How to use site search as a marketing tool

Many marketers see search as just a magnifying glass in the top right of the website: necessary,  but not an important as other marketing tools. Because of this perception, they often don’t devote resources to optimizing site search features.

The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Customers never use search because the features are frustrating and unhelpful, and marketers continue to see search as a useless tool. However, a robust search experience can be an integral part of an on-site marketing strategy, increasing conversion rates and improving the customer experience.


The challenges marketers face

Marketers face many challenges that can be addressed by site search. Some of those challenges include:

  • Acquisition is harder than ever. These days marketers invest a lot of money in acquisition — through display ads, paid keywords, social media ads, and so on — but still struggle to retain users or even accurately track ROI. With competitors constantly entering the space, it can be hard for brands to make their sites stand out.
  • Marketers lack strategies for content discovery and promotion. Marketers need ways to easily connect users to relevant items on the site. They also need to promote items that match business priorities, offer smart and personalized recommendations, and predict user needs before they arise. If users are not immediately presented with an intuitive and helpful experience, they’re very likely to move on to a competitor’s site.

Often, marketers address these problems by fine-tuning the browsing experience at the expense of the search experience. They expect users to find things by manually navigating through the site, not realizing making search more intuitive and improving site search features can help alleviate frustrations on the business side and the user side. 


Four ways site search helps reach marketing goals

While marketers face a number of challenges in the competitive online landscape, site search can provide a big helping hand in reaching marketing goals, including:


1. Site search drives conversions and other KPIs

Helping customers quickly locate what they’re looking for will improve conversion rates and decrease bounce rates. Searchers are typically more active users that are looking for specific items with intent to purchase, engage, or convert. In addition, a great search experience helps passive visitors better explore your content offerings, driving them to popular pieces of content more directly than browsing the website menu. 


2. Great site search lends credibility to your brand

A great search can present content like documentation, guides, and recommendations in the search results. Showing post-sale content early in the buying experience lends credibility to your brand and demonstrates authority to prospects. This type of content keeps users engaged and increases their awareness of your products and services.


3. Search helps users cut through the noise of browsing

A well-crafted site navigation is necessary for any site, but not every user has the patience to learn how your site is organized. Search allows users to decrease time spent browsing through your site, helping them quickly reach their goals. Additionally, when users search, they are giving you lots of actionable data about their needs. You can and should use this to improve the search experience and the site over time.


4. Search enables discovery

Through smart recommendations and product promotions, you can help users discover new products and content that they may have not otherwise found. This is particularly the case for websites with large catalogs of products or services and content (e.g., corporate news, CSR, or career site), as users are not willing or able to manually browse through all the content.


How to leverage site search in your marketing strategy

There are a number of ways to leverage site search features to achieve your on-site marketing goals:


Optimize search results to generate conversions

Search results should be tailored to meet your business’s needs. In addition to showing users relevant results, you should prioritize pages that are most likely to convert, have high engagement rates, and boost products or services that your business is trying to promote. This can be done by utilizing search rules, which allow businesses to easily configure and modify how search results are shown in response to specific queries.


Use search merchandising

Search merchandising is the ability to curate content and search results in a way to increase engagement and conversions. It gives marketing managers and product owners the power to promote content that matches business goals. Done well, merchandising can even feel personalized to each user, increasing their engagement with your brand.


Allow for easy filtering of content

The search experience extends beyond the search bar. Filters and facets help users quickly narrow down their searches, which gives the system much more data to provide relevant content. This should be done in a simple user interface so that consumers do not get bogged down with too many options.


Analyze your search data 

Search provides you with a significant amount of data. Analyzing search data can drive site improvements, including tuning your search algorithms, term synonyms, and recommendations. Analytics can even help guide your plans for future content or product offerings, as users are explicitly providing you with what they want to see or purchase.


Additional site search features to advance your marketing goals 

There are a number of site search features that can help guide users to achieve your business objectives:

  • Federated search presents a range of different types of content from a range of data locations in a unified and intuitive interface. This leads to a more engaged user who can effectively explore the whole brand.
  • Search suggestions or query suggestions should be used to nudge users toward specific offerings. This can be to push new product lines or higher margin goods, or even just to A/B test different content.
  • Shelving is the process of using content that the user has already engaged with or explored to promote new items that they may be interested in. (Think of how Netflix recommends new shows after you finish one.) Search is not just about the search bar, but also serving up content as the user browses.


Improve your on-site marketing

Algolia provides all the site search features necessary to provide a rich site search experience to users and help you achieve your marketing goals. 

Watch our webinar “Supercharge content discovery and drive growth” to learn how a personalized search can power your website marketing and improve the user experience.

About the authorMatthieu Blandineau

Matthieu Blandineau

Sr. Product Marketing Manager

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