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How to Implement a Powerful Site Search Function

Ecommerce is a data-driven industry: the more you know, the more you can do to sell your products. And while it’s great to reach out to prospective customers through social media, issue plenty of surveys, and get advice from experts, there’s an incredibly valuable source of insight that you might be overlooking: internal site search.

Think about it: anyone who has visited your site and chosen to search for something is clearly extremely relevant, and you can take advantage to learn a lot about how well your site is performing.

Even if your site already has a basic internal search function, it’s likely not that powerful, so you can do better. Here’s why you need site search if you don’t have it, how you can set up a solution that works really effectively, and some analysis tips to get you started:

Why Site Search is a Necessity

When someone arrives on your site with a serious intention to find what they’re looking for, that’s a qualified lead you can’t afford to lose. So many of your visitors will be there almost by accident, or simply be idly browsing around with no specific plan to take action. Someone with a clear goal who’s ready to buy will be willing to put some work into finding what they want, but only if they can achieve meaningful progress by narrowing things down.

If you don’t have a search function, then all the work will move to your navigation: something that won’t work with synonyms and similar terms. You don’t get to pick five different names for a category in your menu. If the one you selected isn’t familiar to that particular visitor, and they have no way of looking for the term they’re thinking of, then they’ll leave. Why would they stay to browse randomly? They’re much better served going elsewhere and continuing their targeted search.

Naturally, if you provide a decent search function that makes it possible for them to quickly find out if you have what they’re trying to find (believe it or not, it’s perfectly possible for someone not to know that “PS4” and “PlayStation 4” are functionally indistinct), you’ll make them happy, likely win the sale, and leave them more than willing to return to your store in the future.

And that’s simply the user experience justification for site search: it’s also a must-have for its ability to provide you with wide-ranging information about how your prospective customers think, what they want, and how they try to find it. Using that data, you can home your product copy and categories, and even expand your product range to reap the benefits.

How to Add a Strong Site Search Option

There are plenty of things complicated about ecommerce, but implementing site search thankfully isn’t one of them. Using modern tools and systems, you can get a powerful solution up and running in very little time. While it’s true that the average CMS these days will have a solid internal search function, it won’t be very sophisticated, and you should really do everything possible to make the most of site search.

That’s why I suggest either finding a strong site search plugin such as SearchWP or installing something more advanced such as Luigi’s Box: condensing granular analytics into clear visual representations, it’s powerful, easy to use, and backed by expert support so you don’t need to struggle to learn all its nuances. You can even get a 14-day free trial, so it won’t cost you anything to see if it’s right for you.

Whichever option you take, you shouldn’t have too many issues. If you run into any confusion, simply look around online and you’ll find some free online resources to point you in the right direction.

Site Search Analysis Tips

The more time you spend looking into your site search results, the better you’ll understand how your customers think, so don’t worry if you’re not sure what anything means when you get started. Here are some tips to help you along:

  • Assess product popularity and compare it to sales. It’s really interesting to see how many visitors are searching for specific products that you stock versus how many of them actually end up buying them from you, particularly if the searches have very specific modifiers that usually suggest urgent buying intent (e.g. “red women’s shoes size 8 in stock” as opposed to just “red shoes”). The more people are finding your products but aren’t buying them, the more you know that your value proposition is falling short somehow. Are your prices too high? Perhaps your product copy needs some work. You should be able to find some way to improve.
  • Focus on how visitors phrase their searches. As noted with the PlayStation 4 example, most products can be described in different ways. Even if you did keyword research before you first wrote your product copy and found that the term you ultimately went with was getting the most traffic, that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice: it may be that things have changed since then, or it may mean that your specific audience prefers a different term. If your most qualified leads are searching for “PS4” and not “PlayStation 4”, then you should use it for your category title.
  • Look for products you don’t (but could) offer. It’s a huge waste of good traffic when someone arrives at your site ready to buy only to discover that you don’t have the thing they want. Not only will it not result in a sale, but it will likely cause them to think less of your brand and be less likely to return (after all, they might start to assume that you’re just not a good fit for their needs). If people on your site keep searching for a certain product, that means that there’s a demand for it and it’s relevant to your niche: so why aren’t you selling it? Unless there’s a great reason, you should update your inventory ASAP.

Start with these ideas, and really commit to steadily adjusting your store to make it the perfect environment for your prospective customers. Over time, your sales will skyrocket, as will your brand loyalty. Good luck!

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