The Swiftype Blog / Month: May 2017

Mobile Search and the Modern Marketer

“Mobile mobile mobile!” No, this isn’t an episode of The Brady Bunch—it’s the rallying cry of marketers everywhere. Why? Because in 2016, mobile overtook desktop as the primary way users accessed web content. Of course, if you take a look around the next time you’re in a mall, restaurant, on public transit, or attending a sporting event—probably even in your own living room—this won’t come as a huge surprise.

According to a January 2017 report, time spent in mobile applications climbed by 69% in the United States alone. U.S. users spend an incredible five hours each day using apps on their mobile devices, with messaging and social media in particular eating up a large chunk of that time.

Not only are web users mobile and in love with their apps, they also tend to be multi-platform users, switching from desktop to laptop, to tablet, to mobile phones, (which is why omni-channel marketing is so important).  

Problems to Contemplate When Considering Mobile

Clearly, it would behoove most organizations to have mobile marketing—specifically as it relates to mobile search—squarely in their crosshairs. But, like most things in life, mobile isn’t 100% perfect. There are definitely some mobile-specific issues that you need to take into consideration when crafting your mobile strategy.

  • The potential for higher latency. We have all been spoiled by our rapid-fire desktops and having to wait for a site to load turns a lot of visitors off. I can personally attest to the fact that I bounce if something is taking too long to load and I know I’m not alone. In fact, if a page doesn’t load within three seconds… POOF! 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned. And when mobile sites were compared, those that loaded within five seconds (versus as long as 19 seconds) saw increased ad views, had searchers remain on site 70% longer, and decreased bounce rates by 35%.
  • Errant clicks sink ships. Similar to latency issues, you can also blame the desktop for this mobile problem. Instead of mouse clicks, keyboard strokes, and trackpad precision, it’s our clumsy thumbs and fingers poking around mobile sites. Poorly placed banners, ads, or hard-to-find search elements can lead to incorrect clicks, which lead to increased drop-off. The result? You might have just lost an engaged user on your site to your competitor.
  • Search must be simple. While you don’t want to immediately hammer visitors over the head with your search options, you must ensure that your mobile search capabilities are up front and crystal clear. Since real estate on mobile is limited, it’s especially important that the search results that the user wants are at the top of the list—otherwise users will have to scroll, potentially encouraging them to check out other sites. This means autocomplete takes on an even more important responsibility and misspellings still need to lead a user to the right place.

What Marketers Need to Know About Mobile Search

Mobile’s popularity and continued growth has definitely upset the traditional ideological mantra of: “build (and optimize) your website, and they will come.” Today, many companies—including behemoths like Google and Apple—are opting for a mobile-first push when it comes to website design.

The reasons behind a mobile-first strategy are pretty straightforward. Mobile screens (and their functionality) are fundamentally different from desktop screens and their design should reflect that. Add that to that the fact that people tend to browse more on desktops and search more on mobile, and the need for an easy and efficient mobile search experience makes perfect sense.

Also, as mentioned above, people are spoiled these days. Mobile users are highly goal-oriented, want to achieve results quickly and easily, and don’t want to encounter confusing navigation or crowded screens full of touch-sensitive elements. Not surprisingly, according to a report on SearchEngineLand.com, some of the most common (and most annoying) issues for mobile search users hunting content, also happen to match perfectly with these mobile search issues:

  • Content not sized to screen: Scroll scroll scroll.
  • Font size too small: Pinch pinch pinch.
  • Touch elements too close together: Bounce bounce bounce (see above re: errant clicks).

Adapting to the Evolution of Mobile Users

When you add up all the moving parts around mobile search, you wouldn’t be far off the mark to think that mobile hasn’t actually changed search as much as mobile users have changed search. And these days, the user/customer/client holds all the cards. To sum up, you can help mobile users achieve optimum mobile search success in a few ways:

  • If possible, adopt a mobile-first strategy.
  • Ensure that users can search immediately to find the content they are looking for.
  • Implement advanced search functionality like autocomplete, spelling correction, phrase matching, and more.
  • Do as much as you can to reduce latency.
  • Provide highly targeted content so users find what they need as quickly as possible.
  • And remember micro-moments on the user’s journey, like “I want to know, go, do, and buy.”

