Improving Site Search With Rules, Analytics & Rich Auto Complete

  • 0
  • October 1, 2009
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

For major sites one of the most important features is a good search facility. Customers, especially non-savvy ones, use the search feature a lot and it’s vital that it offers a good user experience.

Since a lot of users type quite strange keywords into search engines it’s not really enough to rely on simple text matching any more for a search engine, you almost need to be trying to replicate Google technology combined with your product catalogue.

One of the trends this year has been rich autocomplete which is demonstrated nicely on the Apple site. Product images are pulled in dynamically as the user types a query in the search box.

Apple rich auto complete

If you’re a developer then there are a lot of autocomplete scripts freely available to integrate into your site.

On this blog we improved the WordPress search by ordering the results by relevance rather than the strange way WordPress orders by date and adding features such as keyword highlighting and “did you mean” suggestions but it’s still miles away from where an ecommerce search engine needs to be.

Search results

Don’t be fooled into thinking that internal search results on major sites are just matched from the database by the keyword – ecommerce sites are able to utilise products such as Omniture SiteSearch which uses a rules based approach to adjust search results so that high profit products are given a boost.

Omniture SiteSearch connects site visitors with the information, products and services they seek—quickly and easily. SiteSearch enables marketers to better target search results to visitors, manage relevance and ranking and use visitor behavior to automatically boost results based on criteria such as conversion, popularity and more.

  • Analytics-driven Search Results
  • Create ranking rules to influence site search results
  • Choose metrics from any SiteCatalyst report suite to influence search results
  • Weight different metrics to influence results rankings
  • Target ranking rules to different visitor segments
  • Preview analytics-driven ranking results
  • Compare relevancy and analytics-driven ranking scores
  • Specify time periods for data aggregation of analytics metrics used to drive search ranking business rules
  • Combine offline data with analytics-based metrics to influence search ranking business rules

A final important aspect is to have some kind of internal site search analytics solution to understand your customers and see what they are searching for. If a particular product is being searched for a lot then move it to your homepage or highlight it in your navigation menu.

In the good old days, people dutifully used site navigation at the left, right, or top of a website. But, two websites have fundamentally altered how we navigate the web: Amazon, because the site is so big, sells so many things, and is so complicated that many of us go directly to the site search box on arrival. And Google, which has trained us to show up, type what we want, and hit the search button.

Now when people show up at a website, many of them ignore our lovingly crafted navigational elements and jump to the site search box. The increased use of site search as a core navigation method makes it very important to understand the data that site search generates.

What’s your favourite internal search engine?

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