Boost Conversions with Internal Site-Search Optimization

This article was originally featured in the November 2010 Newswire

Do you feel that all of your online marketing campaigns are optimized for conversions that produce a favorable Return on Investment (ROI)? You answered YES! Great!

Have you leveraged the data in your online marketing campaigns (paid, organic, email, video, display ads) to make sound decisions to continually improve conversion rate optimization and ROI? You answered YES! Outstanding!

Have you implemented an internal search feature on your website to enhance website usability with the hopes of increasing conversions and ROI? You answered YES! Phenomenal!

Are you tracking the internal site searches and regularly analyzing the data to better convert your website visitors? You answered NO. Is it time to panic? It is not!

You’re halfway there
Having internal site search (aka on-site search) incorporated into your design is half the battle. Many content-heavy websites attempt to solve usability problems only with design and navigation, without the aid of a site search. That solution may work for some website visitors, but not for all. Time is money, and if people get to your site and can’t quickly find the information they need, they’ll be gone before you know it and knocking on the door of your competitor. A properly placed and accurate internal site search engine can help keep visitors on your site longer by serving them the right information they need. Honing in on your internal site search visitors can provide an extra needed boost to your online conversions.

Getting the data
If you are using a site search tool that cannot track the queries in a system admin or within your website analytics, it may be time to consider a new one. Without capturing the keyword search queries you’ll have a difficult time making optimization decisions that affect your bottom line. Google offers a site search tool starting at $100. When integrating site search data within Google Analytics, you can obtain powerful information to be used for conversion rate optimization.

Always, always have measurable goals tracked with your website analytics! This will allow you to track your progress and report back to your team with results that are tied to leads or sales.

Benefits of internal site search

  • Quickly capture the impatient website visitor: Like it or not, the Internet has contributed to impatience, and internal site search can cater to those with the attitude of “I want this now.”
  • Place power in the hands of multiple website users: Use the site search to your advantage and allow different types of users to find what they need: price shoppers, qualified prospects, knowledge seekers, wise buyers, existing customers, long-term partners.
  • Provide an answer to the second-most important question: Oftentimes a user will arrive via an organic or paid search engine query to address their first question or problem – i.e. “retractable banners in cleveland, ohio.” Their next question might be an internal search for “pricing” or “shipping time.” Make sure you are serving up content to support the intent of these queries that leads to a conversion.
  • Quickly capture the impatient website visitor: Like it or not, the Internet has contributed to impatience, and internal site search can cater to those with the attitude of “I want this now.”
  • Identify usability issues: A high volume of site searches for one particular keyword may indicate people are having trouble finding information through navigation or content. Look for trends that can uncover missing content or buried pages that the visitor needs to make a decision.
  • Expand product or service offerings: If you are seeing searches for products or services you don’t offer, consider adding them to your mix if your visitors or existing customers are actively searching for them on your site.
  • Refine your keyword optimization: Site search data can uncover new keywords you didn’t consider for initial paid or organic search engine optimization. Perhaps your visitors are using a different word that has the same meaning. Don’t try to force feed your website visitors technical jargon or keywords that have little meaning to them.

Analyzing the data
A thorough and actionable analysis of internal site search can make even a seasoned analytics expert’s head spin. Check out Avinash Kaushik’s article covering 5 ways to analyze your internal site search data for an extensive write-up with screenshots.

If you do not fully grasp those techniques right now, follow the steps below to initially help make recommendations to improve the results of site search, which can lead to increase conversions on your website. First focus on uncovering major issues, then dig a little deeper with the goal to continually improve the site search results and how they relate to conversions. Look to challenge yourself with how quickly you can interpret the data and make sound decisions that positively affect conversions.

  1. Select a timeframe in your analytics of at least one full year. This will help uncover any trends or seasonality.
  2. Export a list of the top 25 to 50 keywords.
  3. Perform a live search on the site to see what results are returned for each keyword in the list.
  4. Record which page was served as the top result.
  5. Record the “matching quality” – high, average, low, not relevant.
  6. Review conversions tied to the keyword search.
  7. Record your observations on the effectiveness of the top search result. Is there another page that would better match the search? If so, why?
  8. Provide recommendations on how to resolve any issues you come across or how to make the top returned result more effective for keeping a visitor on your site and resulting in a conversion.
  9. Take action with implementation.
  10. Measure the results.

Outcomes of internal site search optimization

  • Improved organic keyword traffic: If your top pages are better matched to your internal site searches with keyword-focused content, you can potentially see improvements with organic search traffic as well. Keep in mind that there isn’t always a direct correlation with search engine searches and internal site searches.
  • Improved bounce rates and time on site: Optimized site search can keep visitors on your site longer if they get the information they need. If your site search is helping resolve the visitor’s initial reason why they came to your site you should see lower bounce rates for individual keywords, and for the entire site.
  • Refinement in content and call-to-action optimization: The site search data can uncover what content you may be missing from your site, and also show what may motivate the searcher. This can help refine your calls to action and content. Are visitors looking for “free shipping,” “shipping methods,” “shipping time,” “promo codes,” “accessories,” “order online,” “sizing chart,” “management team,” etc.?
  • Improved conversion rate: Lower bounce rates and increased time on site can increase the chances a quality conversion will happen. Analytics will often show that visitors using site search will convert at a much higher rate.

Include internal site search optimization in your game plan
If you are sitting on years of data from your internal site search and haven’t looked at it yet … now’s the time! You’ll be surprised on what you may uncover from reviewing the analytics and making some simple tweaks. Always go into the process trying to understand your website visitor and how you can solve their problems with your content. At Fathom, internal site search analysis and optimization is just one of the many on-site strategies we use to help clients improve conversion rates and ROI.

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