After 15 years of Google, web users expect quick search results. With instant need for information and shortening attention spans, the first thing many visitors look for in a website is the search box.

An often-cited study by the research firm MarketingSherpa found that 43% of website visitors went directly to the search box when visiting a website.

Website administrators can no longer expect people to wander through scores of pages to find something specific. If there is no search feature available, most users will just get frustrated and leave the site.

The positive news is that according to the same MarketingSherpa study visitors who used site search were three times more likely to convert than those who didn’t. Because of these reasons, intuitive and well-performing search function is especially powerful tool for e-commerce websites.

In addition to creating a better user experience, a search feature provides you with the possibility to track the search statistics and based on that improve your conversion rates. But what things you need to consider when optimizing your search feature?

Make search visible

As people are probably looking for it, search box should be featured prominently on the website – but make sure it’s not too distracting. Search box or bar can be highlighted by using different colours on it than on the rest of the page.

The feature can be featured with a descriptive label such as “What are you looking for?” or simply “Search”. It’s also a good idea to include a call-to-action text in the search field, such as “Enter your search here”. Make sure the search also includes link to advanced search and easy way to limit the search just to certain categories or product groups.

Intelligent and visual auto-complete

Google introduced auto-complete feature almost a decade ago and ever since more and more websites have adopted this method of offering algorithm-based real-time search suggestions. Nowadays the ubiquitous feature feels more like it is the way the world’s supposed to work then a technical innovation. The prevailing truth in the e-commerce circles is that auto-completion, especially when paired with visual thumbnails, increases conversion rates. The implementation of course has to be intelligent enough to be useful for users.

Clear and informative results

Okay, let’s imagine I just searched for something in your e-commerce store. What I want to see now? Obviously, displayed products should correspond to the search terms. Nowadays, I expect that my earlier searches and shopping behaviour also affect the results. The products should be displayed clearly and each product should have at least product image, name, price and perhaps product rating.

Advanced filtering

Traditionally online stores have offered the possibility to filter the search based on things such as product price and category. Nowadays this is hardly enough for most stores. The customer might want to search for “blue” and get a list of blue things that could be further filtered according to product categories etc. The bar for product search has been raised recent years by the rising popularity of semantic data.

Pay attention to long-tail

Google and other search engines are more and more used to ask real questions, e.g. “SAAS service to improve my e-business”. Each of the individual words in this short sentence would result in millions of hits. However, the combination is quite specific. Such a specific combination of words is called a long tail keyword.

This development has also affected e-commerce sites. People searching for long-tail keywords such as “Canon Advantage EOS” are more likely to convert than visitor search for just “camera”. As shoppers are demanding improved search results, online stores should pay special attention to long-tail keywords and relevancy. Semantic-friendly e-commerce site search will beat plain text competitors every time.

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