Internal Site Search: An Essential Tool for Ecommerce Brands

6 Min Read Site search functionality is a crucial tool to help your customers quickly find what they're looking for and improve the likelihood they’ll make a purchase. Taking the time to optimize this cog in the proverbial wheel will pay off big time. Some positive results include improved product discoverability, happier customers, and more sales.

Written by UserInput Team
Last Updated: May 2023

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If you’re an ecommerce brand looking for ways to improve the user experience on your website, one important aspect to consider is internal site search. Site search functionality is a crucial tool to help your customers quickly find what they’re looking for and improve the likelihood they’ll make a purchase.

Keep reading as we explore the importance of your website’s internal search functionality and the significant impact it can have on your biz success, common problems and mistakes made with site search, and of course, what a great internal site search looks like.

What is Internal Site Search?

The internal search definition is simple: it’s a search engine on your website that allows users to find specific information or products within the site. By typing keywords into a search bar, customers can find what they’re looking for without having to navigate through multiple pages or menus.

This is particularly key for ecommerce sites because customers are often searching for specific products and want a quick and easy way to find them.

Why is Internal Site Search Important to Ecommerce Brands?

Oh, let us count the ways, eh?

Improved Conversion Rates

Stands to reason, don’t you think? If customers can easily find what they’re looking for on your site, they’re way more likely to buy it. On the flip side, a poor internal site search can lead to frustration, which means the customer will often leave your site without buying anything at all. Whomp, whomp,whomp.

Enhanced User Experience

Good internal site search also enhances the overall user experience. When your customers are able to find what they’re looking for faster and easier, they’re more likely to perceive the experience as positive, which can lead to repeat visits and purchases.

Increased Customer Loyalty

Providing customers with a smooth and easy-to-use site search can also increase customer loyalty. Give ‘em a great experience and the bottom line is that they’re more likely to come back for future purchases.

Improved Product Discoverability

Internal site search can also improve product discoverability, which is especially important if your ecommerce site boasts a large inventory. Again, make it fast and easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for, and they’ll hit that buy button with little to no hesitation.

Common Problems and Mistakes with Site Search

For all the ways you can get it right, there are equally as many faux pas you can make when designing your site search experience.

Poor and Irrelevant Search Results

Remember, the goal is to make the search experience fast and easy. If your search results don’t match your customer’s query, queue the frustration and all the tiny violins! A frustrated searcher likely means no purchase, either.

Lack of Filters and Sorting Options

Another common issue with site search is the lack of filters and sorting options. Your customers want to be able to filter their search results by price, brand, and other factors, and sort them in a way that makes sense to them. Without those options, your customers may get annoyed and move on to a site that better serves their needs.

Poor Search Bar Visibility

Always keep in mind that your search bar should be prominently displayed on your website so customers can easily find it. A poorly placed or designed search bar will result in your customers not being able to search for what they need, which definitely doesn’t make for a seamless or pleasant experience.

So What Does Good Internal Site Search Look Like?

It’s simple, actually. To get it right, design your site to provide:

  • Relevant search results that match your customer’s query.
  • Multiple filters and sorting options so your customers can refine their search results and find the products they’re interested in.
  • An intuitive interface that’s user-friendly.
  • Speedy retrieval that lets customers receive search results quickly, without having to wait for a page to load.

Another thing to keep in mind is your customers should be able to quickly locate the search bar no matter what page they’re on. You can make it easier by placing the search bar in a consistent location, such as the header or top navigation. The search bar should also be large enough to be easily read and clearly labeled with text like “Search” or “Find Products.”

Of course, those aren’t the only things that make a good internal site search stand out. Below are two more biggies.

Effective Search Algorithms

The search algos you use to return results are a critical aspect of effective internal site search. Poor search algorithms can result in irrelevant or inaccurate results, leading to ticked off customers and poor conversions.

One way to improve your search algorithms is to incorporate the use of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning. NLP can assist in improving the accuracy of search results by allowing customers to search using natural language, such as “red dress size 12.” Machine learning algorithms continually learn and adapt to customer behaviors, which improves search results over time.

