SearchChat Podcast: AI Goes Back to the Basics

We at SeachChat frequently talk about how AI and site search produce value for your site. But let’s break that down for a minute. What this is all about at the end of the day is customer experience.

When a prospective customer arrives on your site: are you helping them? Are you answering their question? What value might you be creating — for them, and for yourself?

Steve and I focus on some of the most important ways to fix your site search improvement program. It might not sound like the most glamorous solution, but it’s the best way to ensure you can capitalize on site search insights. Site search offers some valuable information: what can you learn about a visitor and their intent.

As I wrote recently, site search is your company’s best salesperson. When powered by AI, your site search learns about your prospective customers and can tailor results to guide them. Machine learning lets site search deliver results that drive sales. If a salesperson was performing as poorly as your site search, would you even keep them around?

00m 00s — Intro and overview

02m 20s — Site search insights on Search Engine Land

13m 00s — Site search value and site search as your best salesperson

18m 50s — Developing a strong site search improvement program

23m 16s — AI and its connection to search

32m 30s — Customer experience

33m 23s — Subscription links and outro

 

SearchChat will soon be available on

Check us out on FacebookTwitter, or email info@solosegment.com.

 

Originally post on Biznology

About Tim Peter

SearchChat Podcast: Budget Season Survival Guide

Not enough marketers take advantage of the other kind of search — the one on your own website. Few companies budget for it, while budgeting for content without a second thought. But when they search, can visitors even find the content they need on your site?

Steve and I are excited to introduce a new podcast, exploring the topics we are fascinated by: AI, search, and content. Site search is part of a customer journey. When you optimize your site search with automation, visitors can find your content and continue on their journey.

Today we cover the Budget Season problems: proving why site search matters, what makes for good analytics, and how much budget you need to make your search better.

00m 00s – Intro and overview

01m 17s – Start of discussion with Steve

07m 04s – Do clicks mean success?

11m 44s – What do we mean by upstream/downstream traffic to/from search?

13m 12s – Why it matters that Google exited the site search market

14m 58s – How much budget is enough to make your site search better?

17m 27s – How can you get started on improving site search?

 

SearchChat is now on

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, or email info@solosegment.com.

 

About Tim Peter

Warning: You’re ignoring your company’s best salesperson

Here’s a scenario for you: imagine you have an amazing salesperson who develops a deep connection with customers, beginning with their very first interaction. Even better, these prospects share their deepest concerns, telling your salesperson everything you’d want to know about how to help them — and how you can sell them what they need.

But you ignore everything this salesperson wants to share with you about what they’ve learned. You simply say, “Nah, I’m not interested in providing a better experience for these prospects. I’m not curious about their needs. I don’t care what they’ve told you.” That would be ridiculous, right? And yet, if you’re like most companies, you’re probably doing this every single day.

You may have guessed that your company’s best salesperson is, of course, your website. This brilliant salesperson who knows what matters most to your prospects and leads might still surprise you: website search. That is, the searches customers conduct directly on your site. What customers tell you in those searches will make the difference between successful enterprises and the also-rans.

About Tim Peter

How long will business models based on personal data survive?

I don’t use Snapchat mostly because nobody I know uses it. I’m not the target demographic, apparently. But that doesn’t keep me from talking about how much I dislike the user experience. I know that when I register such complaints I probably sound like a codger who wants his buggy whip back. But even so, I never really “got” why someone would build a platform where content is ephemeral. Isn’t the whole point of social platforms to catalog our lives? Maybe I’m missing something.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Google: Frenemy?

Can you imagine not caring about how you rank in Google? Maybe someday something will replace Google as what is arguably “the” most important source of top-of-funnel traffic but today much of your marketing activity is rightly focused on SEO and SEM. Having a strong Google game is critical to many companies success. But is Google your friend? I’d argue that Google as Frenemy is the proper way to look at the relationship; Google is critically important at some points but dangerous to rely upon later. Let me explain.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

The People Element: How SEO and Site Search Come Together

Today we’re talking about a much-neglected aspect of search: how people work together. Recently I was on a Google hangout sponsored by the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO). The focus of the conversation was making site search more effective. As you’d expect, when you get a lot of those professionals together, we talked a lot about technology, and tools, and techniques — but didn’t spend a lot of time on one element that I think is really important, and that is the people element. For mid-market and large enterprise companies, that’s often an organizational discussion.

There are generally four main components to search within large companies. There’s folks doing external search, that’s the organic and paid element. Then there are folks doing website search, that’s the business perspective. Add to that two technology teams, supporting each of them. As many of you know, search internally and search externally are very close cousins. Usually the things that you do to make internal search better, make external search better.

So what I want to encourage organizations to do is create the management systems that more tightly integrate all four of these elements. Bring the two business teams together, the ones focused on internal and external search, as well as the IT teams together. Even if for no other reason than, say, content optimization — low hanging fruit. Internal teams are going to want better product content so that they can get better relevancy rankings. External teams are going to benefit from that as well because better product content is going to rank better in Google. There are lots of opportunities, and content is just one example.

What’s important is creating the right environment for that kind of collaboration. Creating the right management system is an important critical success factor for most teams working on search both internally and externally at large companies. Best of luck on improving your search results!

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Tiled Search is the Shiny New Thing! Is it a fad – or here to stay?

If you close your eyes and imagine what a search engine results page looks like you probably see something that looks a lot like Google’s search results. You see a list of titles and text snippets that potentially describe the thing that you’re looking for. That’s what Google and Amazon and practically every other site has trained us to see. What few people see is a grid of tiles. This is probably a good thing as there are few use cases that tiled search results are effective.

