The Swiftype Blog

Laser Focused: B2B ecommerce white paper

Today we are excited to announce our first white paper: “Laser Focused: Why B2B Buyers Demand Powerful Search”. This report synthesizes a number of ecommerce and B2B reports from 2014, but places a special focus on buyer behavior and the importance of site search for the B2B consumer.

Download Laser Focused: Why B2B Ecommerce Buyers Demand Powerful Site Search.

Internet Retailer’s industry-wide October survey of B2B professionals revealed that site search is the most important feature that buyers look for on a supplier website, making it clear that powerful site search is a clear competitive advantage in the quickly changing space of B2B ecommerce. Laser Focused discusses the underlying reasons behind this trend, and provides concrete recommendations about what site owners can do to improve search on their store in 2015. Along with this discussion, the white paper addresses questions such as:

  • How has the growth of online shopping transformed the traditional model of B2B commerce, and how have consumer expectations shifted over time?

  • What are the key differences between B2B and B2C buyers? What are their similarities?

  • Why is a basic search algorithm insufficient for B2B buyer behavior? What advantages do more robust, complex algorithms provide?

  • What does a powerful search experience look like? What are the options for implementing powerful search on ecommerce websites?

To download Laser Focused, click on the link below. To get in touch with a team member today to talk about your search, contact [email protected].

Year in review: our favorite implementations from 2014

To kick off 2015, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite 2014 Swiftype implementations across a range of different websites to demonstrate the results that some of our users have been able to achieve. In all, Swiftype started powering search on thousands of websites this year, and served billions of queries. Nearly three years after launching, we are excited that so many people have found Swiftype to be such an integral part of their website, and we want to share these stories to inspire users in the future.


Qualcomm is a global semiconductor company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services, serving millions of customers worldwide, with more than 25,000 employees across 150 offices. When Qualcomm approached a leading web development agency to help them rehaul their existing website, search was a top priority. Because Qualcomm offers such a wide variety of products and services, they wanted to create an easy browsing experience to let customers hone in on exactly what they are looking for quickly.

Qualcomm made search a central pillar of their website user experience.
Qualcomm’s search implementation is great for several key reasons. To begin with, their search tool is prominently displayed on the left side of the page and remains visible on every page of the website. This makes it easy for users to search, browse, and re-search without needing to scroll to the top of the page. Another aspect we like is their autocomplete and faceted search options. The combination of these two features cuts down the time users need to spend searching by directing them straight to content they are looking for and letting them refine their results without moving to a separate results page. Lastly, we are happy to see the great results that this web development agency produced with Swiftype—providing their clients with a powerful search engine without the need for back end development work.


HubSpot is a major inbound marketing and sales platform that came to Swiftype for help powering their knowledge base search engine. While HubSpot’s support team had spent countless hours developing helpful content to answer user questions, their previous search solution did not allow enough control over their search experience. By switching to Swiftype, HubSpot was able to completely customize their search engine and create the user experience they hoped for.

Hubspot is a great example of powerful search over a large knowledge base.

HubSpot’s search is simple yet effective. For starters, we appreciate how they prominently displayed the search bar on their support page—a clear prompt for users to begin their support questions with a search. Furthermore, the placeholder text in the search bar clearly tells users how to interact with the search box, reassuring them that they should feel free to “type your question here.” From there, the fast autocomplete drop-down is color coded to differentiate between “quick answers” and “user guides,” letting users choose results based on the article type. Similar refinement options are available on their results page, where users can select the types of articles they’d like to see displayed.

Qualified Hardware

Qualified Hardware is a B2B retailer that sells high quality door and lock hardware. Before switching to Swiftype, Qualified Hardware was using a home-grown search solution that was costly to maintain and often failed to return relevant results for the highly specific queries that their customers were performing (such as item or part number searches). Swiftype’s powerful search algorithm helped return better results immediately, and to bring their search to the next level, Qualified Hardware took advantage of Swiftype’s custom meta tags to create a highly refined relevance model, as we’ll discuss below.

