Get your search right or don’t have it at all

Does your website have a search facility? For a large site with thousands of pages of different types, it’s a real asset. For smaller sites, less so. Either way, if it doesn’t work well, you’d be better off not having it at all. Why? Because if your site is signposted well, people will be able to find what they want efficiently just by browsing through it. But if there’s a search, and it omits crucial results, they might miss what they were after without ever going through the browsing route.

Your site search has to deliver results to the standard that people expect, and (sadly for all of us), the standard that people expect is that of Google and Bing. Without even thinking about it, we now expect search results to deduce our intent, and the major search engines do just that.

Unfortunately, many internal site search engines do nothing of the sort.

As an example, if they work really literally, what happens if a user includes a search word which does not appear on the site? Let’s say they type in ‘blue widget prices’, but there’s no page called that – indeed the very word ‘price’ does not appear on the site. The result from a poor search engine is usually some apologetic ‘no results found’ message. Oh dear.

If you have a search engine, at a minimum, take the dozen or so major SEO search terms for your site and type them into the search engine, one at a time. Check the results are what you want, and that they get people to the right page. I’ve been on dozens of sites where there are many supposedly helpful results listed, but the top ones are obscure pages which seem to have been chosen at random. If your search engine is no better than this, you might be well served by getting rid of it.