Relevant and Accurate Results

This plays into how well your search algos are designed. Ideally, if a customer enters a search term, they should receive a list of relevant products, including those that match their search term and also any related products they might find intriguing.

Those results should be displayed in a clear and easy-to-use format, with pertinent information attached, such as the product name, image, price, and availability.

One way to improve the relevance and accuracy of your search results is to continually monitor and analyze customer behavior. For example, you can track which search terms are being used, what products are being purchased as a result of those searches, and what changes can be made to improve the customer experience.

You can also gather feedback directly from customers on their search experience, which can provide valuable insight into what you might be able to improve upon.

Best Tools and Tests to Assist with Internal Site Search

There are several tools available you can use to help improve your site search and offer insight into customer behavior and preferences. Some of the most popular include:

User Testing

Platforms that allow you to conduct user testing related to site search and other aspects of your ecommerce site can be super valuable. These types of tools allow you to observe customers in real time as they use your site search and get solid feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.

For example, you can gather feedback on the relevancy and accuracy of search results. You can also look into the ease of use of the search bar and results, and the overall customer experience.

A/B Testing

A/B testing allows you to test different variations of your site search and determine which version performs best. This can help you optimize your site search for maximum impact and improve the overall user experience.

Heat Mapping

Heat mapping allows you to track mouse movement and clicks on your site. As a result, you get valuable insights to how customers interact with site search and other elements of your site.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO tools like SEMrush can optimize your site search and improve the visibility of your products in search results.

A few more ways to you can test your site’s search functions are by using:

  • Click-Through Rate Analysis: You can analyze the click-through rate of your site search results to understand which products customers are finding most relevant.
  • Bounce Rate Analysis: This allows you to analyze the bounce rate of search results to identify which products are not resonating with customers.
  • Conversion Rate Analysis: Analyze the conversion rate of customers who use your site search to understand the impact of search on sales.
  • Mobile Testing: Test your site search on different mobile devices to ensure it is optimized for all customers.
  • Customer Feedback Surveys: Collect feedback from customers on their experience using your site search and areas for improvement.

By utilizing these tools and others, you can gain valuable intel into your site search performance. You can then take the necessary steps to improve it, leading to higher conversion rates and more customer satisfaction.

In fact, some of the things mentioned can be tracked using the readily available Google Analytics platform. GA allows you to mine a wealth of data on site search behavior. This includes search terms, number of searches, and search result click-through rates. All of that data can then inform your ecommerce strategy and site search decisions.

6 Actionable Steps Begin Optimizing Your Internal Site Search

If you’re ready to improve your website’s search functionality, we recommend starting here:

  • User Testing: There’s nothing better than getting a glimpse in real time, how your customers are using your site. Contact us if you need help setting this up.
  • Keyword Optimization: Remember this is crucial to the success of internal site search. By understanding what keywords and phrases customers are using to search for products, you improve search relevance.
  • Relevancy Algorithms: To improve the accuracy of search results, optimize your algos. This can be done by adjusting factors such as keyword weighting and product or content ranking.
  • Customization Options: Customize your internal site search to meet the unique needs of your customers. This can include the ability to search by product attributes, such as color or size, or the addition of filters to narrow search results.
  • User-Centered Design: Center your design and user experience of internal site search around the needs and preferences of customers. This includes the use of clear and intuitive language, and easy-to-use search filters and suggestions.
  • Regular Monitoring and Optimization: To keep internal site effective and relevant, regularly review search data and make adjustments as needed.
  • Providing Search Suggestions and Autocomplete:
  •  This can include suggesting popular searches or product categories. You can also try automatically completing search queries based on what the customer has typed so far.

Ultimately, a well-crafted internal site search is crucial whether you’re a seasoned ecommerce business or just starting out. Taking the time to optimize this cog in the proverbial wheel will pay off big time. Some positive results include improved product discoverability, happier customers, and more sales.

Ready to test your site with real customers? Order a user testing project today. Then get ready to nerd out over all that data and how best to use it. With the right strategies in place, you can make your internal site search a wickedly valuable asset indeed.

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