A quick search will immediately reveal the great work that their team put into styling their autocomplete with suggested brands, categories, and specific products. The results page also offers the option to display products in a grid or list format. These elements give users a great front end experience, but what makes this implementation truly outstanding is the skill with which Qualified Hardware leveraged Swiftype meta tags to deliver highly relevant results based on a wide range of product attributes.

Qualifed Hardware distinguished itself by creating a highly refined relevance model optimized to drive conversions.

Swiftype meta tags are a unique tool that any site owner can leverage to pass specific information to our web crawler as it indexes your site’s content. This allows site owners to fine-tune their relevance algorithm and deliver highly relevant results (for specific details about using Swiftype meta tags, see our tutorial). Qualified Hardware used this tool to its fullest extent, listing detailed information for each product such as popularity, whether or not the item is in stock or needs to be special ordered, the product SKU, and more. A quick peek at their source code on a product page will demonstrate just how extensively they used this tool. Once this information was indexed, Qualified Hardware was able to tweak their search algorithm to feature popular products, move special order products to a lower position for general queries, and overall optimize their results for conversions.

Modern Healthcare

Modern Healthcare is a leading source of healthcare business news, research, and data, with thousands of articles and publications. Before Swiftype, Modern Healthcare used their CMS’s default search function, which was slow, produced poor results, and was difficult to customize. Swiftype gave them improved speed and relevancy, with the ability for non-technical team members to customize search results.

Modern Healthcare's search bar is easy to find across their whole website.

Like Qualcomm, Modern Healthcare made their search bar easy to find by floating it in a static header element that follows users as they scroll down the page. This makes it easy for users to always have access to search and begin a new browsing process from any page on the site. Once users begin searching, the autocomplete quickly suggests articles, while displaying thumbnails of images associated with each article. Finally, on the results page, users have the option to refine results by publication date— ensuring that results are from the specific timeframe they have in mind.

These implementations demonstrate some of the incredible results our customers have been able to achieve with Swiftype. If you’re thinking about taking your search experience to the next level, we’re here to help make it happen. To see how Swiftype can work for you, contact [email protected] to request a demo.

How Swiftype Improved Relevance for


Search is one thing, but powerful search is something different altogether., an online community for people to find and share do-it-yourself projects, realized this after struggling with Solr for years.

Instructables employees were frustrated by a search engine that returned very basic results for broad searches and failed to return results for misspelled or overly specific queries. Moreover, the Instructables staff had spent countless hours tracking and quantifying the quality of their user-generated content by popularity, tags, and other metadata, but their search remained a “black box” that only returned very simple text based results. Because search is the core navigational tool on the site, they needed a solution that would deliver “good” results that drew upon the rich metadata associated with each project.

To fix this problem and deliver better search results to their visitors, Instructables came to Swiftype. For the past three years, we have finely tuned our search algorithm to deliver outstanding search results out-of-the-box.

After implementing Swiftype and fine-tuning their relevance model to draw upon this metadata, Instructables saw a dramatic improvement in their search results for a wide range of queries. Now, users were seeing more popular and overall better projects. Let’s explore these improvements by looking at a number of query types and comparing their results from before and after implementing Swiftype.

  1. Overly generic searches. Swiftype improved results for broad searches by digging deeper into the metadata, weighting results based on a combination of project popularity, project title, individual step titles within the project description, and more. This combination surfaced results that the instructables staff knew were better projects, with more detailed instructions and higher user ratings, instead of simply populating a list of projects with the same title as the query.
  2. Overly specific searches. Before Swiftype, users who searched for specific projects, such as a “diy stethoscope,” would only see a handful of results for very exact matches. Now, users see a wider range of results and have more options to choose from.
    Swiftype helped Instructables surface more relevant content for queries that previously returned few or no results.
  3. Misspellings. Instead of only showing results for projects that include the same misspellings as the query, Swiftype’s algorithm automatically corrects these spellings by noticing if a similar query has significantly more results. Additionally, Swiftype’s search algorithm learns from the corpus of searchable text in Instructables’ index, making the spelling tolerance model specifically tailored for the query patterns of Instructables’ user base. This is particularly notable for an obscure query such as “Arduino,” which is not an English word but is nevertheless important and popular on

