Life would be a lot easier if we had a vast memory and could remember hundreds of website addresses. Just need to type in the URL and get the job done. Except for maybe the savants, the rest of us have been programmed to use search on the web, either directly through a search engine or on your website. Most days I’m just scanning and if I can’t find a search box, I just hit the back button.
Let’s see how site-search is beneficial to both the end user as well as the site owner…
Benefits for the end user
- Most visitors are in a rush and have a short attention span, and would like to get to the information right away
- Visitors might be knowledge seekers, prospects, or customers. Difficult to have a “one size fits all” setup that caters to all these people
- Can help surface related content and refine their intent
Benefits for the site owner
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords. The data is a gold mine:
- Learn new keywords (for SEO and PPC campaigns)
- Get new product ideas
- Learn about usability issues
- Learn about missing content pieces (eg: a page addressing non-profits)
Does every site need on-site search?
No. You’ll find search useful only on sites that have an e-commerce or content focus. If your content is structured (tabular) data, search can be a powerful navigation technique. On e-commerce sites, you’ll see that search specially with facets and filters is the primary navigation technique.
A few tips for the ideal search box
- Keep it simple: you don’t want a fancy design for the search box
- Make sure the search box is actually a box, because visitors usually scan the page for it
- Let the button say “Search” or “Find” or a magnifying glass
- Restrict the position of the box to the top right along with the navigation menu
- Use Google Analytics to track queries and understand what visitors want
Photo Credit: dullhunk.