Make Site Search Work Better For You

If you’ve brought an effective site search solution into your online storefront, no doubt you want to get the most out of your investment. Here’s how to make sure that site search is working as well as it can to drive shoppers to the right products, and how to use search data for other marketing efforts.

Sharpen the focus on search: Consider configuring your storefront so that when a shopper visits any page on your site, the cursor is automatically placed in the search box. (This is a simple JavaScript tweak that your web developers can perform.)

Shoppers can then start typing in the box without having to look for the search box or click on it. It’s a small thing, but since shoppers who search convert at a higher rate than those who don’t, it’s worth trying.

Bring video into search: More and more video is turning up on retail sites – you may be adding your own or user-generated video that showcases your products or tells buyers how to install or use those products. Make it easier for shoppers to find these videos by highlighting them in search results.

For instance, you might create a video icon that lets searchers know that there’s a related video to view, or show the videos in a section of the search results. Video can be a compelling sell, and shoppers who watch videos get more information about the item to determine if it’s the right product for their needs – which means they’re more likely to buy.

Create personalized campaigns: If you currently allow shoppers to register their product preferences and to receive periodic promotional messages, you can leverage site search data to create more targeted marketing e-mails showing their preferred products.

One of our customers, a footwear retailer, uses this strategy. Based on customers’ preferences, such as style of shoe and favorite brands, the retailer pulls site search data showing the most popular products that correlate with those preferences, and then generates individually targeted e-mails that specifically promote those products. These personalized e-mails are proven to be highly appealing to shoppers, and result in increased open rates, click-throughs and conversions.

Connect search to customer ratings and reviews: Your online visitors love to read the opinions of other shoppers. Make it simple for site visitors to sort through these reviews based on their own likes and dislikes. Another customer of ours, an online tea retailer, has configured its site search so that shoppers can narrow the search results to see items with reviews based on similar preferences (like full-bodied teas, or ones with good aromas). The result: a refined, more relevant group of items in the search results, making it even easier for shoppers to find the right products.

Leverage site search data for more successful SEO and paid search campaigns: It can be a huge struggle to figure out which search terms will generate the most referrals from search-engine traffic, or will create the best paid search efforts. But there’s a gold mine of information in your site search system – including “long tail” terms that aren’t used as often, but which convert much higher than more commonly used search terms.

What’s more, shoppers’ most commonly used keywords might be different than what you’d expect – or they might change at various times of the year without you realizing it.

By examining site search data, you’ll discover which search terms are most likely to lead to purchases. You can then use this data to optimize your site search results pages for the keywords that people use on natural search engines.

And you can take it one step further by using the site search results pages as landing pages for natural and paid searches on Google and other search engines, increasing the chance that visitors will find the product they are after and make a purchase.

Site search can be used in far more ways than helping visitors to your site find your products. When used in these other ways, the ROI of your site search solution is made even stronger.

Shaun Ryan is CEO of SLI Systems, a provider of hosted search software.