It’s predicted that customer/user experience will be the top brand differentiator—topping price and product—by the year 2020. If it’s not already, fine-tuning your mobile search experience should be at the top of your priority list.

Ready to take a hard look at your site search solution and how you can improve your mobile and website search? Chat with the Swiftype team today and they can help find the best fit for you.

Site Search: Your Online ROI Answer Button

As a marketer, you’re aware of all the traditional lead generation channels as well as the latest up-and-coming trends. You might even consider yourself an early-adopting, marketing maverick since you’re open to trying the latest technology or strategies that give your campaigns some edge. But with all the options out there, nothing beats the black and white facts of customer need and intent.

Your website’s search box is the ultimate window to your customer’s intentions. When a visitor takes the effort to go to your website or application’s search box and enter in a search term, it reveals not just what they’re looking for, but a higher level of interest and willingness to take action. These queries can also reveal important information about what content you’re missing or synonymous terms you should be adopting to ensure your visitors are getting the most relevant content.

Site search and search data are important and valuable components of your website, and yet, many companies don’t optimize, test, or reassess their site search at all. This is a major missed opportunity for any marketer.

Don’t miss this chance

Join us on Wednesday, May 24th for a live webinar featuring Praveena Khatri, Vice President of Marketing at Swiftype, Lukasz Zelezny, Head of Organic Acquisition at uSwitch.com, and Thorin McGee, Editor in Chief/Content Director at Target Marketing to learn how you can make the most of your own site search.

  • Mine your search for lead generation and SEO insights
  • Test and optimize your site search function
  • Convert more site search users into buyers
  • And more!

Register and save your spot today!

How Swiftype Uses Swiftype:
Part 1 – Developers

I’m Brian, a Software Engineer at Swiftype. I’ve been working a lot on Swiftype Enterprise Search, and I use it every day.

I had our rotating “Support Wizard” hat this week, which means I’m responsible for addressing customer inquiries and cases for the week. Enterprise Search helped me close a customer case in 15 seconds. The customer needed to whitelist our crawler’s IP addresses so we could crawl their site. I went to search.swiftype.com in my browser and searched for “crawler ip ranges.” I clicked the first result from Help Scout and it took me to a recent ticket requesting the same information but from a different customer. Bam! That’s exactly what I was looking for! Case closed.

Brian Stevenson, Engineering Wizard

 

When dealing with code, I use Enterprise Search for a number of different things. The browser extension is super handy when reviewing Pull Requests (PR) in Github. For example, I was looking at a PR that was pulling in a newer version of nokogiri, but it didn’t have a lot of context. All it had was the version bump, the new version of the gem, and small commit message. I opened the Enterprise Search Chrome extension and I was immediately presented with other PRs and Jira tickets related to the same body of work. I was able to click through to those results to get a much better idea of where and why those changes were taking place. At that point, I had much more context and was able to effectively review the changes in front of me. The browser extension is perfect for that – I can open it up on a pull request on Github and see a plethora of additional, relevant PRs and Jira tickets for that area of code.

Using the browser extension with Jira is also super helpful. If I’m looking at a ticket in Jira, it shows me all open pull requests and any other related Jira tickets that may not have been linked. Furthermore, it shows me all of our sprint planning docs in Google Drive and Dropbox, due to our full text extraction capabilities and fine-tuned search algorithms.

One of my favorite things to use Enterprise Search for is when I’m working with our Design team. They create a lot of visual content, like mockups and templates, but where that content is stored in Dropbox isn’t exactly self-evident. So when I’m working on a project that requires implementing their designs, rather than trying to wade through the ocean of digital assets in Dropbox, or bug them to send me an exported version of the new design, I just search for the content in the Enterprise Search app.  I use really simple, but extremely powerful queries like “new dashboard design in dropbox” or “sidebar icons in dropbox.” The search results all have image previews of the visual content they’ve been designing, so I can quickly scan them to find exactly what I’m looking for in an instant.

