The Swiftype Blog / Month: July 2015

Promoting Content Marketing with Custom Result Ranking

For any business pushing a content marketing strategy, every white paper download, webinar registration, and video view is critical to generating quality leads and achieving a positive ROI. While SEO, email marketing, and paid acquisition are all useful strategies to drive users to this content, at Swiftype we also use our own tool to promote content based on user search activity. Here’s how.

Swiftype offers site owners a unique tool to promote content for visitors who use site search: Custom Result Ranking. This tool lets site owners customize the order of search results for a specific query, dragging and dropping existing results to a new order, adding new results that don’t appear by default, or eliminating results they don’t want displayed.

Improve content marketing efforts by pinning gated content at the top of site search results.

With this tool, site owners can “pin” specific pieces of content at the top position for related searches to drive users to these high value landing pages. For example, we have pinned our white paper Understanding Ecommerce Site Search Analytics, as the top result when people search “ecommerce.” With this new result order, we see a significantly higher number of white paper downloads each week that result from site search.

Adding marketing automation landing pages
However, in many cases (including our own) these landing pages are hosted on a different domain than your main website, generated by the specific marketing automation platform your team uses (such as info.website.com, go.website.com, or many others). Because these pages exist on a separate domain, Swiftbot will not automatically discover and index these pages on the initial crawl of your website—meaning they will not initially be discoverable through search. To add these external landing pages to their search engine, Swiftype users can use the Domains tab in their Swiftype Dashboard. Let’s take a look at this process in action.

To access the Domains tab, simply click on the icon from your Dashboard home page or navigation bar. Here you can manage the domains that comprise your search engine index. For example, we combine our main site (https://swiftype.com) and our blog (http://blog.swiftype.com) in one search engine to let users search across both properties at the same time.

Add new domains to your search engine directly from the Swiftype Dashboard.

To add your landing pages, you simply have to add your landing page URL as a new domain. To do so, paste the complete URL of any landing page in the new domain box, then click verify to have Swiftbot index the page and add it to your search engine. Note that because these landing pages often don’t contain links to other pages of the same domain (which Swiftbot uses to create an index from a single url) you may see an alert warning you that Swiftbot will not be able to index additional pages beyond this one landing page. However, this will not cause any problems, and you can simply click Add Domain to proceed.

adding-url-zoom

From here, you can add additional landing pages by managing your domain rules, accessible by clicking “Manage Rules” next to the domain you just added. To add another landing page, simply click “Add URL” in the top right corner and then paste the unique URL of each landing page you’d like to add. Once these pages become part of your search engine, you can add them as a top result (or any other result) to any query you would like from the Rankings tab.

As your users interact with your on site search engine, you’ll be able to see the number of clicks these pinned results receive for specific queries in the Rankings tab, as well as the top referring queries and autocomplete prefixes that lead users to this page by looking at the Details section of each page in the Content tab.

With this tool, Swiftype allows site owners to personally curate search results, giving marketers and site owners yet another way to promote content and ultimately drive their lead generation efforts. For help with this process, or to get in touch with a member of the Swiftype team, email [email protected].

How to Index Thumbnails for Crawler Based Engines

As you’re getting started with Swiftype, you may be wondering how to index thumbnails from your website and serve them to users in your search results. The answer to this question lies in using Swiftype’s custom <meta> tags, which allow site owners to pass detailed web page information directly to Swiftbot, our web crawler, as it moves across your site. As Swiftbot encounters these custom Swiftype <meta> tags, it indexes their content and incorporates that information in your search engine index schema.

To index thumbnails from your website, all you need to do is add a Swiftype image <meta> tag to the <head> section of your website template that indicates where images are located on your various page types. For illustration purposes, the Swiftype image <meta> tag is formatted like this:


Swiftype recommends placing these <meta> tags at the template level of your website to ensure that image files are dynamically populated within the tags, rather than being added manually for every page on site.

NOTE: the value of the “content” attribute must be HTML encoded. For more information see this guide.

Alternatively, you can wrap images with a body-embedded Swiftype image <meta> tag to avoid changing your website <head>. For example, Swiftbot will index example.jpg into the image field from the HTML below:

<body>

Hello world

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed ut risus sed ante dignissim pharetra aliquet a orci. Maecenas varius.

