Site search is the functionality that enables users to search a given website’s content or product catalogs with speed and relevance. A great site search function is tailored to the specific website. Not only does a great site search constantly index the site to ensure the latest content is easily accessible, it also guides users as they explore a website’s content, helping them discover content they might not have even known they were interested in. The best site search products delight users by allowing them to quickly connect with the content they need while capturing valuable data about the content and products visitors are most interested in.
Why is site search important?
Search sites like Google and search-centered websites like Amazon and YouTube are an integral part of our experience on the internet. So it’s not surprising that when it comes to searching individual websites for products, content, or information, visitors expect the same level of ease and speed that these sites offer.
Search bars are an essential part of website functionality and design, and for most of us, using a website without a search bar would seem—well, weird. A search bar is a no-brainer when designing a website, but truly helpful site search is so much more than just having a search bar.
Research shows that visitors that use search are 3 times as likely to find what they are looking for and convert into customers or leads than users that simply browse. Search is also the best way for visitors to tell you what they are looking for and to give you the opportunity to tailor the website to the visitor’s specific needs.
Strong site search can have a powerful effect on your website:
Improve user experiences
A site can have awesome content or phenomenal products, but if users can’t find it, they’re likely to be frustrated. A great site search experience combines fast relevant search results with a great post-search discovery experience that allows users to filter results, browse different categories of content, and even recommend related and popular searches. Ease of discoverability leads to positive and continued interactions between visitors and your content. Thus, you should consider site search just as important to the user experience (UX) as aesthetics and functionality.
Reduce bounce rate
Research from KISSmetrics shows that 12% of a website’s visitors will leave and opt for a competitor’s site after an unsatisfactory search. Don’t drive your visitors away! If you offer a fantastic search experience, your website can be the one visitors turn to after they leave a competitor’s site empty-handed.
When you help visitors find what they’re seeking the first time around, it has a dramatic impact on sales and engagement. In fact, according to Forrester research, up to 43% of visitors immediately navigate to the search bar when they visit a site.
A customer-centric focus on site search has beneficial downstream effects on business performance. A dedicated site search solution allows a business to keep control over the searchable and promoted content on the website and provide users with helpful recommendations. Site search is so integral to the day-to-day health and operation of a site that it should not be treated as an afterthought.
The benefits of site search for your business
So just how does this user-centered approach help to buoy the business? You can use robust search capabilities to achieve a healthier bottom line in several ways:
Give users a better understanding of your products, services, or content
The more your visitors discover what’s offered on your site, the more knowledge they gain. This knowledge can be easily translated into action, especially if it’s what the visitor needs. A good site search facilitates an easy discovery process. And natural discovery serves to capture and hold the attention of the user.
Analyze and capitalize on valuable data
Each time a user searches your site, they generate valuable user intent data. Users are telling you their desires in their own words. With site search analytics capabilities you can make strategic moves like:
- Optimizing your results: Prioritizing relevance helps decrease the time a user spends sifting through results. Once you evaluate trends and your own business goals, a robust site search will allow you to fine-tune relevance based on attributes such as popularity or Twitter likes or retweets to ensure the most relevant results rank the highest for site users.
- Filling in content gaps: Visitors might be searching for content topics you haven’t even considered writing about yet.
- Understanding your users better: Who is searching for your products? Where do they live? Which products are most popular in which months? Site search analytics can help with market segmentation.
Enhance your SEO efforts
Effective site search improves the overall UX of your website, which is something Google values when ranking sites. Site search also requires a logical, hierarchical organization of content, which helps search engines like Google understand your core topics and products (and how they all fit together).
Also, if your visitors frequently search for a word or phrase on your site, they’re probably searching Google for that keyword as well. So, as you discover highly-searched words on your site, you can strategize on how to address the user intent behind those keywords.
Ease growing pains
A website’s expansion, including the addition of daily content and/or new product lines, can actually harm UX. When a website grows significantly, locating an exact item is like finding a needle in an ever-growing haystack. But with the right site search, the size of the haystack isn’t a burden for visitors. They can easily find the exact thing they need and get suggestions for other related content to continue on their journey.
Which types of sites should have site search capabilities?
Internal site search can make any website or technology platform easier to use. A positive experience with site search drives more repeat visitors, more subscriptions, a stronger brand image, and fewer user complaints.
Nevertheless, here are a few types of sites that may benefit the most from effective site search:
When shoppers know what they’re looking for, they don’t want to navigate through a jungle of product categories to locate it. And you don’t want them to do this either, since wasted time equals lost customers. Therefore, at all times, but especially during the busiest shopping seasons, it’s vital to give your visitors the best online shopping experience. Help them search, find, and buy with ease, and see an increase in ROI in return.
The content on media sites is ever-expanding and changing. It’s easy for readers and video watchers to lose their way in such a content-rich environment. Site search can help them find it, directing them to new and relevant topics of interest and prolonging the time they stay on the site.
Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms that allow customers to search through their created data can greatly enhance the user experience. And with every SaaS company now faced with almost 10 competitors on average, offering a better UX than the competition is more important than ever.
Other types of highly-searched websites that benefit from internal site search include web forums, wikis, and knowledge bases. Businesses in the healthcare and finance industries can also benefit greatly from a smooth site search.
How to choose the right internal site search
Not all site search platforms are created equal, and price is only one of many factors. Look for a platform that offers all the features you need to provide an advanced search experience—both today and in the future, as your site grows. Here are a few features to look for.
- Analytics: Many site search benefits can’t be realized without a site search equipped with analytics capabilities. Make sure the platform you choose enables you to understand your visitors and constantly refine your site.
- Customization: The best site search platforms enable you to include your visitors’ profiles in your ranking strategies. The platform can then personalize the results your visitors see based on their prior searches and website behavior.
- Functionality: The site search functionality should perform reliably, quickly and easily with features like typo tolerance, suggestions, filters, synonyms, and multilingual options.
- Ease for developers: Choose a platform that’s designed to work with your developers, not against them. It should be intuitive to implement and maintain (likely even accessible to teams with little to no coding skills), work with numerous integrations, provide 24/7 support, and have an active developer community. Implementing a site search platform should be an exciting milestone for everyone involved, not a pain.
- Security: Your internal search platform should offer security features like SOC 2 and SOC 3 compliance, API keys, cluster isolation, and multi-tenant architecture.
- Reliability: With site search such an integral part of the customer experience, you can’t afford downtime or unreliable solutions. Look for a trusted solution built on reliable infrastructure with a team dedicated to handling issues before they can ever affect you.
See how Algolia can improve your site search
World-renowned brands such as Lacoste, Stripe, and Birchbox, turn to Algolia as their site search engine of choice. Trusted for its robust search features, analytics, security, and ease of use, it’s an out-of-the-box solution loved by web visitors and developers alike.
To see what Algolia can do for you, try it out with a 14-day free trial.