Is your site search losing you business?

If you don’t have a search facility on your website, don’t panic. You’re better off without one at all than you are with a bad one. And many are very bad indeed.

I was on a site last week which primarily wanted me to find what I wanted via search. Its ‘browsing’ navigation was very much put in the background. I entered the service I was looking for (I’m sure the company didn’t offer thousands, so why couldn’t I just select my one from a list?). Nothing came up. Worse, I got some awful message written by a programmer: “0 results for that search” or something like that.

I ploughed on, and eventually found what I wanted. The company called it something slightly different to me, and that was enough for the search engine to give up.

But not everyone would be patient like that.

We’ve probably all experienced the other extreme: too many results. If I go to the website of a components manufacturer, and type ‘blue widgets’ in the search box, I want one result – the product page for blue widgets. I don’t want 100 pages listed, all of which mention the term ‘blue widgets’, because I just know the order in which they’re presented will be random, and the top one will be some obscure PDF operating manual for a blue widget packing machine or something.

Do you have a search box on your website? Have you spent even 10 minutes testing it? Do you get exactly the page you’d want to see presented when you type in (a) a generic product type, like ‘blue widget’; (b) a model number; and (c) a real-language question? The more the search facility is pushed to the fore on your site as a means of navigation, the more you need to test, test and test again. And that means entering every product type your company supplies, one at a time, and checking the results are what you want.

Discussion

  1. Kari Sewell

    You’re right that having a good search system on a product website is essential.

    Have you found any third party search systems that can be plugged into a website that work really well? We’re considering using a hosted Elastic Search for one website to bring their search onto an even higher level and wondered if you’d had any success with services like that?

    Kari

  2. Chris Rand Post author

    I guess it depends on the IT resources available for setting up and maintaining the search. I admit to usually using Google custom search, which obviously has many limitations but is very easy to use. Anyone else have any thoughts?

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