Enterprise Design Results

I also use Enterprise Search to show me all of the open pull requests assigned to me, across all of our repositories. It’s extremely useful because I don’t have to go to each repository individually to check for those PRs I need to take action on. I also sometimes use it to see PRs assigned to other people, in case they’re out sick, for example.

Speaking of people, the “Person View” is pretty awesome. One of my developers just went on vacation and I needed to be able to see what he was working on to be able to get the work done before the end of the sprint. I just searched for “Chris,” and because he was automatically created as a person in our organization (just by signing up for an account), I was able to see all of his recent changes across all our repositories in Github and other sources. I was able to jump on the highest priority task he was working on and finish it off. Success! I was also able to get more context on the other issues he was working on because I found some conversations he had with other engineers in Slack, and comments he made on tickets in Help Scout.

We also just hired a new engineer (who is coincidentally also named Brian)! I was helping him get up to speed and needed to find this mythical “onboarding” document. I did a quick search for “welcome guide”, and sure enough, the document showed up as the first result. And with a few more quick searches, I was able to find all the other onboarding documents that were scattered around our various cloud services. It’s so handy, and easy, to be able to search and find documents like this. It saves me so much time!

Last but not least, I use the mobile app to receive notifications for upcoming meetings. We have a sprint planning meeting every two weeks, so I get a notification on my phone that says hey, there’s this sprint planning meeting coming up, do you want to review these documents first? And I’m like yeah! I do want to review those docs so I can remember what we’re talking about at sprint planning! Thanks, Swiftype!

Site Search Data: A Goldmine of Analytics

In 2009, Google’s Avinash Kaushik wrote about the importance of site search analytics, going so far as calling them “life altering”. At that time, Kaushik argued that two major sites were driving users towards search bars: Amazon, because of it’s massive selection, and Google, because of how many users begin browsing with a global Google search. Because these sites have such a powerful influence over users’ expectations, Kaushik pointed out that more and more people “ignore our lovingly crafted navigational elements and jump to the site search box,” when they arrive on a website – a trend which generates invaluable data about user intent for site owners.

analytics

Eight years later, these websites have only grown in importance, meaning that Kaushik’s argument is even more important and more relevant than ever before. This begs the question: given this steady stream of incoming data, what analytics should site owners look for from their search bars? Although the answer to this question will vary based on the specific use case of your website, here are some of the key questions that your site search analytics should help you answer:

  1. What are the most common queries? This seems obvious, but site owners should pay close attention to their top queries because they offer a looking glass into the precise wants and needs of site visitors. Queries are, after all, user generated, so they allow you to listen to your users in a way that no other analytics can.
  2. What are users searching for but not finding? In other words, what are the most common queries that return no results? This data is highly actionable, since you can either create content to meet these users’ needs or reconfigure your results to provide answers and prevent users from hitting dead ends.
  3. What percentage of site visitors are using search? How often is search used relative to the navigation buttons? Aside from helping you get a clear sense of just how valuable search navigation is for users, you should track this statistic over time to see user behavior patterns change in response to any updates you make on your website.
  4. How do conversion rates differ for searchers vs. non-searchers? If your analytics tell you that users who perform searches are more likely to convert than users who don’t, you should reconfigure your website to feature search as a more prominent navigational tool.
  5. What pages are users searching from most? This will give you a sense of what pages are most confusing. It’s a safe assumption that if a user can’t find the information that they are looking for on a certain page, they will use the search bar to try and find it.
  6. What autocomplete options are most popular? When a user chooses an item from the autocomplete dropdown, this is a clear indication of what they are hoping to find for that query. Use this data to customize search results and autocomplete display so that these results are closer to the top.

When you configure your website’s analytics, make sure you’re getting all this information. As we stated above, internal search bars provide a unique opportunity to directly listen to your users – and this valuable information should not go to waste.

If you’d like to learn more about site search analytics, read Swiftype’s white paper: Understanding Site Search Analytics, which provides industry benchmarks on important metrics and offers A/B testing ideas to optimize search for conversions.

