If you are looking for ways to improve your business in 2011 without having to spend inordinate amounts of your budget you should review the fundamental areas of your online presence that can provide an exponential return.

Site search is a key way to improve online performance that is tangible and offers near immediate payback. After all, there’s no point driving visitors to your website to then offer them a poor user experience.

Here are five ideas to help you improve your site search…

Site search is an area where a slight tweak can lead to significant and immediate increases in your KPIs (key performance indicators). You probably already have many of the tools required to maximise your site search in which case you can achieve the following with a small investment of time.

Here are five ideas to help you improve your site search…

Spend some time defining your most useful site search reports

You can have these emailed to you on a regular basis so that you can identify and monitor trends and user patterns which will help the business.

Key reports to consider include poor results, facet activity, phrase reports, and the number of search users.

Normalise your data (colours, sizes, specs)

Refer to colours by their standard names. In other words, call blue – blue or consider the use of swatches.

You can still retain your brand’s preferred naming convention but from a user perspective minimising the amount of guesswork and thinking (translation effort) means they can focus on the objective of their visit (think conversion!).

Other examples where data normalisation is useful includes technical specifications e.g. Blu-ray, BD-Rom, BD-R/BD-RE or HD, hdmi, 1080 or size data small, medium large, 6,8, 10 etc. 

Use high quality images

There’s no doubt that high quality and good sized images will increase the appeal of your site and the product you are selling.

Using icons to denote whether a product is on special offer or is perhaps a new addition to your range encourages interaction and engagement. So consider having a library of images that can be used for seasonal promotions and other specific offers such as ‘sale’ ‘special offer’ ‘new’, and so on. 

Review and update your copy

That doesn’t mean cramming the descriptive text with SEO friendly terms. In fact that’s exactly what you shouldn’t be doing. Not only will it potentially ‘confuse’ your site search solution, it will also score a bad mark from the search engines if done without careful consideration.

Instead, use strong descriptive language that is accurate and supports the merits of the product as well as buying it from you. Use clear and relevant titles for the product and above all keep the descriptions concise enough to get the main points across in a sentence or two. 

Check, Clean and maintain you data

This is arguably the hardest task of the lot and encompasses some of the points above but should be one of the first things you do.

The ability to present or refine searches (and navigation) based on attribute data such as colour, type, brand, category, size, price is all driven from having a reliable and well maintained source of data (information architecture).

Additional imagery and associated content (video, social media etc) can all be used to promote your products and services as well.

Done once and done properly a structured and well organised set of data will provide additional benefits beyond site search such as creating feeds for partner organisations and expanding the capability of your site.