In the SEO world we talk a lot about search and optimizing for search engines. But there’s another type of search worthy of a place in the SEO conversation and strategy: on-site search.
On-site search is exactly that: a search feature on your website. Ebay and Amazon are obvious examples of websites with prominent on-site search functions. On-site search is standard on ecommerce websites, very common on blogs, and can benefit most types of websites. It aids visitors on your website in finding whatever it is they seek.
Yet on-site search remains greatly undervalued and is either missing or unoptimized on many websites. Let’s discuss the benefits of on-site search and a few tactics to make on-site search more effective on your website.
Conversions and On-Site Search
Research findings from eConsultancy make a strong case for the implementation and optimization of on-site search. Particularly for ecommerce businesses, visitors who use on-site search spend more than those who do not use search. And for businesses in any industry, visitors who use on-site search are much more likely to convert than those who do not.
This finding makes sense, for the same reason people who search long-tail keywords on Google are more likely to convert. Long-tail keyword searchers are not looking for general info–they know what they want and are looking for it. Visitors who search on your website are also not interested in general information. They’re interested in something specific you offer, whether that be a product, a service, or some type of information. If you have it, they want it. They’re not as likely to be merely shopping around.
Additional Benefits of On-Site Search
In addition to the pure monetary and conversion value of offering on-site search, the data and analytic value of on-site search is extremely valuable.
Know exactly what your customers want
Firstly, people are telling you exactly what they want from you! Where else do you have a curated list of people telling you EXACTLY what they want from your website???
For ecommerce businesses, the benefits are crystal clear. If numerous people are searching for something you don’t have, whether that be a product, style, color, brand, etc., perhaps you should start carrying that item. The same goes for blogs and service-based companies. If people are searching for help or information from you that you don’t have–get it. Visitors already expect you to have it–don’t disappoint them.
Know how to improve the layout and content of your website
Secondly, people are telling you what’s wrong and what’s right with your website. On-site search is a continuous feedback loop if you spend time analyzing search habits of your visitors.
You can find out if your site is difficult to navigate based on the search terms of your visitors. If people consistently search for items/information/pages that you think are easy to find, then perhaps you need to rearrange your website or make the menu and navigation tools more intuitive. One example is to move commonly-sought information to the landing page so that people don’t even have to use your search feature for common searches. Removing steps from the conversion process is always a good way to retain and convert more visitors into customers.
You can also find out if people are finding what they want when they search your site. Is your bounce rate high on most landing pages after a search? Are visitors repeating and redoing searches? If so, perhaps your content needs to be more clear and your organization more intuitive.
Know how to improve your SEO strategies
Consistent analysis of the on-site search use on your website will enable you to reduce visitor frustration and reduce your bounce rate, which has direct SEO benefits.
On-site search also provides you with exact search terms people use for your website. People may have landed on your website with one search and then use a different search within your site. Good keyword research is a necessary part of SEO and knowing the Google search terms that impact your industry is key for a solid SEO strategy. But you can also use the on-site search terms to help craft the wording of your website content: on landing pages, product pages, and blog articles. Consider on-site search terms a second opinion for optimal keyword targets in your SEO strategy.
On-site Search Best Practices
When you have on-site search set up and connected to Google Analytics (or to whatever analytics platform you use), you need to look at the UI and UX of the actual search function.
While the search bar doesn’t need to be front and center, it does need to be clearly visible and readily available. (Some ecommerce sites may want to follow the strategy of Amazon and ebay and feature the search bar big, bold, and beautiful.)
The use of semantic search and autofill results will help reduce the frustration of misspellings and unfamiliarity with the product or service jargon. It will also help avoid encounters with “no results found.” Anything you can do to reduce frustration and improve user experience is beneficial to the success of your website and business.
On-site search is an integral part of a good SEO strategy.
Don’t discount the benefit simply because you are not an ecommerce site or have not used it in the past. Understanding exactly what visitors want and expect from your website is invaluable knowledge. Use that knowledge to shape your growth strategy and build your business.