These several examples only scratch the surface of the many algorithmic improvements that Swiftype brings to site owners. On the modern web, users expect powerful search engines that draw deeply from website databases to deliver relevant results. To hear more about what Swiftype can do for you website, check out our solutions pages or contact our sales team today.

Blind Spots: How to Learn from “No Results” Pages

For site owners thinking about their internal search engines, the prospect of users seeing a “no results” page is a major fear. No results pages frustrate users and make them leave your site—if a site-wide search doesn’t populate results for their query, who can blame these users for assuming that this website doesn’t offer the content they are looking for?

From the perspective of the site owner, a “no results” page means one of two things: (i) either the website search engine is not powerful enough to find relevant content, or (ii) the website simply doesn’t have content for that query. In both cases, these no result queries reveal key blind spots that site owners need to look closely at to improve their user experience. Let’s look at these two possibilities in detail, suggesting what site owners can do to address these problems.

What are users searching for but not finding on your website?

Possibility #1. Your search engine can’t find relevant content. Modern web browsers are accustomed to powerful search on websites such as Google and Amazon, and they expect the same search experience across the web. However, most websites have weak search engines that are ill-prepared to handle anything beyond very basic, one-word query types. A high number of “no results” pages indicates that your site search engine is built on a relatively simple search algorithm, and it is worth questioning whether an improved site search solution would address this issue. Is your site search algorithm prepared to handle the following query variations?

    • basic misspellings
    • pluralization
    • prefic/suffix additions
    • missed spaces or punctuation
    • mutiple word phrases
    • synonyms

Possibility #2. Your website doesn’t have content for a particular query. An obvious reason that users might see a no results page would be that your website simply doesn’t have content to meet this users’ needs. You may be aware that users are hitting a no results page for a certain percentage of searches performed on your website, but have you spent the time honing in on exactly what these dead-end searches are? Analyzing user search behavior offers site owners unparalleled insight about user intent—by listening to exactly what users are searching for, you can iteratively improve your website to meet your audience’s needs.

An obvious response to a no results query is to create content to cover these blind spots, but this is only possible if your search system provides you with this information. When thinking about how to optimize your site search experience, be sure to think about harvesting the vast amounts of data that a site search bar produces. Consider the following examples of ways that a range of websites might leverage information on their no result queries to drive content development:

  • An ecommerce site realizes that users are searching for a particular product that is not currently offered. In response, site owners order a major shipment of this product and capitalize on demonstrated user interest.

  • A customer support team notices that users are searching for “change payment information” but seeing no results, forcing these users to write in time-consuming support tickets. To reduce these inbound tickets, a support team member writes a comprehensive article on payment information to satisfy user searches.

  • A news website launches with a focus on American political issues, but users are also searching for content on foreign affairs and finding no results.  To maintain site traffic, the company hires a foreign affairs writer to supply fresh content.

Aside from creating content to fill these blind spots, site owners should make targeted adjustments to search results for individual queries by adding in results that they think would be particularly helpful, or deleting results that might be irrelevant.

Because search is a such a natural entry point to a website’s content, it is essential that site owners take strategic steps to minimize “no results” pages and keep users on their sites. For specific information on how Swiftype can improve search on your website, visit our solutions page today.