Top Trends in AI-Powered Cloud Search with Forrester Research

How often does this happen to you: you sit in front of your laptop thinking “is there something that already exists that could help me right now?” You know that one specific file exists somewhere, but you can’t find it. Is it in Google Drive or Dropbox? You start searching through the different apps, ask your coworkers, but eventually you’ll give up and create something from scratch. Forrester Research estimates that knowledge workers can spend 30% of their time looking for information, insights, and answers. Do the math. That’s a lot of inefficiency and time wasted. But it’s also a significant opportunity to increase employee productivity if search technology can streamline the process and return highly relevant results. Keyword search engines of the past are obsolete. AI-powered search is the new watchword.

Swiftype & Forrester Webinar
We’ve partnered with Forrester Research on May 18 for a live webinar to discuss this specific topic – The Future of Cloud Search. Our guest speaker from Forrester, Mike Gualtieri, VP & Principal Analyst, will discuss:

  • Trends he sees with AI-powered search in the cloud
  • How Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning technologies can predict more relevant, personalized results
  • Ways to boost organizational productivity with the right search technology

Seats are limited. Be sure to join us on Thursday, May 18.

How Promoting Demand Gen Content in Search Results Helps Land Leads

You don’t have to be a genius to understand why content generation is a good thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing since it’s used to increase awareness, lead-gathering, and conversion rates, and ultimately sales.

But knowing when to prioritize which type of content on your web properties can be tricky without the insights of your visitors’ behaviors. These observations can be beneficial, even advantageous because you don’t have to guess what they’re interested in, they’re flat-out telling you. So where do you start? How should you begin?

Let’s Start With the Basics

Demand and lead generation content come into play at different points in your relationship with your buyer, but both are equally important and should be easily accessible, especially via your website.  Yes, I’m here to tell you there is a difference between Demand Generation and Lead Generation content.

Demand generation content tends to be free and easy. And free and easy are two words people like to hear, especially when they’re initially researching a product or service. This type of content—ie: blog-posts, checklists, infographics, charts, and images—is used to provide information about, and drive interest around your products and/or services, as well as help map out brand positioning and raise brand awareness. It’s highly digestible and begs to be shared.

Lead generation content, on the other hand, isn’t quite so easy, nor is it free. It’s typically gated and leans toward long-form, meaty, highly subject-specific content—ie: whitepapers, e-books, research studies, and webinars. It can’t be accessed without the reader giving away details like email, phone numbers, and workplace information. This rich, curated content is targeted at select, interested readers, already familiar with your brand and actively searching for answers or a solution.

Understanding Search Queries Helps Promote the Right Content

When visitors search for something on your site, that’s clear, intent data. You don’t have to guess what they’re interested in based on behavior. But there is also plenty that can be inferred to help move buyers along. By implementing the right site search solution, you can track these behaviors and then quickly display relevant results, while simultaneously enhancing your library with additional content that addresses these pain points and questions. Your site search solution can also help clarify what people “mean” when they ask certain questions or key-in variants of search queries. This goes a long way toward determining how best to serve up the most fitting demand gen content.

Let’s say you’re in higher education and have a diverse audience visiting your website daily. A general, overarching, site search query, like “campus tour” might indicate your searcher is potentially a prospective student in the beginning stages of their research. This provides you an excellent opportunity to not only prioritize relevant content on booking campus tours, but also highly rank additional helpful information geared toward prospective, on-the-fence students that will increase their likelihood to apply.  

Or say your brand sells invoicing software for freelancers. A visitor to your site may have been recommended by a friend but not yet be sold on the benefits you offer. If they search for “easy invoicing,” you can weight and rank your results to focus on promoting your best and highest converting pieces of content, ensuring that you give them results that show that you’re the experts.

And Voila! You Have Leads That Are More Likely to Convert

This is why investing in an intuitive site search platform that utilizes advanced search algorithms and language modeling intelligence is important. Not only does it help customers find what they’re looking for faster, but it helps you investigate your top site searches and ensure you’re delivering the most relevant and optimal demand/lead generation content buyers are looking for. By delivering the most relevant and topical content, no one clicks off your site underserved or unhappy.

