What goes into a great search experience?

The Elements of Search [Infographic]

14 Ways to Improve Your Site Search

14 Ways to Improve Your Site Search

You might not have given your existing site search that much thought.

Sure it’s a bit slow, there’s no spellcheck, and it could probably use a few filters, but it returns okay-ish results. Why should I upgrade it?

The reality is your users expect a lot more. Web search engines like Google and Bing are used daily and are incredibly advanced. Users now want onsite search platforms to have the same features as web search engines, which is why basic or out-of-the-box onsite search solutions are no longer good enough.

If you’re struggling with your post site search conversion rate and are looking for an easy and painless replacement, it makes sense to consider Search.io. Here are 14 onsite search best practices you can leverage to improve your internal site search - all available with Search.io.

1. Spellcheck

People are lazy. Well, this isn’t always true but typing patterns are definitely not as accurate as they could be. Spellcheck evaluates misspelled words in a search query and corrects these based on the content of your index and a dictionary. This means if you have a brand name or nickname on your site that isn’t used anywhere else online, Search.io will still correct to this.

Have you ever deliberately misspelled a word in Google, knowing this will happen automatically? You’re not the only one.

2. Autocomplete

Everyone loves seeing what other people have searched for before - check out WIRED’s autocomplete interview series as an example. Search.io's Autocomplete suggestions use a combination of previous search queries combined with your site content to help users search faster.

As users are typing their keywords, Search.io runs an instant, mini query to return the most accurate and useful suggestions. Autocomplete suggestions are then displayed in an easy-to-select menu under the search bar, ready for users to click and pre-fill their query.

3. Instant Search

Want to take it one step further? Instant Search uses the top autocomplete suggestion to instantly run a query and return the top results automatically.

Your users will see their ideal search results appear before their eyes - before they've even finished typing their query! Users can now engage with your site deeper than ever before, and can get to their ideal search result in as little time as possible.

4. Crawling

If you’ve ever wrangled with an API, you know how difficult connecting one can be. The Search.io crawler adds all of your website pages to your search index automatically, with no manual configuration needed by you.

When you enter the domain you want to be searchable, the crawler will immediately head to your homepage and add it to your index. The crawler will then follow each of the links on this page and add these, before following the links on each of the subsequent pages and indexing each of these too.

The Search.io crawler automatically removes unnecessary page meta fields (like headers, footers, adblocks etc) when it stores these pages in your search index. As there is a lot of repeated information in these fields that isn’t useful, they can confuse the relevance algorithm. Removing this repeated information ensures that search result relevance remains accurate for your users.

In a few seconds, the Search.io crawler can crawl dozens of your pages and build your index, ready for searching. Your search index can then be placed on your site and will be fully operational, which means complete installation can happen in minutes.

5. Instant Indexing

How long do you spend waiting for your website pages to be recrawled by your site search engine? And how often are you manually adding new pages to your search index, or updating existing pages when you make a page change on your site?

With Search.io, your search index is up-to-date and reflects your site in real-time, with no manual tweaking needed by you. To do this, all that’s needed is adding a small snippet of Javascript to each of your pages and your page template.

When our Instant Indexing code is loaded in the browser, the Search.io crawler will recognize if this page is new or updated and will add or change this record in your search index. This also means that any time a page is deleted and marked with a valid 404 error, the relevant record will be wiped from your index too - without you lifting a finger.

6. Boost Rules

You know your site best. That’s why Search.io allows you to boost your search results and how they are ordered, directly from the Console. Boost rules allow you to promote entire sections or subdomains of your site at once, without needing to set rules for every single query on a micro-level.

For instance, you can boost page results that contain a direct match in the title, for a high-level raw text accurate site search. You could even create a custom events-search algorithm, to boost events pages that are coming up but to also suppress results for events that have passed.

When you combine customizable boost rules with intuitive result relevance ranking, your users are seeing the most relevant results, directed by you. The power is in your hands!

7. Exclude Rules

Have you ever needed to ensure something won’t be found from a search of your site? Or wanted to clear some of the clutter from your search index? Exclude rules allow you to delete a single page or whole section of your site from your index instantaneously.

You no longer need to mess around by adding <noindex> to pages you don’t want to be searchable. So, for example, you could easily set an exclude rule to remove all PDFs from your index, or remove a page you don’t want your users to find.</noindex>

Once an exclude rule has been set, the page or pages will be removed from your index immediately, and will never be found from a search on your site.

8. Filters

Filters are broad categories that are selected by the user to remove unwanted search results. They’re most often used in tabs on a search results page, but they can also be selected by the user when entering a search query.

