The Secret Life of On-Site Search Exposed

Last session of the day! Yay! The room is pretty empty right now. I think everyone is over in the Five Bloggers and a Microphone session. Lisa’s recapping that one, so you lucky people get to “attend” both through the magic of liveblogging. Over here, we have Jessica Bowman moderating with speakers Laura Dansbury, SEO Manager, CafePress; Marc Cull, Senior Manager, Ecommerce Technology, CafePress; and William Leake, CEO, Apogee Search.

Laura Dansbury is first. She gives us a few stats on CafePress. The gist is they have millions of possible products for customers. They rely on on-site search to get them to the right one.

Search is the voice of the customer. You have three ways to listen and respond: on-site search, SEO and SEM.

Once a customer reaches your page, if the landing page isn’t quite right, they have to either navigate or use the on-site search. On-site search and SEO benefit from the same sort of best practices. Redirect old content to help both. Use features like taxonomy and tag clouds to help users.

You need to measure SEO, SEM and on-site search both independently and comparatively. If your on-site search isn’t converting as well as your PPC, that’s a problem. Same goes with SEO and on-site search. Look for opportunities. You’ll get shared insights.

Make your internal search behaviors act like the general search engines. Suggestions for misspellings make sense to have on both. Develop special features similar to SEM & banner ads. Offer both product and document results in the online store of large corporate sites.

Consider integrating different types of information in your search. Along with products, you should also have images and help and explanations. Be flexible in your AND logic vs. OR logic — graceful expansion is the key.

How can you avoid internal silos that keep paid, organic and on-site goals from each other? Leverage relationships, have regular meetings, and share information across teams.

Aw, Kate Morris should be here. Laura’s using Twilight as an example of multi-purpose landing pages. That’s a bunch of pale people right there.

Marc Cull is up next. Maybe he’ll have more Twilight!

CafePress first approached search through scale, then optimizing, then integration.

Marc talks fast. Slow down and enunciate, dude. I can’t keep up this late in the day.

They have had 40 million unique search terms in the last four years and 2 million unique terms daily. Three of the 2 million terms make up 5 percent of the daily searches. If they can get those three terms, they’re pretty good. Yesterday those terms were “Obama”, “Barack Obama” and “Twilight”. Nice.

Unique terms are only used once on average. The average lifespan of a product on the site is only one hour. It’s not just finding the right page, it’s about finding it at the right time. As a result, they have to publish in real-time. Once a product is added to the site, it’s immediately available in the search.

In order to answer the problem of search, you need to aggregate or segment the traffic.

They use the same landing pages for off-site search as on-site search. It gives them more bang for their buck.

Bill Leake comes in to finish off the day. He’s doing this sans power point. Because he hates bloggers.

Oh heavens, it’s worse than I thought. He’s just traveling through …ooh shoes! We’re on Zappos and using their site search.

He thinks the world is about to change. Google wants to organize the world’s information. La, la, amusing Google bashing. Hee.

Okay, same search for Zappos. This time we’ll use the embedded search in this site box from the SERPs. Lots of blue links. Paid links, too.

Google is taking the search out of your hands even on your own site. It might not deliver the “right” page for your users.

Bill has just gone off the rails entirely.

Every page on your site needs to be ready to stand alone and be a conversion page.

You don’t get to decide anymore where people are coming into the site. You have to be ready to greet your visitors no matter where they’re entering the site.

Bill is now suggesting that Google is trying to chase down old competitors in general search who have retreated into enterprise search. They need to hunt them down and make sure they’re destroyed. Because they can’t be trusted not to do evil.

There really are good points in all of this, but it’s lost in the Google ranting.

Good night, everyone.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

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

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