How to improve your internal site search to get more conversions

Recently we started to analyse some of our clients’ eCommerce analytics data to identify opportunities for improving conversions.

One of the things we noticed was that in every single case, people who searched the site internally had a higher conversion rate than people who didn’t.

In the case of one very large online retailer, the conversion rate of people who use the internal site search to find products is 42% higher than those who don’t.

Their search bar is very hard to find on the site, so it’s pretty clear to us that they should tweak the design of the page and make the search bar more prominent.

Once that’s in place, we’ll test again to see if there’s further improvement. My hunch is there will be.

Large companies like Google (commerce search) and internal search specialists like SLI Systems are heavily promoting this fact and these insights are also backed up by Marketing Sherpa.

SLI-Systems have really done their homework in this space and I’ll share their top internal site search optimisation tips to improve your conversion rates:

1. Have a search box on every page of your site, most importantly the home page.
Placing a search box on every page of your site will make it easier for visitors to find the search box and use it — wherever they are, without having to click back to find it on the home page. Ideally the search box is in the same location across all of your pages, so people know where it is when they need it.

2. Consider adding Auto Complete to your search box.
This feature suggests possible terms when visitors start typing the first letters of a keyword. This is especially useful for hard-to-spell searches. Auto Complete also helps site visitors save time by requiring fewer keystrokes. In addition, spelling errors occur less frequently and spelling suggestions are required less often on sites with this technology.

3. Have clear and specific product and content titles in the search results.
Titles should be accurate and descriptive about the content your visitors will see when they click on the results. If titles are not accurate, your visitors may not click on a result that is otherwise relevant, or they may click on it only to find that it didn’t contain what they were looking for. If this happens too often, they’re likely to abandon the search, as well as your site.

4. Incorporate images into search results.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Showing images in results helps visitors find what they’re looking for faster and with fewer clicks, improving the overall site experience. Images are especially useful if your products are available in several variations, such as different colours or configurations. Images can even be helpful as a visual clue of the content type, such as an article, video, PDF, etc.

5. Offer “add to cart/buy now” options directly from the site search results page.
Smart eCommerce companies create as few steps as possible from search to checkout. When you allow visitors to add products to shopping carts or to go to checkout directly from search results, they’re more likely to complete the purchase — particularly if they know exactly what they want and they see it in the results at a price they’re comfortable with.

6. Show ratings and reviews in search results.
Site visitors place high value on the opinions and feedback of other people who’ve shopped for similar products or services, and showing the average rating in search results helps them better determine what they want to click on. You should allow visitors to further refine or reorder their search results based on ratings. You should also show, in the search results, the number of reviews that a product has.

7. Rely on user behaviour to improve the relevance of search results.
By examining search data, you can learn that visitors who enter a given search term are likely to click on a specific product. Based on the data you can move more popular products to the top of search results, making the results more relevant and therefore making it easier for all visitors to find the results they seek.

Personally, I also think this can help you re-gig your category navigation, but it’s a good idea to check your analytics data to help with this too. For example, if you’re an Australian online clothing retailer (in the southern states), you’ve probably already noticed that jackets, jumpers, long pants and coats are receiving the lion’s share of category traffic at the moment. You might want to move those seasonal categories higher in the navigation pecking order so they’re easier to find for visitors.

The key takeaway here is to make your internal site search work harder to help people get to the products (and services) they need and you offer.

The rest is up to you!

For more Online Sales expert advice, click here.

Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation  company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.

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