May 2008 - Channel Crossing: Site Search

Delivering a Better Customer Experience for No Money

By Dr. Shaun Ryan

Because of the near-flawless experience Internet search engines like Google and Yahoo provide, people now expect the same from e-commerce sites-relevant results quickly and effortlessly.

Unfortunately, most retailers don’t give site search the attention it deserves because of limited resources and tight budgets. Given these constraints, below are some simple steps you can take today to improve the effectiveness of your site search and enhance your customers’ online experience-all at no cost.

1. Show the search term in the page title. This simple tactic will both help you build a good site search and improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. In other words, page titles that include the keyword(s) make your search results look better in both web search and in your site search results. Also, the items will rank higher in search engines because most ranking algorithms give more weight to matching words in the title. For example, a search for the keyword term “green tea” will generate higher rankings for pages that have the term “green tea” in the title than those that don’t.

2. Maintain a consistent look and feel and include useful information. A good search solution allows you to maintain consistency between the look and feel of your website and its site search. As with any other part
of your site, it’s important to have a clean, simple layout on search results pages. This can be tricky when
creating information-rich results pages, so you need to make sure any extra information is truly warranted, such as product images, related searches (suggestions for alternate search terms), price, “add to cart,” shipping, etc. Details like page size, stars to score each result, icons and other items are distractions and don’t need to be included.

3. Pay attention to what your search data tells you about your customers. Site search is like a continual customer survey that provides information about your visitors’ needs and desires. For example, when visitors type information in the search box on your site, they’re telling you what they’re looking for and also what terms they associate those products with. Understanding what your visitors want from your site can help you focus on areas that need the most attention, such as products or categories that you may not offer but that are in high demand, or using keyword terms that you hadn’t thought of to describe items that you do have on your site.

4. Try it yourself. An easy way to test the effectiveness of your site search is to try searching yourself-or even better, get a group of people to try it. It’s amazing how many sites with poor search functionality could be vastly improved if site administrators simply tried it themselves. Does your search deliver a “no results found” message? If so, the search may be broken, or you may need to create special landing pages to direct visitors to other products that might be of interest.

These are just a few quick and easy ways to ensure your e-commerce site offers an effective site search and an optimal experience for your customers. The best part is you don’t have to be an expert, or have a large budget.

Dr. Shaun Ryan is CEO of SLI Systems, a provider of intelligent site search solutions. For more information, visit



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