The result? Your content has actually helped those looking for help, in one way, shape, or form. Whether they want information or they want answers, when they find the right content, they willingly engage, provide their contact information, and look to you as a leader in your space.

Want to learn more about site search and how it can kick start lead conversion on your website? Download the Abderdeen Group Buying Guide: “4 Key Considerations for Acquiring an Effective Site Search Solution” and get all the details.

Modernizing Enterprise Search: Q&A with Quin Hoxie

I recently sat down with Quin Hoxie, CTO of Swiftype, to get a better understanding of Swiftype’s decision to move into the Enterprise Search space. Swiftype has historically been an industry-leading Site Search provider for businesses. In February of 2017, Swiftype announced its expansion into Enterprise Search, an application that allows employees to search across internal data sources.

SC: You used to focus primarily on Site Search. What made you shift into Enterprise Search?

QH: I think it’s only natural when you have a search platform as flexible and powerful as ours. We started to see some of our customers using the Site Search product in an Enterprise Search context. They were specifically using Site Search so that internal departments, like Support and Customer Success could search across their company’s intranet to better service customers. We also saw an explosion of cloud apps in the market but realized quickly that as companies were adopting these apps, they were jumping from app to app to find what they were looking for. The reality is that information is harder to find inside the workplace now than it was 10 years ago.  

Legacy Enterprise search products also haven’t evolved much, both from a technological standpoint and a user experience standpoint. Matt and I were able to shed that baggage and figure out what enterprise search would look like if we designed it for the modern team. It became an interesting challenge, and after vetting the market we decided it was the right place for us to go.

SC: How is Swiftype different than other Enterprise Search platforms out there?

QH:  The first difference is the time to implement Swiftype is really fast. From the start, we designed Swiftype Enterprise Search to address the new problem with internal search, not the old one. We’re a cloud provider, and we focus on companies who also work in the cloud. We’ve made it extremely easy for companies to connect to their cloud applications without having to involve heavy development resources. Some companies do still use a mixture of cloud and on-prem and that has been addressed with our product as well. Unfortunately, we’ve found that the technology in this space has lagged behind, and most enterprise search tech is still sitting on-premise, is expensive, labor-intensive, and more importantly their use of AI technologies hasn’t existed.  

Second, permissioning is incredibly important when it comes to designing a platform for the modern team. Not all of your employees have access to the same data, even if they do use the same applications. Google Drive, for example, only gives you access to documents you’ve created or that have been shared with you. So what we do is take the permissions native to these applications and only show you what content is available to you. This to me is a deal breaker when companies are evaluating an enterprise search solution. A considerable amount of time and resources went into perfecting how we connect to other cloud apps.

We define sources into two different categories: Shared Sources and Individual Sources.

  • Shared Sources are company-wide or team-wide data sources. This is when permissioning is not done on an individual by individual basis.  Administrators can setup shared sources for the entire company or specific departments.
  • Individual Sources: This is essentially the permissioning example I described earlier. Our employees at Swiftype connect to Google Drive, Evernote, Gmail, and Dropbox as individual sources so they only see content they have permission to see.

The beauty of connecting to sources in this way is that each employee gets a very personalized view of their search results. We also utilize AI to learn search and connector behaviors over time to improve their search experience. There are so many other differences. I think we’ll need a part 2.  

SC: Speaking of AI Technologies, what’s different about Swiftype’s AI?

QH: The value of our AI is also a major differentiator in the marketplace. We’re able to track thousands of signals from the data that we ingest that enable us to be smarter about the results we deliver. As people connect their company data to Swiftype Enterprise Search, we’re collecting structured and unstructured content from many different sources. You have unstructured data, like text files in Dropbox, and structured data, like accounts, contacts and leads in Salesforce, and what we’re doing is taking what we know about all these different sources and using them to make the system smarter.

We call this the Enterprise Knowledge Graph, which is basically what we learn from all the interactions across the entire set of data, and distilling it down into what the actual relationships are across all the data in the company. The different systems all provide different levels of detail, for example if you look at a file that is a signed Non-disclosure Agreement in Dropbox, it doesn’t tell you which company it’s associated with, just who uploaded it, when it was last changed, and a mass of text. Using information from other connected sources, we’re able to figure out which company the file is associated with, who signed the document, and many other key details for that document.