Filters also stay the same between queries and never change. For example, think of Google’s filters for Images, Videos, News, Shopping, etc. These filters will always remain consistent, and will not change for different search queries. Selecting any of these filters will eliminate the search results that do not match, and the returned search results will match the selected filter.

For your onsite search, you can create your own customizable filters that match the pages in your search index. For example, you can create a filter for “Blogs” where “blog” is present in the URL, a language filter from the language the page has been tagged as, a date filter to segment search results by year… whatever you can think of really! Filters are not only an elegant way to order search results pages, but are now an expectation users have when searching.

9. Facets

Like filters, users expect to use facets when searching but facets are even more specific. Facets are used to eliminate search results, but instead of staying consistent across all searches, they filter on the attributes in the search results set.

As they relate specifically to your query, you'll never find facets that are irrelevant or inconsistent with what search results are displayed. You'll see that different facets are displayed depending on what your query is, and what the returned results are.

For example, a user can run a search on a site for “cheap dresses”. After being presented with a list of results, the user can then select facets for size, color, and price to only show the results that they like. Another user can then run another search for “best vacation spots” on the same website, but the facets presented for this search are instead ‘destination’, ‘date’ and ‘number of travelers’. The facets have changed between each query, as the search results contain different attributes.

Facets are an excellent way to present search results and are also a feature every user needs when searching, especially on ecommerce stores. As the UX consultants Nielsen and Norman put it, websites without faceted search are now the exception, rather than the rule.

10. Analytics

What good is a site search feature if you can’t check how it’s performing? Search analytics data are a goldmine of user intent insights, as they tell you what your users actually want to find on your site.

Query Trends allow you to visually gauge how your click-through rate is improving, and to monitor the total number of queries your search is receiving too. See which days were most popular, and where click through rates spike over the past months and years.

By analyzing Top Query reports, you can see what your website’s most popular search queries are. Monitor each individual query’s total volume and click-through rate to identify content and marketing opportunities.

An Ineffective Query dashboard allows you to monitor how your search is responding to your users. By assessing queries with a low click-through rate, you can build your content strategy by seeing what your users weren’t finding on your site.

When queries peak in popularity or are less expected than usual, Unexpected Trends reports allow you to identify these queries and act upon them.

By exporting analytics data and distributing it to your team, you can use your own private market research to shape your site content and marketing and sales strategies.

11. Synonyms

Do you ever wish your site could speak the same language as your users?  Synonyms allow you to relate your users’ query keywords to the content of your website. When your users search for a certain phrase or nickname, synonyms allow you to direct them to the most relevant results, without having to change your page content.

For example, you could set a synonym where searches for “the big apple” will search for the keywords “new york city”, or set a synonym where “shirt” returned products listed as a “blouse”. When your users search for each of these queries, they will still be shown the most relevant results, even if the keywords are different.

12. Machine Learning

Everyone’s talking about AI now, but surely that’s only for massive Fortune 500 companies, right? Wrong. Machine learning is a central component to Search.io, as it helps return the best quality search results by remembering which result a user received a positive outcome from.

A positive outcome could be as simple as clicking a result, but this can be bound to many other actions on the customer journey, like purchasing a product, signing up for an account, or sharing an article.

The next time the same query is run, the engine will remember those results which led to a positive outcome and might favor them with a higher result ranking. Search results get better over time organically, as they optimize to the click patterns of your users.

Search result relevance improves automatically, and when machine learning is combined with regular search relevance and boosted results, it means you’re delivering the most relevant and intuitive search to your users.

13. Speed

Search engines are at their worst when they are slow. Site users get more and more frustrated the longer they have to wait for search results, and the longer they have to wait the more likely they are to abandoning your site. Amazon, for instance, has recorded a ~1% drop in revenue from a 100-millisecond delay of their site search.

Search.io was designed for ultimate end user ease-of-use, so we’ve engineered our platform to be as fast as possible. This means that our average search query takes just 0.009 seconds. Speeds like this mean Search.io can return the most relevant search results before a user has even finished typing their query.

14. Promotions

Have you ever needed to ensure users see a certain result or URL at the top of the results page? With result promotions, you can pin seasonal or important results so they are seen by every user who searches for a certain query.

By pinning results which might not have the raw text similarity to rank well against a query, you can directly control what your users see from a search on your site.

. . .

If you’re struggling with limited, frustrating, or out-of-the-box site search solutions, Search.io comes with a multitude of features to improve your onsite search to become an enjoyable experience for you and your users.

For more customization, more performance, more speed, more smarts, and to supercharge your site’s search, make sure you check out Search.io.

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