For most websites, an internal search engine is a necessity. However, most of the time, it’s looked at as more of an afterthought rather than an actual conversion optimization tool—and this could be severely damaging your conversion rate. So, let’s take a look at how internal search affects your conversion rate and the steps you can take to optimize it.

If you think that internal search isn’t that big of a deal for your website, then maybe this will change your mind; According to research from WebLinc, internal searchers are 216% more likely to convert than regular users. Something even crazier? Despite this statistic, only 15% of companies have resources dedicated to optimizing it.

Almost half of the companies in the research admitted that no one is responsible for website search—and let’s be honest; when was the last time you looked at your website’s site search? For most marketers and business owners, it’s kind of just there.

If your customers aren’t getting the kinds of results they’re expecting from your website (or getting links to your competitors’ website), they will almost immediately go elsewhere.

OPTIMIZING INTERNAL SEARCH

Your website’s internal search is designed to quickly get your visitors to the products or content they want or need. In order to guide visitors on their conversion path, this process needs to be as seamless and painless as possible.

1. PLACE SEARCH BAR IN A CONSPICUOUS AREA

If your website visitors can’t see the search bar, it doesn’t exist.

Your search bar needs to be placed in a highly visible spot like the website header or sidebar so people can locate it and use it effortlessly. However, make sure to avoid placing it too close to other boxes like sign-up fields because that could confuse your users.

In addition, it should instantly be obvious to your visitors what the search bar does. By putting a magnifying glass icon and a label with the button, you will help your visitors easily identify the input field and what they need to do to start a query.

2. IMPROVE RESULTS FOR FREQUENT SEARCHES

If you have many visitors using the search option on your website, the chances are high that you’ll see frequent user queries in your search logs.

If you review the results returned on your most popular and common queries, you can ensure your website search algorithm displays the most relevant items. If it isn’t, you should make some manual adjustments to bring the most relevant results to the top of the page. If you want to go even further, you can even feature frequently searched items, products, or information on the homepage of your website. This will help visitors quickly find what they are looking for.

It’s also important that you regularly check up on your internal website search history. You can set this up easily in Google Analytics, and it will allow you to monitor internal search trends and resolve any related problems that show up.

3. MAKE IT EASY FOR USERS TO SEARCH

You can’t assume that your visitors will be adept at using your internal search feature. It’s best to prepare your internal search for less tech-savvy users. You can implement additional tools and features that will make searching easy for anyone.

– Predictive Search

Predictive search shows visitors suggested or popular search queries based on the words they’ve put in the search box. By predicting the search query, your website can gently nudge your visitors toward an item or category they want and save them the effort of typing it out.

– Accommodate for synonyms and substitute terms

Most of the time, visitors don’t know the exact terms for your search queries. So, they’ll type in whichever word or phrase seems most appropriate to them. Ensure your website is configured to handle synonyms and alternate terms to avoid leaving your visitor with no results.

– Enable filtered navigation

Filtered navigation helps visitors sort through many search results with the least amount of time and effort. Enabling filters in internal search allows visitors to refine their results to a granular level based on their preferences. Allowing them to filter based on price, color, brand, ratings, etc., narrows down the options and gets them closer to exactly what they are looking for.

4. SEMANTIC SEARCH

Sixty percent of users use three or more words in internal search. This tells us that the users’ query patterns are closer to everyday speech or natural language during a search.

Google is well aware of this and has enhanced its semantic processing capabilities. This is how search engines are able to anticipate your search query with extreme precision. The primary goal of semantic search is to emulate the way people usually speak and process search phrases accordingly.

If you don’t use semantic search, your internal search engine can miss contextual cues that get lost in the intricacies of natural human language.

5. IMPROVE RESULTS FOR SEARCH FAILURES

Nothing is more disappointing or frustrating than encountering a “zero results” page after an internal search. Unfortunately, a failed search is a dead end to most website users and will cause many to leave almost immediately after.

To handle this situation better, you should provide users with a navigation path forward. For example, showing users items that are related to their search query will help your website keep the user engaged. You also can suggest other categories visitors might be interested in under the “no results” message.

Search failure can also be due to typos and misspellings, so your internal search needs to have options for correcting spelling errors.

6. CONTINUOUSLY FIND OUT WHERE YOU’RE FAILING

Like almost every aspect of your website, optimizing your internal search will always be a work in progress.

It’s a good idea to continuously monitor your analytics data for internal search performance and areas of improvement. Two behaviors that should be regularly checked are search refinements and exits because these indicate how well your internal search is doing.

–  A high percentage of search refinements could potentially mean that users aren’t typically finding what they want on the first attempt. However, they are encouraged by the promising results to try again.

–  A high percentage of search exits is a sign that your internal search engine has some serious issues. It’s likely users are getting no or irrelevant results, causing them to give up.

Knowing how well your internal search is performing allows you to make the necessary adjustment to the configuration and improve your metrics.

DESIGN YOUR INTERNAL SEARCH FOR CONVERSIONS

Your website’s on-site search can make or break your conversion rate. Your visitors’ internal search experience—whether they find what they’re looking for or not and how it easy it was to find—spells out the difference between an abandonment or a purchase. Dedicate time and effort to making your internal search the best it can be for your visitors, pay attention to their needs, and they’ll be converting in no time.

With offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Ca., New Target provides digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, web development, branding, website hosting, and creative services for prominent nonprofits, companies, and government.