Why Online Publishers Need Better Search

In the last few weeks, we’ve written about why ecommerce stores can’t afford to ignore site search, as well as why great self-service support centers need great search. Continuing our series, today we’re covering the reasons why online publishers need to invest in search to maximize their potential:

  1. Search helps visitors find content. This seems obvious, but returning relevant results for anything beyond very basic one-word queries requires a complex search and information retrieval algorithm -something most native search applications can’t provide. One example of this is phrase recognition. For example, if a visitor performs a search for “2016 presidential election,” basic search engines will return results based on how relevant articles are to the term “2016,” “presidential,” and “election” separately, rather than recognizing the three words as a single entity and prioritizing results to rank articles with all three terms higher.
  2. Strong search will keep visitors on your site. If readers enjoy your content, it is very likely that they will want to explore the archives to find more. If visitor searches yield irrelevant, or worse, no results, the key performance indicators content websites care most about, such as time on site, pages per visit, and exit rate, will suffer. Conversely, if searches yield highly relevant, engaging results, those same KPIs will improve. These improved KPIs will also dramatically increase your value proposition for advertisers.
  3. Search should allow users to refine their results. After performing an initial search, readers may want to refine their results based on topic, author, or publication date. By giving these readers this option, you empower them to hone in on exactly what they are looking for.
    Powerful search allows users to drill down and find the content they are looking for.
  4. Search analytics can drive content strategy. Search analytics give site owners a unique opportunity to directly listen to what users want from a website, but this data is often overlooked. By looking at top searches, publishers can get a better sense of what articles are popular and decide what to feature on their homepage. On the other hand, site owners can look at the top queries that returned no results to determine what content needs to be created.

Today, users expect relevant results for a wide range of query types. Powerful search will quickly satisfy visitors and keep them on your site, but weak search results will quickly frustrate users and cause them to look elsewhere for content. By investing in robust, high-quality search, publishers can not only delight their visitors with relevant content, but dramatically increase their site’s value.

For a detailed look at how publishers can benefit from great internal search, see how Dramafever saw a direct return on their investment in search.

The Online Shopping Migration: Thanksgiving Weekend Review

The continued rise in online shopping has had a tremendous impact on the traditional holiday shopping cycle. As the National Retail Federation reported Sunday afternoon, overall sales and shopping traffic from Thanksgiving weekend noticeably decreased from 2013, a trend that NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay attributes to “a strengthening economy that changes consumers’ reliance on deep discounts, a highly competitive environment, early promotions and the ability to shop 24/7 online.” The statistics clearly illustrate this consumer migration to online vs. in-store shopping, with online sales increasing by 32% on Thanksgiving day and 26% on Black Friday. Cyber Monday, famous primarily for online shopping, has also seen an 8.1% increase in online sales over 2013 as well.

Perhaps more interestingly, this shift to online shopping has fundamentally disrupted the cycle of Thanksgiving weekend shopping. As Business Insider explains, Black Friday first came into being because so many Americans were able to shop on their vacation day after Thanksgiving. Now, with the advent of online shopping, designating this Friday as the national holiday for shopping has become “pretty arbitrary.” Because online shopping sales on Black Friday are growing at a faster rate than Cyber Monday, Adobe Systems forecasts that next year Black Friday will surpass Cyber Monday as the top grossing day for online retail sales in the US (see graph below).

The growing importance of Black Friday for online retail sales.

Because shopping is shifting so heavily to online, and online shoppers are not bound by time or space, online retailers should expect a steady trickle of sales throughout the rest of the holiday season. This makes it all the more important for site owners to look closely at their data from the past weekend and optimize their website for conversions in the coming month. Among the data available, site owners should pay special attention to what users searched for on their site, especially those queries that returned no results. From there, the results for these dead end queries should be customized so users always find the products they are looking for.

Three Lessons from Amazon

Consider the following hypothetical situation: one morning, on your rush to get out to the door, you forget to check the weather. Of course, halfway between your house and the bus stop, it begins to pour. As you sit on the bus, drenched, you decide it’s time to buy yourself an umbrella.

