The user searching for a product on your website through your search engine has a higher transactional rate than users who only use the menu and the navigation. So, you can understand quite easily the need to have an optimized internal search engine.
Why a person will use your search engine ?
When persons use your search engine it might because they :
- Want to find a specific product quickly.
- Look for a product but don’t know if they will find it on your website.
- Look for a product that they have previously seen but don’t remember the exact name or reference.
- Couldn’t find what he was looking for thanks to your navigation menu (and you are lucky that they prevail in looking for because he could have easily left your website).
People have multitude reasons to use your search engine but all of them have a common purpose: to buy the product if it fits their needs. Therefore, your search engine can be a formidable sales assistant as long as it answers several basics and it’s up to you to encourage your visitors to use it.
Make sure your search engine is
- well located (ideally in the header or at least on the top of the page nearby your navigation bar)
- visible :
- adequately imposing : not too small, not too big
- with an intelligible icon (the magnifying glass is now a tradition)
- with a specific design (not completely different from the graphic standards of your website but enough to be “noticed in a nod”)
- present at the same place on each page of your website
source : http://www.amazon.com/
But if you want your visitors to use and re-use it you need to develop features around it
Having a search engine is a good thing in itself but you have visitors that don’t really know what they can find on your website (or where). Let’s take a cliché example where I, a woman, go on Norauto.fr (The website of a French company in the car maintenance industry) for the first time because one of my friends told me that I could find products for my car. I am a bit lost but … thanks to the search engine I see what kind of products I can find on the website and as they give search examples “tires, revision…”. This place holder can also be dynamic and present trendy searches regarding which product your visitors are currently mostly looking for (ex : snow tires in winter or ice-box in summer).
Source : http://www.norauto.fr/
Same when the user writes down the name of the product he is looking for… If he has a poor spelling when it comes to mechanical things he might look for an “Hubcap” by writing “Ubkap”, a flexible and smart search engine will present him the “hubcap list page” even with this spelling mistake. You can’t expect all users to write the exact key words you had in mind. Synonyms, plurals, spelling mistakes need to be taken into account.
Another friendly feature would be the auto completion. By writing the first three or four letters of a word, the search engine would list the most relevant products and ease the user experience. It also enables the company to guide the client and define which products will come first regarding the search.
source : http://www.petit-bateau.co.uk/
To go further:
- Index your whole website. So that if the user is looking for particular information writing down in your FAQ, the result page won’t be a blank page but at least a list of items containing the sentence he was looking for.
- Divide the result in the auto-completion layer or the result page. If the user is making is search in the furniture part, favor results concerning furniture. You can after categorize product by the most popular/the latest trends, those recommended by other clients …
- Provide filters in your result page. Once that the user has obtained its search results, he might want to refine them a bit by sorting for example products by a certain range of price, by popularity, by price… These filters will help him find the product he has in mind and you will be able to end the deal faster.
source : http://www.petit-bateau.co.uk/
Moreover, you can also use words searched by users. Even if no deal is finalized, the key word entered by the client can be saved and studied. You might be able to know:
- What your visitors are looking for
- Which product are mainly searched (are there present in your shop? Do you have enough stocks)
- What is trendy
- Which key words you need to optimized and used in your adwords campaign.
Don’t neglect your search engine. It’s a powerful tool to know/understand your visitors and convert them into clients. It’s highly important that they find precise products quickly to increase the chance that they finalize their purchase.
However, it’s one thing to put a search engine on your website, but it’s another to display correctly results and suggestions.
Moreover, please keep in mind that if results displayed are deceiving, the user might run away. Your search engine needs to be constantly optimized so that results are as pertinent as possible.