In in augue molestie, bibendum velit vel, luctus erat. Curabitur cursus, tellus at feugiat lacinia, tellus est suscipit lectus, non commodo diam elit sit amet justo.

http://fullurl.com/example.jpg </body>

It is important to note that in both the <head> and <body> embedded <meta> tags, you need to specify the data-type attribute as enum. For images, this will always be the case. For any other custom meta tags you choose to define, each attribute must be a valid, Swiftype-supported field type, which you may read about here.

Once you index thumbnails from your website, you can easily customize your search results and autocomplete to feature thumbnails in a range of shapes and sizes with the Swiftype Result Designer.

To learn more about using custom Swiftype <meta> tags to refine your search engine index, check out our tutorial. As always, if you need help or have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

The Evolution of Search on Amazon

This post was initially published by Internet Retailer—a leading source of ecommerce news and publications.

One of my favorite tools for online research is the Internet Archive—a 501(c)(3) non-profit devoted to the digital preservation of the web as it evolves, crawling the web and capturing how various web pages have looked at different points in time. As someone who spends time researching and writing about web design, I’ve relied on this tool to trace the evolution of numerous websites—Amazon.com being one of the most fascinating websites to study in light of its ever increasing power and influence over the web, particularly the realm of ecommerce.

While Amazon’s homepage design has evolved in response to a wide range of influences and company goals, one of the most striking changes has been the increasingly prominent role that the search bar plays in the user experience. Viewed in the context of the internet’s larger history, this evolution makes logical sense: Google and Amazon were both founded around the same time (1994 and 1998, respectively), and while Google has made more of a name for itself as the innovator in search technologies, search technology at Amazon has had to evolve alongside Google because of the tremendously important role it plays in ecommerce.

Considering the tremendous strides that Google has made in search technology over the last fifteen years, it should come as no surprise that Amazon has had to work equally as hard to keep pace (today still, Amazon has an entire section of its job site devoted to Search and Discovery Technologies positions). As Amazon’s search has bar has become more useful and more powerful, it has become increasingly valuable to users. And the more valuable it has become, the more devoted real estate it has received across the homepage and website.

Let’s trace this evolution with a series of screenshots from Amazon’s homepage over the last fifteen years, focusing on the changing size and position of the search bar.

May 10, 2000: Search begins somewhat obscurely tucked in the top left corner.

May 10, 2000: Search begins somewhat obscurely tucked in the top left corner. Amazon provides the option to filter searches to a specific subsection of the site and a suggested query to inspire users, but the sidebar below the search bar remains a primary navigation tool. This design remains largely unchanged for the next six years.

 June 2, 2007: Search occupies a much more prominent space in the header of the page, but the sidebar remains equally prominent as a critical navigation tool.

June 2, 2007: Search occupies a much more prominent space in the header of the page, but the sidebar remains equally prominent as a critical navigation tool.

June 15, 2012: Amazon eliminates the sidebar, offering instead a single search bar to serve as the primary portal for users entering the site.

June 15, 2012: Amazon eliminates the sidebar, offering instead a single search bar to serve as the primary portal for users entering the site.

June 9, 2015: Not only does search remain the most prominent feature in the header of Amazon’s homepage, but the search bar now sticks to the top of the page as shoppers scroll.

June 9, 2015: Not only does search remain the most prominent feature in the header of Amazon’s homepage, but the search bar now sticks to the top of the page as shoppers scroll.

The trend across these images is clear. As search technology has improved on Amazon, the search bar has become a more valuable asset in the user experience and has accordingly taken a more prominent position the homepage. At the same time, with the dominance that Google exercises across the web, user expectations for search have steadily risen as well—a development which undoubtedly contributed to Amazon’s shift towards such a search-centric user experience.

Another major takeaway from this evolution is the massive amount of data that Amazon is able to collect as a result of their massive search volume. On site search queries are arguably the clearest expression of user intent available to site owners, and Amazon continually leverages this information to intelligently promote products across their website—a subject and design evolution that merits its own post entirely.

To learn more about best practices for site search design and see example implementations, read our post on Swiftype’s favorite implementations from 2014.