On-Site Search Optimization – Beyond the Click: What Shoppers Need Now

Bryan Eisenberg, SES Advisory Board and NYTimes Bestselling Author, bryaneisenberg.com


Noran El-Shinnawy

Noran El-Shinnawy starts us off with stating that in April 2010, 15 billion searches were conducted. “Internal site search sucks” according to El-Shinnawy. “10 blue links are lame”

Lessons we have not learned from search engines with internal search engines.

  1. I’ve got nothing for you. – Do not create dead ends. If you do not have what they are looking for, give them another option. Google does not return zero results and you shouldn’t either.
  2. What did you mean? – Too many internal search engines do not account for misspellings and descriptions. “whatchamacall it” does not apply in internal. More marketers should use auto-suggest in internal search.
  3. KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid. Too many options lead to analysis paralysis.
  4. Keep Up or Get Out – Google refines their search all the time, so should marketers.

Tips for optimizing an internal search box

  1. Stick the search box where it’s obvious.
  2. Don’t have multiple input boxes that compete for attention.
  3. Make it stand out

As a fun example, she points out searching for “ugly men” on Gap.com, does not return “ugly” men at all. http://www.gap.com/browse/search.do?searchText=ugly+men

Lee Cohen takes us through some example, bad examples, of on-site search.

  • Searching for “black 1 inch dog leash” in Google. The site that came up #2 in Google did not have a black leash at all. In fact, the products were buried at the bottom of the page.
  • “manoloa blannek” was purposely misspelled in a search results on a website’s search. The results were nothing that matched the intent of the user. Marketers can examine search logs to see what users are typing.
  • “black heels” on a prominent shoe site. The “Follow us on Facebook” banner was really prominent, but no black heeled shoes. Cohen asks, “Why would I follow you on Facebook, when you can’t even find “black heels” for me?”

John Federman comes next to give us some data on retailers and shoppers. Retail websites are one of the first steps shoppers take. People go to retail website for promotions, brands, and customer reviews. 70% of shoppers click on products in premium positions. This is similar to what we see in traditional search engines. Top position matters.

[I left out the portion of his presentation promoting Searchandise Commerce.]

Nitin Mangtani, Google Product Manager, gives us a perspective from Google’s eyes.

Mangtani states that online retail has advanced, but only for the select few.

“Fast is better than slow” sounds obvious, but it is often forgotten by internal search engines. 60% of people find site search optimization to be the second most effective way to boost sales. (First is perpetual shopping cart at 64%). Merchandising is good, but not at the expense of sacrificing the user experience. As an example, if the user is looking for “blue” jeans, do not suggest “red” jeans.

A user is never going to type in query the way the site wants them to. A good search engine can examine the intent of a user. Lesson: “Don’t Blame the User”

Google’s offering in shopping

  1. Google Products
  2. Google AdSense & AdWords
  3. Google Commerce Search & Checkout

Q & A

Q: How do you recognize plural vs. singular in site search?
A: Mangtani suggest a good search product should be able to handle that.

Q: How much is Google Commerce Search?
A: Mangtani says that it’s $25,000 per year on for the complete product. Google Site Search is as low as $100 a year. However, it does not feature many of the merchandising features that Commerce Search offers.

Q: How do you measure ROI with internal search?
A: Lee Cohen suggests not making all changes at once. Test and adjust different features to find what works for you.

John Ellis began his online marketing career, not in marketing at all, but as a computer programmer. With a degree in computer science, he started tech support/programming in the mid 90’s. It was during that time companies were getting on board with an online presence. As a “technical” person on-staff, naturally it was a good fit for IT to manage the website. It was through those processes that John learned search engine optimization, web analytics, and eventually pay-per-click marketing. Eventually, John moved from the technical side to the marketing side of the company. However, it is with those same technical skills that help with the analytics and optimization required in online marketing. 15 years later, John Ellis is now frequent speaker at online marketing events, including PubCon, Search Engine Strategies and much more. He can also be found throughout the blogsosphere contributing marketing tips and perspective. John writes about SEO and PPC at www.JohnWEllis.com. John Ellis currently resides in Nashville, TN where he is an online marketing consultant. Follow John on Twitter @JohnWEllis.

See johnellis's author page for links to connect on social media.

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