Ensuring your site’s search engine works is one of the most important features of operating online. If your landing page is a window in your business, then your search functionality is the door. Here are our 10 site search conversion solutions for converting those window shoppers into happy customers.
Add auto-fill for faster searching
Adding an auto-fill function to your search allows you to pre-empt what a user is looking for, saving them both time and also giving them a little psychological nudge that lets them know you have what they need. Spotify’s search engine is a great example, providing a list of potential artists, songs and playlists after just a few letters have been entered.
Search for locations by time, not distance
When users search for bars, restaurants, cinemas or any number of other amenities, often results are displayed using ‘as the crow flies’ distance, rather than time. By allowing your users to search by time, they can see exactly how long it will take them to get to you. It filters out tricky to reach results, while adding those on fast transport routes. After all – a mile can take 5 minutes in the suburbs, but an hour in the city. Jobsite’s Travel Time search does this wonderfully – filtering out irrelevant results and delivering a more efficient experience for the user.
Test, test, then test again
Don’t make your users the guinea pigs for your search engine experiments. Explore all of the eventualities from using your in-site search, then perform bug tests with colleagues, friends and family outside of your development and QA team. Only with real human behavioural data can you see where improvements need be made, and it’s imperative that your search functionality is tip-top by the time it goes live for users. If it’s hard to use, delivers irrelevant results, or just flat out breaks, users simply won’t convert. Once you’re live, consider implementing tracking software like Mouseflow to identify UX stumbling blocks.
Make your search bar obvious
It’s no good having a search bar if your users can’t find it in the first place. Make sure it’s big enough and bold enough to be easily found, and easily recognisable, without impeding their journey. John Lewis’ search bar is spread right across the top of the landing page but isn’t invasive. Besides the hero image, it’s the first thing you see, and there’s little chance you’d miss it.
Add filters that help, not hinder
For many online businesses, their catalogue of products, services and articles are enormous. Make sure your customers aren’t overwhelmed with a myriad of irrelevant results by implementing effective filters, so they can choose the specifics of their search from the get-go, find exactly what they want, and convert. Amazon’s filtering is top rate, giving user’s more filters as they narrow down their search. Their search also lets them select filters within the search bar as well as from the side menu.
Allow for typos and synonyms
Some users type in a rush, some on mobile devices while walking or distracted, and some simply may not know how to spell a particular word. In all of these cases, ensuring your search functionality can recognise spelling errors is key – otherwise you’re telling potential customers that you don’t have what they want when you may well do. The same goes for synonyms – if there’s a different way of saying a particular service or product, make sure to include it too. Google do a fantastic job of predicting a user’s intention when it comes to spelling. Leicester Square often causes headaches for non-native visitors to London, but a Google search of “Lester Square” still points them in the right direction.
Keep users engaged with journey cost calculations
Most customers need to have an idea of travel costs when making location-based decisions, particularly when making big lifestyle changes, like moving house or changing jobs. Property sites don’t deliver these results, so users need to head elsewhere to find out – making them susceptible to their competitor’s targeted display ads. By handing this information to your users all at once, you keep them engaged, help them reach a decision faster, and increase your chance of a conversion. For one-off journeys, Citymapper delivers an effective journey cost calculation, but for season pass data, look to integrating an API.
Always deliver relevant results
This may seem obvious, but ensuring your search engine produces relevant results is absolutely imperative. A job hunter looking for marketing roles in London doesn’t want to receive links to accountancy positions in Manchester. Make it easy for your users to find what they want with a sharp, refined search functionality that only delivers within their chosen parameters. The best example of relevant results comes from, once again, Google. Their algorithms are so sophisticated you can find relevant results using vague search criteria.
Never give nothing
Sometimes you may not have what a user is looking for – a particularly common issue for consumers shopping for clothes online. Whether it’s a brand, colour or item, sometimes that product is out of stock, discontinued or simply unavailable. Make sure their journey doesn’t stop before it’s begun by offering suitable alternatives based on their search criteria. After all, there’s a much higher chance of keeping a user engaged with relevant suggestion than a blank page with “sorry” and a sad face sprawled across the top. Netflix is a great example – can’t find the show or movie you’re looking for? They’ll line up a list of suggestions based on what you searched for.
Mobile users – don’t forget them
Smartphones and tablets share the biggest portion of single screen media consumption in the world, which means more people than ever favour mobile devices for browsing the internet. Make sure your site and search engine accommodate this huge swathe of users by optimising for mobile. This is especially true for your search engine. On a desktop machine, users have plenty of space to scan a large list of results unhindered, but on mobile that same results page will be difficult to read, impossible to navigate, or both. Airbnb offers a great example of shifting search from desktop to mobile. On a desktop, results are shown in a grid, with a map of the searched area on the right and filter options along the top. On mobile, the map has been stripped entirely, the filters are hidden under a drop-down menu, and results are listed in a column that fits perfectly onto the device.
Take a look at our industry spotlights for site search:
- Increasing conversions on Travel websites
- 5 ways to increase conversions on dating websites
- Site search on a recruitment app case study
- 300% increase in conversions in the property industry