SC: How long does the Enterprise Knowledge Graph in particular take to learn all these associations to present them in a way that’s meaningful?

QH: The short answer is: it starts immediately and continues to learn, but it comes with a lot of contextual knowledge out of the box.

The long answer is that we train the system with multi-level relevance models. The first layer is specific to users – based on a user’s specific activity and searching patterns, we know how to better serve results from one page to the next, or one query to the next.

The second layer is specific to an organization. We’ve found that throughout an organization, there are common workflows that a number of users perform. Swiftype Enterprise Search is able to detect these behavioral patterns and proactively apply optimizations. So if a user joins an organization in Swiftype, her system would already be optimized based on the usage of her colleagues.

The third layer is extremely important when it comes to cloud-based tools such as ours, and is more generalized to how systems learn from each other. We can enrich a PDF in Dropbox with what we know from Salesforce or Zendesk data to tie them all together and learn what the relationship between the systems are. This generalized layer is extremely beneficial because the moment you sign up and connect your data to Swiftype Enterprise Search, you can instantly benefit from that knowledge.

Because we’re a cloud-based provider, we’re able to layer these models on top of each other to create the best possible search experience. If you’re stuck on a server, you aren’t going to be able to draw on the collective knowledge of running Enterprise Search for thousands of companies. If your search algorithm is in complete isolation in a box in someone’s data center, there’s no communication between systems, no channel to say you’ve learned something new that you can apply to everyone.

When you’re talking about something like AI, it’s constantly evolving, not in batches or software updates, but every time a new piece of content comes in, every time someone clicks a result, and every time someone conducts a new search. It’s in real time.

SC: Thanks for breaking this all down, Quin.  We’ve been hearing a lot about AI-Powered technologies lately, so it’s great to better understand the data science and behavioral analysis at the core of Swiftype’s search platform. With all the details and nuances behind Swiftype’s differentiators, it sounds like there is so much more that we could expand on. Let’s plan to chat again soon so we can dig even deeper into the landscape of Enterprise Search.

Can’t wait for part two? Want more info right now? Request a demo with our amazing sales team and they’ll walk you through it!

5 Website Challenges Universities Will Face in 2017

Diverse audiences create diverse challenges, particularly when you’re attempting to curate and showcase the best and most relevant content on a website. Universities and higher education organizations feel this pain point more than most. Delivering content efficiently to your audience can become complicated when your website visitors range dramatically from prospective to current students, faculty, parents, alumni and donors. In addition to this, you often find yourself fielding homepage politics amongst faculty about what content should be featured and what they feel your visitors are actually searching for.

With so many different types of visitors coming to your site, are you really delivering what they’re looking for? Are you frustrated being the middleman without the access you need to analytics to support content decisions?

Does Your Website Search Make the Grade?

We’ve talked to top universities and explored some of the challenges unique to higher education that can best be solved with a robust site search solution. These are the 5 limitations:

1) The ability to rank search results or adjust the core algorithm of your on-site search
2) The overall search experience and matching the look and feel of standalone software to the rest of the website
3) The ability to implement advanced search features like autocomplete and spellcheck
4) Implementing quality search on mobile devices
5) Tracking conversions and quantifying your search traffic

As the person responsible for the website, do you know how to take these issues head on while staying out of home-page politics? It can all start with the help of a site search solution that just works. But before you make any changes, you’ll want to make sure the tool you choose meets these basic requirements:

  • Ability to customize search results
  • Flexibility in design to match look & feel of the site
  • Reporting insights to track the impact search has on traffic

Download the full eBook: 5 Website Challenges Universities Will Face in 2017 now to make sure you’re armed with all the detailed information needed in order to select the site search solution that’s right for you.

Or if you’re ready to see how Swiftype can help your college or university, reach out to request a free website search assessment. We’ll provide you with a report card of your current search experience and include recommendations that will help your site, make the grade.