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Site search is critical to the success of your online business. And now that more people use mobile phones and tablets to surf the web and shop, you need to be sure you’re always delivering as short a path as possible to the “add to cart” button, without distracting them by too much extra information.
When it comes to search, install and forget no longer works. Delivering a great search experience requires constant attention – but the good news is your search data is a big help in this regard.
By examining site search data you can learn about your customers’ favourite products as well as the terms they use in your search box, their responses to promotional offers, and seasonal trends.
While giving proper attention to search may be too much for you alone to handle, you can outsource the management of your site search to a specialist or full-service provider, which will work closely with you to maximize performance and recommend improvements over time.
Here are a few ideas for how to properly optimize and maintain your site search to keep customers happy and online orders humming:
Keep up with the changing language of your customers
As seasons change and holidays come and go, what’s popular and most sought-after will constantly change – as will the search terms your visitors use.
You can use your search reports to stay on top of on what terms your visitors use and how they change over time, so you can add them to your product descriptions or ensure your site search index accounts for them.
It’s best to do this research on a monthly basis if possible.
Optimise your e-commerce site search for multiple devices
The rise of tablets and smartphones have given way to growth in mobile commerce. Larger screens and faster connections are also making these devices suitable for shopping, no longer just doing research.
Some shoppers are even looking at your mobile site while they’re in your store, looking up price comparisons, product reviews and special promotions. The challenge for you is to make sure your site accommodates all the different devices and platforms.
From iPhones and Androids to iPads and Kindle Fires, every device has different requirements for usability and navigation, and their features are constantly changing and being updated, so your site needs to stay up-to-date.
Your analytics will reveal what percentage of your shoppers are on mobile devices (and which device they’re using), and also inform you about behaviours such as what they tend to search for, the conversion and bounce rates, what pages they view, and what they like to see (i.e. discounted price, availability, short description) in search results.
All of this is useful information for keeping your mobile site(s) optimized. Depending on how much mobile activity you see, you might want to consider analyzing this on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
Conduct A/B tests
As I’ve mentioned, habits and trends change over time – which means ongoing testing is a great way to understand how well your site search is performing, and how certain features are used (or not) by site visitors.
In a nutshell, A/B testing ensures you don’t incorporate search enhancements that don’t lead to conversions. You can test a wide range of options, including design changes to search algorithms, page formats (e.g. grid view vs. list view), refinement options, and other enhancements like Quick View Windows and enlarged first results.
Once you see the impact of different options on your conversion rate you can decide what to implement and what to skip.
Merchandising search pages, or “searchandising,” as some of us like to call it, provides great opportunities to showcase special offers or products.
Just be sure that if you manually tune search results to promote specific products, or if you create keyword-specific banners, that you’re mapping the right terms to the right products (for example “notebook” could be a computer or a pad of paper).
Monitoring the performance of your search on a regular basis will tell you if your products match the right search terms and vice versa, as well as if you need to index synonyms for commonly searched-for products. The same goes for the development of SEO-related landing pages and banners.
If you create landing pages and banners that are designed for visitors who come to your site from Google or Bing, you want to make sure the products and information promoted in the banners are relevant to their search – otherwise they’ll likely abandon your site. Ideally, you should manually fine-tune search results to make the most of your merchandising efforts. For instance, you may want to promote certain products higher in search results.
However, keep in mind that this kind of manual tuning can be a big job, especially if your website has many pages.
Managing your site’s search can be a complex, time-consuming task. But when done right – and on a regular basis – the rewards can be worth the time invested.