Search is one of the most critical customer experiences on your website. Search is also the customer experience that likely gets little attention in your management system and at budget time. Sometimes this is because site search improvement seems like a dark art. However, if you’re just getting started with search improvement (and many of you are, you just may not know it) there are two things you can do now to make your customer experience better.
Tip 1: Simple Tuning
A few weeks ago I was on a website buying some supplies for a fishing trip that was coming up. There’s a older company that has a great selection of product but despite a recent upgrade to their commerce platform their search was awful. In fact, the only way to reliably find stuff was to have a paper catalog in your hand and search by product numbers.
After about ten minutes of searching it was obvious to me that their search engine gave no weight to product titles. I shot them an email telling them about the problem. They made the change and results were instantly better.
The fruit you have to pluck to improve site search probably isn’t that low, but I’m sure that there’s some quick fixes that are available to you. Look at the weighting of the various fields in your search engine’s index. There are likely some diagnostic tools that can show you how each field is weighted when calculating relevancy. Take a look at these for a handful of your top 250 search terms. A quick boost to important fields will likely improve things.
Tip 2: Content Curation
Content curation is the bluntest instrument in the search improvement toolbox. However, it is an effective way to get a quick boost in search success rates. It starts with identifying your top 250 keywords and determining which of them has poor success. Those are your targets.
Content curation is a simple process. For each keyword you want to improve you decide which page is “the answer”. While in large complex organizations this can sometimes be a negotiated settlement among competing product managers for terms that are more generic (e.g. “database” in a tech company) for product names this should be a fairly straightforward process.
Once you’ve determined which page is the answer you identify that document in the index and boost the relevancy of that document for the desired terms. Some search engines make this easier to do than others, but for your top terms that have low success rates it’s worth the effort.
Using these two tips is an easy way to get a site search improvement program started. But what’s even more important is building the right habits and capabilities for improving site search on a continuous basis. Your prospects and customers want your site search to be good. They want to stay on your website and achieve their goals. Don’t chase them away with a poor search experience.