Where do tiled search results work?

We don’t see search engine results presented as tiles often but we do see them from time to time. When you see them on a commerce site, tiled results can be quite effective. These results usually include a picture of the thing, a title, pricing, a call to action (usually a cart action), and perhaps a snapshot review or description. The picture is the key to knowing if you’ve found the right thing in a commerce setting and a tile is an effective way to deliver this content. But we also see this on sites that are definitely not B2C related.

So what’s the downside?

A large investment bank has made search it’s primary navigation method. When you load their homepage, smack dab in the middle of the page is a search box. They have a hamburger if you want to try navigation but the user experience clearly has doubled down on the effectiveness of search. It’s a bold move. It says “Our search is that good. Go ahead, we dare you to try and not find what you’re looking for.” So how do they do?

First let’s review the two things that all search results pages have to do really well:

  1. Present high quality search results that answer my question.
  2. Give me some indication of which of the results I should pick as the right answer.

Traditionally, those goals have been achieved in list form. Each entry in the list contains an informative title and a snippet that gives me more information about the content found on each result’s landing page.  So why are search results always presented this way? Well there are a couple of reasons.

  1. It’s what we’ve been trained to expect after two decades of seeing search results. We don’t have to figure out how to use the search results, it’s our cognitive model.
  2. It is an excellent user experience for communicating this information. The title & snippet model contains most of the information you need to evaluate the response.
  3. See 1 above. It’s what we do.

Are tiled results good or bad?

I don’t know. In theory, tiles should be fine if, and that’s a big IF, your search results are awesome and the top three results are the right answer to every question associated with the keyword. The tile also has to tell me which of the three results I see above the fold are the right one. I haven’t seen the data to know whether the tiles are better or not and I suspect many of the tile adopters don’t really know that as well.

The investment bank example above, in my opinion, scores poorly on all accounts. First, I didn’t find many of the results above the fold to have a title that was descriptive enough for me to understand it. Second, there is rarely any additional information presented to help me gain additional insight and what little additional insight there is is behind another click. I might as well click on the result instead of wasting time on the “additional info” click . Third, I know this industry and the titles seem to be more marketing speak than information about the content. It feels like the exact opposite of what a search result should do.

My gut tells me, outside of commerce use cases, tiles search results are less effective than lists because I haven’t seen anyone crack the code on providing enough information on a tile to allow me to know which one I should click on.

So why change?

The list of search engine results is a highly effective method that has few challengers. So why do companies experiment with a change? There are a few good reasons. Most notably, some of our tribe are creative animals and they’re constantly seeking something more innovative, something better. Of course, a new design can’t just be an artistic design exercise, it has to be a usability exercise. Does this change make the experience better and deliver better results for the business?

There is no doubt that the emergence of mobile has changed the way we consume content and voice search will change it even more dramatically. When you think about voice search you can’t scroll through a list of things so perhaps getting our house in order where we can deliver results in terse, well constructed bit makes sense for both tiles and, eventually, voice results. But I think that’s a bit of a stretch. I think most companies do it because they think it looks cool.

I still want tiles.

Fine. But make sure it’s not just something you want, make sure it’s effective for your customers and prospects. If you’re going to give tiled results a try, I’d recommend the following:

  • Make sure you work the design hard. Think about how tiled results fit into the rest of the site’s design and deliver the right information to make the search effective.
  • Test the heck out of the tiled design. A/B test tiled against list. A/B test descriptive tiles against lean tiles.
  • Measure success and whether search success for each of these design changes increases or decreases goal achievement.

The goal of search is to connect, as quickly as possible, your customers and prospects with the answers to their questions. Don’t lose site of that and you’ll be fine.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

The Ins and Outs of Instant Search – What is it and do you need it for your site?

Autocomplete is the bane of any message sent from a mobile device. However, one place where autocomplete shines is on search engines. Autocomplete, also called autosuggest or incremental search, improves the user experience by making it easier to execute searches by suggesting words and phrases that a matching algorithm determines are appropriate based upon the characters entered into a search box. Google has had autocomplete in their search box since 2008. Following in their footsteps, any company that values its customer experience has implemented autosuggestion in their site search. But there’s a new trend in the type-ahead game that we’ve begun to see cropping up on more and more company websites: Instant Search.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Webinar: Five Effective Strategies A/B Testing Site Search

A/B Testing Site Search

A few weeks ago I participated in a webinar over on Biznology. I shared five strategies for improving site search using A/B testing. Long a part of the digital marketer’s toolkit, A/B testing has relevance for search analysts as well. Using these methods you can test new settings against a portion of your live traffic without risking tanking things altogether. Once the new settings have proven themselves, you can deploy them to the primary search engine.

Most companies don’t measure site search well. They rely upon out of the box measurements that measure activity instead of outcomes. Nowhere is this problem acuter than when you move from one search engine to another.

  • How do you exceed customer expectations if you don’t have an effective baseline?
  • How do you know you’ve done the migration well if you don’t measure the gap before and after?
  • How do you ensure improvements in content and algorithms are effective?

A/B testing of the search engines is the answer. Check out the webinar. You can also read a short version I did in a blog post a few weeks ago.

 

A full transcript of the conversation is below:

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Fear and Loathing in Search IT

Don’t let bad onsite search catch you by surprise – fix it now.

The biggest challenge in corporate IT is managing the never-ending list of equally important priorities. This requires what I’ve always referred to as “ruthless prioritization”; yes there are a lot of important things to do but you can only work on the most critical. More often than not, important stuff like site search gets left behind.

So what do you do when that important stuff all of a sudden becomes critical? You sweat and you work the problem. It’s easier if you have the right data.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.