Why is site search so essential in today’s digital economy?

If you’re in the midst of implementing a new site search project or just starting your research on the topic, this blog post is for you. We’ll walk through a brief primer on what site search can do for your business and some examples on how you can implement site search.

What is site search and what can it do for your online business?

Site search is a technology that enables users to search an online company’s content or product catalogs with speed and relevance. Great site search is tailored to your business

Not only does a great site search constantly index the site to ensure the latest content is easily accessible, it also guides users as they explore and discover a website’s content, helping them connect to content they might not have even known they were interested in. 

The best site search personalizes the shopping experience by capturing valuable data about the content and products visitors are most interested in.  

The case for better site search: Increase conversion, lower support costs, grow customer loyalty

Site search has tremendous potential to grow business, reduce support costs, and generate a better customer experience. 

When one company made their search bar more visible, they saw: 

  • Site searches climbed by 439%
  • Visitors stayed on the site 110% longer when they used search
  • Page views increased by 45%
  • Goal completions increased by 242%

Search can also increase clicks and conversion rates for businesses like ecommerce:

  • 150% increase in order rate and 32% “add to cart” rate with new users on Black Friday
  • 13% higher order rate and 10% higher “add to cart” rate from returning customers
  • 1.4 clicks per user vs. 1.1 with previous solution

Displaying the search bar front and center

Google, Amazon, and YouTube are an integral part of our experience on the internet, and they all begin with search. So it’s not surprising that when it comes to searching individual websites for products, content, or information, visitors expect the same level of ease and speed that these sites offer.  

You have 15 seconds on average to keep a customer engaged before they bounce off your ecommerce site. About 30% of visitors will use your search bar to find what they’re looking for, the rest will browse your website.

Research shows that visitors that use search are 3 times as likely to find what they are looking for and convert into customers or leads than users that simply browse.

Businesses benefit from site search

There are a few types of sites that benefit the most from effective site search:

Ecommerce sites

When shoppers know what they’re looking for, they don’t want to navigate through a jungle of product categories to locate it. And you don’t want them to do this either, since wasted time equals lost customers. Therefore, at all times, but especially during the busiest shopping seasons, it’s vital to give your visitors the best online shopping experience. Help them search, find, and buy with ease, and see an increase in ROI in return.

Media Sites

The content on media sites is ever-expanding and changing. It’s easy for readers and video watchers to lose their way in such a content-rich environment. Site search can help them find it, directing them to new and relevant topics of interest and prolonging the time they stay on the site.

SaaS Companies

Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms that allow customers to search through their created data can greatly enhance the user experience. And with every SaaS company now faced with almost 10 competitors on average, offering a better UX than the competition is more important than ever. 

Other businesses

Other types of highly-searched websites that benefit from internal site search include web forums, wikis, and knowledge bases. Businesses in the healthcare and finance industries can also benefit greatly from a smooth site search.

Data-driven analytics – analyze and capitalize on valuable data

Each time a user searches your site, they generate valuable user intent data. Users are telling you their desires in their own words. With site search analytics capabilities you can implement strategic changes like:

  • Optimizing your results: Once you evaluate trends and your own business goals, a robust site search will allow you to fine-tune relevance based on attributes such as popularity to ensure the most relevant results rank the highest for site users.
  • Filling in content gaps: Visitors might be searching for content topics you haven’t even considered writing about yet.
  • Understanding your users better: Who is searching for your products? Where do they live? Which products are most popular in which months? Site search analytics can help with market segmentation. 

Custom site search examples and best practices

There are many standard and advanced site search features, including AI, that comprise site search. But we’ll keep it brief and focus on key site search functionalities.

Search overlay

A search overlay is a popup that let’s you search without affecting the underlying screen. 

sample AI longtail search

Federated search

You can add federated search to return results from across multiple domains including your website, support, and community pages. In this image, you get the benefits of descriptive search results and a preview of each page.

federated search

And here is a comprehensive federated experience that displays information and many options for your users.

federated search

Search results highlighting

Highlighting the query phrase in search results is an essential UI/UX part of search. 

sample AI longtail search

Filters and faceted search

The LA Times (below) has a massive database of articles. To help users navigate them, they have included filters on the search results pages.

Companies can apply filters and facets to search. Facets are similar to filters insofar as they narrow results, but they’re dynamic and can change depending on the context of the results. Dynamic faceted search is shown in the example below:

Instant search with visual results

Instant search and search suggestions — displaying results as a user types — is a site search best practice. Visual results give users a preview of the results to help them narrow down the search. “Sure,” you might be thinking to yourself, “that makes sense for an e-commerce store, but what about other sites?”

instant search

B2B sites can also display site search results more visually as shown below — Zapier is using logos in the autocomplete suggestions to help visitors discover results more visually.


Handling search typos and misspellings

An invisible and often overlooked UI element to site search is how to handle typos and misspellings. Somewhere between 10-25% of searches can contain a misspelling! Including typo tolerance of some flavor is a best practice for site search. 

LA Times doesn’t handle misspellings well, so a casual searcher may bounce back to Google.

Here are two examples (below) in how the LA Times and The Guardian handle the search for “nutrition” that was misspelled. By displaying corrected results, The Guardian offers a much better user experience versus LA Times “no-results” experience. This is an obvious typo, but less obvious misspellings happen which can lead users to think the site doesn’t have an answer to their search. 

The bottom line

Search bars are an essential part of website functionality and design, and for most of us, using a website without a search bar would seem—well, weird. A search bar is a no-brainer when designing a website, but truly helpful site search is so much more than just having a search bar.

World-renowned brands such as Lacoste, Stripe, Twitch and Birchbox, turn to site search Algolia as their site search engine of choice. Trusted for its robust search features, analytics, security, and ease of use, it’s an out-of-the-box solution loved by web visitors and developers alike.

To see what Algolia can do for you, start building for free.

About the authorJon Silvers

Jon Silvers

Director, Digital Marketing

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