On the modern web, search bars are everywhere. Google, the modern address bar doubling as a search bar, and the prevalence of search tools throughout the web have trained users to expect a search option when they have a clear idea of what they are looking for. This clear idea—intent—makes visitors who use search one of the most valuable online audiences.
The power of Google’s web search and of major internet players’ such as Amazon’s site search often lead to an assumption that all search solutions offer the same experience that your visitors expect. However, if you’ve used many search functions, you know this is not true. While a comprehensive, simple solution to robust site search is the best way to ensure your site doesn’t disappoint your visitors, we’ve put together a list of steps that site owners can take to improve their search experience right away.
- Use your search analytics. A search bar is an extremely unfiltered form of customer feedback—a free text box that asks the searcher to type in exactly what they want. This unfiltered feedback should be valued for what it is: a goldmine of analytics on your visitors. Be sure to listen to this feedback, checking for popular searches, searches that return no results, autocomplete selections where applicable, and any other information about what your visitors are looking for. You should then pipe these learnings into your marketing and product strategy. For example, an ecommerce company who sells shoes might notice that their visitors are searching for a brand they do not carry, suggesting that they should consider adding the brand.
- Ensure your search is ready for mobile. The share of searches of occurring on mobile websites and in mobile apps is steadily increasing. As users begin to expect their experience to be seamless across their devices, a well-designed and powerful mobile search feature is becoming as important as a desktop search solution. Good mobile search generally includes a prominent, easily accessible search bar, as navigational elements such as breadcrumbs are often difficult to display clearly for mobile visitors. Also, be sure to optimize your results page, autocomplete dropdown, and product thumbnails for the smaller screen space available to mobile users.
- Feature your search box prominently and intuitively. Visitors who start with search are your most valuable visitors—as much as 70% more likely to convert than those who avoid search. A search indicates a visitor came to the site for a reason, and a strong search experience moves that visitor to their desired destination quickly and painlessly. Featuring search also encourages your visitors to tell you what they are looking for, critical to an effective marketing and product strategy. To encourage searches from your visitors, make sure your search bar is prominent and intuitively located so that your visitors naturally use the feature. For inspiration, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite search-driven site designs.
- Offer autocomplete results. For each additional page a visitor sees on a website, there is an associated visitor drop-off. Offering autocomplete results in a dropdown reduces the time a searcher needs to spend waiting for a results page to load. This streamlined experience will delight your visitors and reduce friction in their experience.
- Don’t ignore misspellings. We’ve all made typos when searching for something, either inadvertently or because we don’t know how to spell a tough word. The success of companies such as Google and Amazon in typo tolerance leads the average internet user to expect search tools to protect them from their mistakes. However, most do not come nearly close enough to Google or Amazon in typo protection, causing situations like this:
As the screenshot shows, a missed space between words—the most common typo—in a query that should have results can return none. As modern searchers expect typo protection, not accounting for misspellings can lead visitors to believe their intended query has no results, driving them away from your site. Be sure to pay attention to the most common misspellings, and take steps to ensure your visitors do not mistakenly see a no results page.
Many of these issues are best addressed by using a third-party tool that has developed easy tools for managing issues like results reordering, spellcheck, synonyms, and autocomplete. However, each of these issues represent common problems with native search tools, and each can be rapidly improved simply by paying attention to them. We’ll be featuring more tips for improving your search in the future, so be sure to check the blog often. Finally, if you are looking for a solution to each of these issues that you can get up and running quickly, sign up for a Swiftype account and create your first engine.