27 Tips to Improve Ecommerce Site Search

Still unconvinced about ecommerce site search? How about this little nugget:

“Shoppers who use site search on ecommerce sites convert at two to three times the rate of those who don’t use it.”

(Source) MarketingSherpa

Ecommerce site search technology has been around for at least a decade. It benefits online retailers in multiple ways; as a site conversion booster, an analytics tool to help you optimize product merchandising and as a data source that will help refine your PPC and SEO activities. 

For tens of millions of shoppers, it is the preferred method to find products, product information, subscriptions, services, FAQ content, customer support, hours of operation, service information, and even store locations. Whether you use a local site search application or a third-party offering from a vendor such as Nextopia Software or SLI-Systems, here are 27 tips that will help you improve ecommerce site search ROI for your online store.

Selling (often) starts with search

1. Site search isn’t an add-on to your site. It’s often the beginning of the shopping experience for your visitors.

A veritable data mine

2. Site search logs are a great way to align your product offerings, merchandising and descriptions with what visitors are actually searching for. They are an information source for visitor behavior.

3. Study the logs and compare search terms against your SEO and SEO and paid search (PPC) activities. Should you tweak keywords on your pages or the words and phrases you are bidding on? The log data will help you decide.

4. Site search data will also help you understand whether you are missing terms in your database, product descriptions and category tags. You’ve probably heard of One Direction, the British boy band. Did you know that fans often refer to them as OneD and 1D? If you sell licensed music merchandise, both terms need to be in your site search database. Improving product descriptions and category tags is a great job for a resourceful intern.

Site search fundamentals

5. Include a site search box on every page on your site.

6. Placing a site search box on every site page makes it easy for customers to return to a product search from any point. It also provides an alternate navigation path for users that arrive on product pages.

7. Retailers should place the site search box prominently on the page so visitors can find it easily. It should be high in the upper left column or in the header bar to the right of the store logo 

8. Make it stand out: The search box must be distinct from other forms and fields such as newsletter subscription signup fields.

9. Position the search box away from other boxes.

10. Don’t confuse customers by placing the search box too near other boxes, such as newsletter sign-ups.

11.The search box must be able to hold at least 30 characters minimum.

12. Search box labelling: It should be obvious what the search box does, so label it clearly. Use the the text inside to explain the function of site search to customers. Something like this should work: “You can search for products by keyword or product code.”

13. Make the text disappear: Make sure the default text in the box disappears as soon as visitors click to enter their own search term. Don’t force them to delete the text before typing.

14. Let people search using the enter or return key. This is much easier than having to click the ‘search’ button.

15. The call-to-action button to the right of the search box should read “search.”

16. Should you include site search on checkout pages? It could be a distraction so we recommend A/B testing the placement  to confirm whether it is a distraction for shoppers.

Site search results

17. Display the total number of pages in results.

18. Display recent searches to visitors by using cookies to personalize search experience.

19. Synchronize your entire database with site search technology: Don’t limit search functionality to your product database.

20. Site search doesn’t necessarily have to be about the product database. Make sure that you have results for search terms like ‘Delivery’ and “Store Locations.”

21. Provide filtering options before and after search as some shoppers prefer filtering options (typically product categories) before searching. Test both filtering options with your visitors.

22. When users enter a particular term for which the search engine has no results, create a Google Analytics event and log what your customers could not find.

23. Make your “No Results Found” page useful. There will always be searches that return no results. Make sure that you provide something more useful than a terse “No Results” message and blank white page. Provide suggestions on refining the search query or include links to product categories and best-sellers.

24. Allow visitors to save search results to something like a wish list.

Use AutoComplete

25. AutoComplete is the suggestive completion of search queries as characters are entered into the search box. It is useful for words that are difficult to spell, and especially for visitors whose first language is not English. It also saves visitors time as it requires fewer characters.

Image-based search

26. More advanced image search combines AutoComplete and product images to help visitors find what they want faster. Integrating product thumbnail images with text descriptions will have a huge effect on site search ROI.

27. Use a consistent image size in all search results.

That’s it. Some of these tips are simple to implement while others may require more work such as page redesign and back-end coding. To improve your store’s ecommerce site search results, start with some easy changes and tests. You’ll be surprised with the ROI of tinkering.

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