Today’s customers have higher expectations than ever before. People expect frictionless, dynamic experiences from nearly every site they visit and every app they use. And if they can’t get the right experience on your site, they’ll simply try a competitor’s site instead.
When your site is easy to search, customers are more likely to stay on the site, consume your content, make a purchase, and even become repeat buyers. Plus, the more people searching on your site, the more data you can collect on their behavior and needs to inform business, marketing, and SEO strategy.
What is On-Site Search?
On-site search (also known as site search or internal search) is the functionality that allows users to retrieve results from a website by typing queries into a search bar. There are different approaches to site search, but they are all designed to serve website content based on a user’s input in the search bar.
A great site search experience can improve almost any website. The better the site search, the more success you will have in two key areas:
- Higher conversions: Visitors who search on your site are at least 200% more likely to convert, making site search a very powerful tool for eCommerce.
- Greater brand loyalty: 12% of website visitors who are unsatisfied with your search results will turn to a competitor instead. Companies who provide an excellent search experience drive more brand loyalty, and lose fewer customers to the competition.
Site search is particularly important for some websites, like eCommerce sites, that depend on customers finding certain products quickly and easily. But any website with a collection of content can reap the benefits of relevant, fast, and easy-to-use site search: better click-through rates, more user engagement, and a better understanding of customer needs.
The Connection Between SEO & Site Search
There’s an important connection between search engine optimization (SEO), which drives users to your site in the first place, and site search, which helps them find what they need once they’ve arrived.
Modern SEO is based on creating high-quality, relevant, and timely web content that addresses the needs of your audience. However, the more content or products that are added to the site, the harder they are to find.
Although a robust navigational menu can start visitors on a journey to discovering content, each product or piece of content cannot be captured with its own submenu. (And, even if they could, it would be quite a hassle for a user to dig through!) A better long-term solution is to invest in great site search, which helps users find what they need every time without continuously updating menus and submenus.
Plus, site search analytics can help you uncover what exactly your visitors want, which can refine and enhance your SEO strategy. With each search, visitors are telling the business in their own words what they need. You can use this data to find out what products or content are most popular, and if there are any gaps in your content marketing, sales, or product development strategies.
For example, if hundreds of users are searching for something on your site, but you don’t have any corresponding products or resources, that raises a red flag. This data sparks a larger conversation with internal stakeholders (SEO, marketing, product, etc.) about how to fill that gap. You may decide to accelerate something on your product roadmap due to high demand, or set up a remarketing campaign that targets visitors who perform a site search but do not convert right away.
So at the end of the day, why does site search matter so much? It helps you understand your customers better, drive more conversions, and increase customer loyalty/repeat business. Up to 30% of eCommerce site visitors use the search function, and site searchers account for up to 14% of eCommerce website revenue. With a captive audience searching for your products here and now, a great site search experience is a must.
How On-Site Search Drives SEO
There are numerous metrics that show how effective on-site search is. A robust site search solution should have analytics capabilities that allow you to measure these metrics, which can help you uncover user behavior and monitor your search performance. Using this information you can make to drive iterative improvements to your site and help you adapt for your users. Some notable metrics include:
Uncovering what exactly your user needs is a cornerstone of SEO. Analyzing queries, or the information users type into the search bar, is an underutilized way to uncover that information. Queries provide the most direct way to understand what visitors are seeking, and help you determine which topics, content, or products are most popular. Using this information, you can make a number of strategic actions such as highlighting popular results on the homepage, bringing popular items to the top of the search results, or expanding content areas that are lacking.
Keywords reveal some of the major topics that are important to customers. These are insightful because they illustrate the different ways customers are searching for similar things. Your site visitors may also be using these same terms in major search engines. Analyzing internal search data can help organizations find new keywords to prioritize in PPC or organic SEO campaigns.
Though the definition of a successful conversion may vary from business to business, it is still a highly relevant metric to track. Whether a conversion consists of an item added to a cart, a sale, time spent on a piece of content, or a subscription, tracking conversion can help you understand which queries perform better than others. It can also help you determine which products are most valuable to your customer. For instance, if you locate queries with a low click position but a high conversions, you can take actionable steps to highlight the related items for customers. Overall, items and content that convert will tend to be most relevant to your users and can fuel your campaigns, product strategy, SEO strategy, and even offline merchandising. The direct link between conversions and revenue make it an imperative metric to track.
On an individual site, click-through rate (CTR), or impressions resulting in a click, is an important measure of the relevancy of your search engine and how engaged users are on your site. Generally, the higher the click through rate, the more satisfied users are. If the results showing up for users on your site have a low CTR, your site is likely failing to address user needs. It may be worth looking into redefining the relevance of your on-site search.
Examining the click position for different content assets or products on your site can help you see how accessible they are to visitors. For example, if popular or new products have a low click position, visitors will have a lot of trouble finding that content. This might suggest some queries should be worked on (ranked higher for instance). Using this information, you can make necessary improvements to the relevancy of your search engine. Analyzing click position can also provide granular insights on users’ interests, which can be invaluable in driving SEO and online and offline campaigns.
Indexing Site Search Pages for SEO
Popular search engines like Google can index internal site search results pages with their crawlers. This was initially considered undesirable because organizations thought viewers didn’t want to see the results of an on-site search engine when they were searching with a general search engine like Google. Thus, it was standard practice to prevent bots from linking to on-site search pages.
More recently, some large eCommerce sites have found success allowing Google crawlers to index internal site search pages. This allows visitors to get a range of topical results, right from Google or Bing itself, rather than just a single product or content page.
However, this tactic can introduce a few risks.
The main risk is that, if left unmonitored, allowing bots to crawl on-site search pages can result in indexable pages for each keyword. The outcome is a mass of user-generated spam pages which greatly reduce the effectiveness—and meaning—of search results. Letting bots index any keyword can contribute to some rich, high-quality pages. Still, it has a tendency to create many low-quality pages that don’t fit user needs.
In addition, unrestrained bots crawling too many site search result pages may affect crawl budget. A large number of what Google calls “low-value-add” URLs can negatively affect the crawlability and indexability of the site. This is typically only an issue for large, high-traffic sites (1,000+ URLs), but it can negatively impact the discoverability of your content.
Nonetheless, as long as you investigate and minimize the risks of indexing site search pages, you can develop a site search strategy that incorporates SEO and users’ needs.
Site Search Usability and SEO
Websites with good performance and a good user experience tend to perform better with search engines like Google. The usability of search functionality has a direct effect on the quality of visitor’s interactions on sites and the likelihood of engagement.
To delight visitors and profit from site search, businesses need to understand how to optimize it for user engagement. They can do so by focusing on:
- Visuals: Including images in the search results makes on-site search more appealing and user-friendly.
- Search Result Relevance: An unsatisfying search experience can quickly push visitors to other sites. Therefore, relevant results, tailored to textual and business ranking rules, are imperative.
- Page Load Speed: Although a few milliseconds of delay may seem small on paper, users are sensitive to small lags, which build up over the course of the search experience. Search functionality should be built on robust infrastructure to prevent frustrating delays.
These are just some of the basic aspects of on-site search that can improve the site’s usability. If they’re properly implemented, organizations can create a better user experience that delivers more customer satisfaction, while driving SEO goals.
Optimize Your On-Site Search with Algolia
On-site search is an invaluable asset for any business today. It enables organizations to increase their conversion rates, deliver the information they want when they need it, and strategically plan for the site’s continued success.
Algolia enables consistently frictionless experiences for all of our clients. Watch the Algolia demo to see our search in action!