How to Improve User Engagement with a Great Site Search
When people arrive at your blog, their search has only just begun. They are often looking for a specific topic, so helping them find related topics of interest on your blog will keep your readers engaged and motivated to spend more time there. Your own blogs customized site search should be the cornerstone of your user engagement strategy. This multi-faceted tool lets them travel freely around your site, investigating what matters most to them, with results that you can track. Here are some best practices in crafting and analyzing your site search to keep users on your blog and eager to read more.
What Does a Great Site Search Do?
Search engine optimization (SEO) should really be called “searching customer optimization.” The point of SEO is not to make search engines happy, but to attract customers and give them reasons to stay active on your site. These three main benefits of an excellent site search ensures that your blog meets customer expectations.
- Lower your bounce rate – Consumers today have high expectations for what a site search should do and not a lot of time for searching. If they don’t find what they are looking for quickly, especially on mobile, they will bounce to another site. Blogs average a 70-98 percent bounce rate, which is much higher than any other type of content. Your site search must be attractive and prominent to hold their attention. Make sure your results offer suggestions if they don’t find what they are looking for the first time.
- Give them reasons to stay – Users aren’t always clear about what they want. The web experience has always been described as “surfing” due to the way one topic tends to lead to another, extending the session in new and unexpected ways. A site search that can understand and predict what users are looking for is more successful at keeping them engaged longer.
- Motivate them to take action – Once people find what they are looking for, they are more likely to perform an action, such as subscribe or move to the e-commerce site. A site that is interactive moves the reader to take action and increases the likelihood they will return and refer more traffic.
Top 3 Site Search Factors
At its best, a site search box can be an assistant that helps the user find content — even content that they didn’t know they wanted. Like any good assistant, it should be virtually invisible and practically everywhere. The three factors that determine the character of your site search box are:
- Prompt text
There are a variety of ways that brands can deploy their site search boxes, and many of them have changed due to the rise of mobile’s web dominance. However, these three basic factors deserve your largest share of attention. A/B testing and user surveys can help you find the perfect balance of the maximum search availability without wasting valuable screen space.
Best Practices in Size, Location and Prompt Text
In a study of the top 50 websites using site search extensively, certain patterns emerged as the most common arrangement of the site search box size, location and prompt text. Here are the findings:
- Size – The amount of screen space taken up by the site search box varies enormously, based mostly on design concerns. The two elements of size are the total site search box, including buttons and titles, and the size of the search input area. Total size ranged from 2,646 to 29,820 pixels with an average of 10,859 pixels. In terms of just the input area, sizes ranged from a tiny 1,632 up to 13,312 pixels, averaging at 5,969 pixels. The most important aspect to consider is that the site search box should not dominate other design elements.
- Location – The majority (54 percent) chose the top right corner. Because site visitors read left to right, this is the first place their eyes go after looking at the site’s main logo. Another 30 percent of sites chose the center, most notably Amazon, because many retailers reserve the right side for the shopping cart tools and information. The remaining sites (only 16 percent) chose the left side, where people often look for navigational tools.
- Prompt text – Many sites leave the input area blank, assuming users know what to do at this point. However, many others found this a good area for additional marketing messages. Barnes and Nobles, for example, fills its search box with “Search Over 30 Million Products” to highlight the scope of their inventory. One recent development is that Overstock.com no longer fills their search box with the creative prompt text “Hello. What would you like to save on today?” Today, they have replaced that assistant-simulation text with a simple suggestion: “Search Overstock.”
More Best Practices
- Search buttons – The button itself has changed significantly over time. The sophistication of modern searchers, combined with the need to save space on mobile screens, has led many sites to replace the word “Search” or “Go” with a simple magnifying glass icon. There has been a great deal of debate around the perfect site search button from a design standpoint. One point is clear: Users need help finding the site search box if it is not in the top right corner.
- Simple vs. advanced – Simple searches should be able to handle a vast amount of quick searches. On smaller screens, multiple options are frustrating so there must be a great variety of content topics to justify an advanced search.
- Results pages – No one wants to read “No results found.” Semantic search should be able to handle common misspellings and original search terms should be displayed in case there was a mistake. Whether or not the original search terms are found, the results should offer alternatives to direct the searchers to related content. A good site search allows the site owner to index the results for specific outcomes.
- Meta descriptions – Internal site search results is a good place for meta titles and meta descriptions to display the most relevant data to the searcher. The search terms should also be highlighted in the results to clearly display how this content meets their search.
Fortunately, all these features, plus ADKs, APIs and more detailed analytics, can being implemented through the Denote site search. Ready-to-use client libraries are provided in PHP, Java, Ruby, Python and Node.js.
Running analytics on what site visitors are searching for is one of the best things you do in improving your site.
The most important stats you need to investigate are:
- Search Engagement: how many users use the “search” on your site? and how often does each user do that?
- Search Results Analysis: what are your visitors looking for (i.e. searching for)? what seems to be “trending” amongst your site users? and what is NOT being found by the user?
- After Search Analysis: how many of those searches resulted in further engagement? how long after the search did the user spend on your site? and what percentage of them converted after a search?
Each site will have its own goals and specific metrics to help them get there, but the answers to the above queries make a powerful base for improving customer engagement. For instance, when you know that most of the users in a specific time period are looking for “Item A” on your site, you will certainly add more clarifying content about “Item A” to help your visitors. Or when you find out that there is a thing that several users have been searching without being able to find a result (Not Found pages), you know you need to address that.
An extensive amount of relative data about how site visitors are engaged with the site search are extracted by Denote and offered in an intuitive and simple way in the Analytics section. This will help the site owner to find answers to all of these questions and further improve the site usability and conversion.
A Site Worth Searching
Site search is essential for reducing bounce, extending the time users spend on your site, and motivating them to take action. Site search should be considered a basic function that consumers have come to expect on their favorite sites. Take note of how the most popular sites in your industry treat the size, position and text prompts in their site search boxes. This gives you a more clear vision of how the ideal site search box will fit into your site’s overall design. Best practices will help the searcher find more relevant content your site. Making site search a priority in your SEO strategy creates content that is worth searching for.
Taking advantage of a dedicated site search provider such as Denote.io can simplify your search management, provide you with ready-made code for advanced functionality and give you better insights with detailed analytics. You can even boost reader engagement by sharing this article with your network and sparking a conversation about the value of site search. The new consumer is constantly searching for content and the site best able to adapt to their needs will win the most valuable prize of all: the reader’s attention.