You pull out your phone, open your Amazon app, search for “umbrella,” and click on the first result. After a brief inspection, you decide it’s the one for you, so you click “buy now” to finish up and checkout. Nowadays, the combination of Amazon accounts and Apple’s TouchID verification makes this process faster than ever. Because your shipping and payment information is stored with your Amazon account, and your identity can be verified via fingerprint scanning on an iPhone, users only have to place their thumb over the home button and the transaction goes through. The whole process can take less than a minute, making the shopping experience incredibly efficient and easy for customers.
Amazon's mobile experience is built for speed and ease to adapt for the modern shopper.
What can we learn from this new customer experience, and how can ecommerce store owners improve their sites to replicate the ease of this shopping experience for their own customers? Here are our thoughts, after some consideration:

  1. Think about the user experience, start to finish. The reason this new shopping experience is so profound is because it is remarkably efficient and user-friendly. Think: you open your app, type in “u-m-b-r,” and are quickly able to choose from a list of suggested products. After browsing, checkout is a breeze, and you can continue on your morning commute without needing to spend more time running this virtual errand.
  2. Create simple, intuitive, and fast mobile shopping experiences. In our example, and as studies have shown, mobile shoppers are laser focused and are looking to buy a specific item – not browse. For this reason, users want mobile shopping to be quick and painless. This means fast (and accurate) search, a pared down product page, and a speedy checkout.
  3. Encourage users to create accounts. As we hinted at, part of what made this checkout process so easy was the fact that your shipping and payment information was already stored in your account. Creating accounts for your site’s user will help achieve the same effect, and at the same time can help create repeat customers. A great way to incentivize account creation is by offering discounts to new sign-ups.

As the holiday season gets into full swing this week, it’s more important than ever to make sure your ecommerce store is optimized for the months ahead.

Why Smart Support Requires Smart Search

When a user has a specific question in mind, the most natural avenue for them to discover the help they need is through a search on your help center. But if search doesn’t yield what they’re looking for, it can often be more frustrating than helpful. Below are some of the major reasons why search should be a critical piece of your support strategy.

Knowledge base visitors are drawn to search. Whereas ecommerce sites field more users who are on the site to browse and may use navigation elements to explore a site, knowledge base visitors come with a question in mind and want answers quickly. Search is the most logical way for them to find these answers, and a prominent search bar will quickly provide avenue for resolving their questions.Shopify help

Strong search translates to significant case deflection. Knowledge bases are unique site type because the information they provide only exists in one place – that knowledge base. While other sites worry about weak search increasing their bounce rate and translating to lost customers, weak search on a knowledge base makes users do one of two things: (i) file a support ticket because they can’t find the answer to their question, or (ii) give up on their question and leave the site frustrated. If your knowledge base has a strong search engine that provides relevant results and fast autocomplete suggestions, users will find their answers quicker and use your documentation to solve their problems instead of filing a support ticket.

Search analytics allow unparalleled insight on user problems. Search data provides a unique opportunity to listen directly to what users want from your site, and  knowledge base managers can look to site search analytics for a number of actionable data sets, including top queries, top queries that returned no results, and top autocomplete conversions. By looking at what users are searching for most (especially the queries that return no results), your support team can focus on creating content that will answer these questions.
See what users are searching for most to identify recurring issues.

These analytics can inform search result customization. A strong search solution should allow you to customize search results for a given query and add in results for queries that return no results. This will ensure that users never hit dead ends on your support page and that the most relevant articles populate at the top of your search results. For example, SurveyMonkey customizes results for all of their most important queries:

Because site visitors expect great search, knowledge bases need to provide a robust search experience to quickly help users find answers. If support teams invest in improving their search experience, both site visitors and site owners will be happier in the long run.

First Round Review: Early Stage Ecommerce Sites and Search

First Round

This morning we read a great article from First Round Capital entitled What I Learned the Hard Way Building an eCommerce Site. The article features advice from’s CTO Julia Grace, who joined Tindie after gaining experience with IBM and VigLink. Within the article, Grace spent a considerable amount of time discussing the options that early stage ecommerce sites have when it comes to implementing search on their site, stressing that most ecommerce sites should not spend valuable time and money building out a search infrastructure when they first get started.

