Is your on-site search engine scaring your customers away?

Optimize your on-page search engine to enhance the user experience

If a customer is looking for something specific on your website, how much time do you think they will take before they give up? About 30 seconds! Optimising the way your website presents on-page search information is a great idea - if it benefits your customers, it benefits your business.

Faster just isn't fast enough?

Finding what we want fast, has become part of our culture. Help your customers find exactly what they want - fast. If you are lucky most customers will search your site twice and if they can't find what they want, they're gone.

On-page search is supposed to help

Having an on-page search engine is a great start, but are your search results helping or hindering your customers' search efforts? No one wants to wade through heaps of useless content!

On-page search engines:

  • Bypass awkward navigation systems to hone in on the target information
  • Have the potential to be the quickest way to find what what your users want
  • Provide search logs, with information on the "secret words" your users are looking for, use that information to improve the on-line experience

You've got it, now make it faster?

By default, most content management systems present on-site search results based on entry date, date range, channel, category or even popularity. But there are plenty of ways to manipulate the way these results are listed.

Set page category priorities

Before you start optimizing make sure to rank your page categories - what's more important the "about" pages or the "product" pages? On the Ladybird-digital website we prioritized our pages categories as:

  1. What we do (services)
  2. Blog (interesting tit bits)
  3. The work (samples)
  4. Contact
  5. About lbd

Just to clarify, we always want our search pages to display categories in the order shown above.

Use backdate entries

Most CMS applications track an editable publish date for entries. By editing these date you can group page categories and rank the pages within those categories.

  1. Using the Ladybird-digital website as an example, we started with the "About lbd" category group which has only 3 pages. We ranked the pages in order of what we thought was most importance as shown below. Because we will be redating 6 sections and we want the About us to be last, we back dated this section by 6 months.

    1. 2016-01-01 08:02 AM - Testimonials
    2. 2016-01-01 08:01 AM - Why Lbd
    3. 2016-01-01 08:00 AM - Opportunities

  2. This process can be repeated for each category group. In our example the contact category would be next and we might start our re-date for that section with: 2016-02-01 08:00 AM... Note; We are using a new more recent month for this page category so it will show up before contact.

What about all that other stuff?

If you got lots of other stuff showing up on your search, for example, photos or other meaningless pages, be sure to make them unavailable to the search process. In ExpressionEngine we can turn input fields and images off so they won't trigger the search engine.

Test the order

Using strong subject matter keywords, test to make sure the content you want is showing up on the search results page (you may need to revisit your original content to add missing keywords) test your pages until they are in the order that you would like. The whole process is a bit of a chore, but when you are done you be glad you did it, as will your customers.

What about content?

Once the order has been refined, the entries need to be direct and to the point.

In ExpressionEngine, when we set up our page channels, we are able to create a custom field that can be designated as the search engine results statement. By taking advantage of this, we can actually create a description specifically designed for the search results. These descriptions can be used to summarize the page better than say a meta description and we can actually put a marketing or branding message (talking to the user) in place to reinforce the item being searched for.

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