Today's websites are more complex than ever before. Many contain a wealth of information visitors can use to answer their questions and learn what they need to know before contacting a company or making a purchase online.
But with all the information and features packed into many of today's websites, it can also be more difficult for site visitors to first of all determine whether or not a website will contain the information they need and then find it on the website. Installing a site search box can offer several advantages to help your site visitors--and also benefit your marketing function in the process.
Site search satisfies the customer's "I want it now" attitude
Installing an internal site search box can help visitors find what they need more quickly. With web users still looking to find what they need as fast as possible, confusing navigation and cluttered design are more likely than ever to prompt an "on-to-the-next-site" response.
Site search is undoubtedly the quickest way for someone to find what they're looking for on a large and complex site. An internal site search helps visitors get around navigational structures that may be confusing to them. This is especially important for sites that are constantly adding new content. As the site continues to grow, many users will find the site search function to be a valuable tool in helping them find what they need.
Site search makes a website more customer centric
Installing an internal site search also means you can transform your website from a static "one size fits all" style to a more "customer-centric" approach. More and more, websites need to simultaneously cater to different types of website users - knowledge seekers, prospects, buyers and long-term customers. Internal site search helps you do this, as it helps those seeking knowledge find and assess your resources more easily.
Site search appeals to the "searcher" type of site visitor
Different people prefer different types of navigation tools. For example, if someone uses a search engine like Google to arrive at your website, they are more likely to prefer the same search method for finding information within your website. It's not uncommon for site visitors to look immediately for the site search box when they arrive at a website.
Site search arms marketers with data
Marketers can benefit tremendously from installing an internal site search function. With the right analytic tool, internal site search can provide a wealth of information about who visits your site and how they navigate around it.
Site search data can provide insight into customer desires, intent, and behavior. While a customer might tell a different story if asked for feedback in a focus group or online survey, for example, site search data can reveal exactly which pages they looked for and found, which searches intrigued them to continue reading as well as those that prompted them to leave the site. This will contribute to the conversation when analyzing conversion rate performance across content and site sections.
Site search provides insight into personas and usability issues
Site search can provide usability data without the expense of setting up testing facilities. When the usage data and click path from real users is saved and available for viewing and analysis anytime, a marketer can see where searchers encountered difficulty. Looking at this data across multiple users can give clues to areas of the site that require updating and expansion, for example.
Adding typical searched on phrases to flesh out descriptions of the various personas using your site can also help enrich the entire web team's understanding of the types of people using the site. This information will be particularly helpful to any copywriters who are preparing content for selling pages and product descriptions, etc.
Site search brings ideas for new products
Users' searches can even inspire new product offerings. If you see that many visitors are searching your site for a particular type of product or service that you don't yet offer, it may be time to consider developing an offering to fit that underserved need. Especially if your site is already bringing traffic for those particular searches, your company may do well to act on this informal market research.
Site search reveals new keywords
You may end up finding new keywords you were never aware of, allowing you the opportunity to tweak your content so more users will find the information they need on your site. Perhaps some of your pages that you feel are relevant to a specific topic are missing a few of the terms people are actually searching on. In that case, you'll have the opportunity to add them as appropriate and further refine your content, making it even more targeted to your users.
In addition, those keywords can be added to your search marketing campaigns, perhaps offering a chance to reach a wider audience on the Internet than originally anticipated.
In summary, for your company to remain competitive online, you need to be open to the new ways people are finding and disseminating information. Site search is an exciting utility for websites looking to evolve their websites according to user demands. We recommend beginning with an offering such as Google custom search, which can be readily adapted to your needs.
Stone Reuning is president and founder of SEO Advantage, Inc., an online marketing firm and website optimization company that helps businesses turn their websites into powerful lead and revenue generation tools.
Beginning with a focus on search engine optimization in 1999, SEO Advantage now brings a full multi-disciplinary approach to each client website. Clients enjoy dominance on Google, Yahoo and Bing through a suite of unique pay-for-performance search engine optimization and online marketing services. Experts in SEO, social media optimization, online reputation management, and website conversions work hand-in-hand with small business owners and client marketing departments providing complete copywriting and creative web design support.
You'll find SEO Advantage referenced in books such as Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale and the BusinessWeek bestseller The New Rules of Marketing & PR, as well as popular ebooks like The Small Business Blogging Blueprint.
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