Instead, Grace pointed out that, “there are several companies out there that will provide search for your site. This is the right choice when you don’t have the horsepower, staff or bandwidth to build the backend, analytics and dashboards from scratch.” Because search is such an involved and technical challenge, we think this is great advice.

As we often discuss with site owners, major ecommerce sites who have built out their own search engine need to devote considerable staff and engineering time to maintain it – which small companies who are just getting started can’t afford. On top of this, a truly powerful search engine that produces relevant results takes years of refinement. As Grace notes, “your top priority should always be making sure results are relevant.”

She then expands by asking, “Are they [visitors] seeing 100 similar items or 50? Did they mean to find something else? Are they trying to search for something broad and getting a lot of granular results? These are nuanced problems you need to understand, so unless you have significant in-house resources to do this, you should outsource search.” The last piece of advice about search that Grace offers is to be sure that your users have the option to refine their search through faceted navigation, and how you should test out a variety of filters and facets before settling on one interface.

The article goes on to discuss many other aspects of managing an ecommerce site, from how to design your checkout process to optimizing for multiple payment channels. If you have a few minutes today we definitely recommend reading it in full.

How to Drive Users to Your Search Bar

Last week we wrote about how important strong site search is for ecommerce websites, but this week we got questions from several customers about what site owners can do to make visitors actually use the search bar on their site. To summarize our advice and share these tips with a broader audience, we thought it would be helpful to create a specific blog post with tips about how to tweak your site so that more visitors use your search bar as the primary navigation tool.

Make it easy to find. We’ve written before about how Amazon’s homepage has evolved to feature such a prominent search bar, and how users expect to find this same interface across the web. The logic behind this evolution is simple – a larger, more prominent search bar will quickly catch users’ eyes and draw them towards it when they first land on your site. The key here, however, is not to let this logic fall apart when it comes to the rest of your website. Users will arrive to your site from a wide range of locations, and you should be sure that the search bar is easy to find on all pages. You might even consider configuring your site so that when visitors land on new pages, their cursor automatically starts in the search bar. We particularly like the way Shopify positions the search bar on their support page.

Walk in your visitors’ (proverbial) shoes. Don’t just think about a visitor’s first interaction with the search bar on your homepage, think about how they might want to use the search bar as they move through every part of your website. Many users will want to perform multiple searches on your site, so consider placing your search bar in a static site-wide header, making it easy to find at any point. Facebook is a perfect example of this. As you scroll down your Newsfeed, the search bar remains fixed to the top of the screen so you can enter a search without needing to scroll back to the top of the page. Other examples include YouTube, LivingSocial, Business Insider, and Mashable.

Increase your search bar’s functionality. The better the search bar works for users, the more they will use it to find the content they are looking for. Consider implementing an autocomplete dropdown that quickly directs users to popular pages before they finish typing their query. The faster users find what they are looking for, the more satisfied they will be and the longer they will stay on your site. Dramafever provides a segmented autocomplete that lets users choose specific content types directly from the search bar.

Prepare your search for mobile. More and more people are browsing the web with their smartphones today than ever before, and whether they are reading news or shopping online, search needs to work well for these users as well. In ecommerce alone, IBM predicts that 48.2% of online traffic and 24.4% of sales will come from mobile devices this holiday season. Capitalize on this traffic stream by optimizing your mobile website or app for search.

Experiment! Test out the changes you make on your website to see what produces the most conversions. Try placing your search bar in different locations, test out multiple autocomplete styles, or change up the way your faceted navigation works. Optimizely does a great job of helping site owners run powerful A/B testing across their site, and these tests can drive key UI decisions.

These changes will ensure that both site owners and visitors are getting the most out of their site search. In fact, site owners who use Swiftype to power their search have reported up to a 4x increase in their monthly query volume after implementation. Get started today with free trial, or for more information, contact our sales department to hear more about what Swiftype can do for you.

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