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.
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.
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.
Old Time Search
Just past Fish Creek Campground, a gravel, two-track wanders off into the wilderness of Glacier National Park. At the head of the road there are several warning signs about the perils of backcountry travel. Bears. Mountain Lions. Falling trees. There are also unlisted perils — flat tires, dehydration, fire, and the various demons that live in our imagination when we venture into wild places. There’s a lot of unknown down that track but that’s where we’re going, so we drove on.
You know your site search isn’t good. You’re in good company. A recent survey we did of leading healthcare companies showed that 47% of the industry’s top keywords performed poorly on site search. That’s consistent across industries, more so in B2B enterprises. Why is it so bad? Well, some of that is because search owners don’t know what to fix. The good news is that getting started is easy and there are four things you can work on today that will improve your site search success rates.
The age of digital marketing is defined by data. Data has quickly become one of the most valuable assets a business can have, and businesses are willing to invest a ton of resources into market research and collecting data about target demographics. Yet far too often businesses fail to collect the data that customers willingly give them.
Site search is the most underrated and underfunded part of the sales process. Up to 50 percent of customers use site search–but most companies don’t have resources dedicated to improving their search. A significant part of the problem is that many decision makers are confused by site search and don’t know where to start.
B2B Sales is changing
According to Forrester, the percentage of B2B buyers who prefer to do research online increased from 53% in 2015 to 68% in 2017. But it’s not just pre-sales research. Accenture’s research indicates that when you look at the end-to-end buying process, 94% of buyers do online research. The digital shift has completely transformed B2C buying behaviors, and while B2B has been more resistant to the shift, those changes are coming.
To take advantage of this trend, successful digital sales leaders will recalibrate where resources and management attention is focused. Sales Reps will continue to be a key part of the B2B sales process, especially during the final phases of high consideration purchases. But online capabilities, especially during the research phase, needs a better seat at your sales table.
Many companies have a measurement problem when it comes to understanding the effectiveness of site search. But that measurement problem often stems from the failure to ask the right question. The question shouldn’t be about customer behavior. The question should be about the customer experience. At SoloSegment we believe that the only customer experience that matters when you’re talking about site search is the success rate. Did the customer find the right content to answer their question on the first click? Unless you start with that point of view, you’re doing it wrong.
The biggest roadblock to fixing your site search is recognizing that you have a problem. Many business owners will brush site search off as unimportant, and even when they know their site search is broken, they will put it off and tell themselves they’ll “fix it soon.” It’s common for our prospects to be skeptical on the real value of improving site search, but the facts are clear.