too if not better. Their team really follows up and proactively helps me out to improve my site.

about 6 years ago

James Perrin

James Perrin, Digital Communications Specialist at Feefo

Spot on. It's all about UX, especially from an on-page content point of view. What's the point in driving additional traffic to a website for a customers to be left underwhelmed or frustrated at the usability of the site itself?

Besides, if websites have high exit rates and bounce rates, then it's highly likely to affect SEO anyway. With branding and social being tied into the whole process, ensuring quality UX means that more people are likely to mention the brand on social media. It all helps the Digital Marketing process, so it's wonder why websites don't look at something as simple as internal search engines. Good post.

about 6 years ago


CJ Robinson

Great write up Maria.
I'm working on a new startup,
Isn't it amazing that everyone knows to optimize the checkout process, but very few realize that the quicker you help customers find the products they are looking for then the quicker they can purchase it. It's also a no brainer to want to know what your customers are searching for... that way you can make sure you have it in stock!

almost 6 years ago

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