While a relatively small number of visitors are using the search function on websites, conversion rates through site search are up to 50% higher than the average.

This is the verdict of a Screen Pages study into 39 of its clients' websites, using Google Analytics data. The stats cover almost 3m site visits over a three month period.

Other studies have put site search usage at higher levels, 30% according to this one from Fastsearch but, as the Screen Pages study covers small branded niche retailers and not comparison engines or large sites like Amazon, this may explain the lower figure of 5.4%.

Some site search stats from the study:

  • The search box is used by an average of 5.4% of all visitors to these websites. For four of the retailers in the sample, more than 20% of visitors used the search function.  
  • Use of the search box results in an average conversion ratio of 2.4%, against an average of 1.7%. That’s an improvement of close to 50% when visitors use site search.
  • A third of the sample showed a doubling of conversion rates where customers used the search box.
  • Visitors use this function more on sites that provide guided search, i.e. a range of options for narrowing down product searches.

The difference in site search usage was also down to the characteristics of websites. One site with a strong brand was Joules Clothing, which is also easy to navigate.

The search box is also relatively small, and placed on the left of the page rather than the top centre, so this may also be a factor:

Joules Clothing

An example of a site with high search usage is WesleyOwen, which is partly born of necessity, as the site has a large range of products (50,000 +) on offer:

Key takeaways from the study:

  • The importance of a usable site search function; especially for retailers stocking large and undifferentiated product ranges.
  • Site search results pages are important for conversion rates, especially the ability to filter and sort search results.
  • The value of analysing user data and optimising for popular searches. The terms entered into the search box offer a useful insight into the minds of your visitors.
  • The particular importance of the search box for retailers using catalogues. A number of sites in the study used catalogues to generate traffic, with means site search needs to be optimised for product codes.

While this study may portray lower site search usage than a broader survey on online retailers might, it illustrates the fact that the vast majority of online shoppers prefer not to use site search.

Entering a term into the search box requires more cognitive effort than using link navigation, meaning an effective information architecture and a usable website that is easy to browse is all important.

Related articles:
Q&A: Lou Rosenfeld on site search analytics
Tips on site search box design

Related research:
Internet Statistics Compendium - December 2008
E-commerce Platforms Buyer's Guide 2007

Graham Charlton

Published 9 December, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

2566 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (6)

Save or Cancel


über Suche auf Webseiten - fand ich ganz informativ

over 9 years ago



I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



over 9 years ago



"A third of the sample showed a doubling of conversion rates" - what does this mean? Did another third of the sample show a halving of conversion rates?!

over 9 years ago

Roger Willcocks

Roger Willcocks, MD at Screen Pages

Having access to the underlying data, Neil, I can say that visitors using search convert much better (partly because the tool is good, but partly they are more committed to finding (as opposed to browsing)). One third of the sample had a doubling of conversion (ie 4% from 2%) where search was used - per Google Analytics.

15% show increases of betwen 50-100% (ie 2 to 3+), 26% showed increases of 1-50% and 18% of the sample should hide their search box (ie worse than site average).

Hope that helps.

over 9 years ago

Jayne Reddyhoff

Jayne Reddyhoff, Director at Zanzi Digital

Is there a more up to date report on the benefits to an ecommerce site of a good site search function?

about 8 years ago


Site Search

For me, it really depends on the tool itself. Visitors tend to go directly to site search tools to maximize their time especially if they are busy however, if that tool can't provide information, they will easily leave the site and will go back to search engines to search again. That's how it works.

over 5 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.