Do You Site Search?

The percentage of internet users who search on a typical day has been steadily rising for the past few years (from 30% in 2004 to 49% in 2008). Why?

“One likely reason is that users can now expect to find a high-performing, site-specific search engine on just about every content-rich website that is worth its salt. With a growing mass of web content from blogs, news sites, image and video archives, personal websites, and more, internet users have an option to turn not only to the major search engines, but also to search engines on individual sites, as vehicles to reach the information they are looking for.”

– Pew Internet & American Life Project (via Rick Short)

I have been a longtime advocate of adding a search box to your site, but reports like the above continue to prove that search is becoming a normal, and expected, part of the web surfing experience.

Join the Search Party

Many marketers I talk with dismiss the benefits of having a Site Search function on their website. This oft overlooked feature offers numerous benefits for both your company and your customer. Let’s look at a few.

Simplify Your Client’s Surfing Experience
Site search not only makes your client’s life simpler, it helps your support staff as well. One of the most popular reasons for current clients to visit is to find answers and support for product related questions. For sites with an extensive Knowledge Base or Help section, navigating through the directories can be time-consuming and frustrating for clients. Often, they feel they are in an emergency situation and need an answer fast. That’s when they pick up the phone and call you (or your support staff), asking for help in a panicked tone. If they were able to search your website for the exact answer they wanted, this call may have been prevented.

Audit Your Website Functionality 
Often marketers are so busy building new pages, creating email blasts and tending to every day tasks that they don’t have the time to sit back and evaluate their current website from a visitor’s perspective. If this sounds familiar, a site search can help you gain an overall look at the functionality of your layout and design. It’s not uncommon to take for granted that it’s easy to navigate through your pages when you’re the one who built them, but are your prospects able to find what they need? If you review your site search logs and notice that an overwhelming number of visitors are searching for the same keyword, perhaps it might be worth displaying that information or page link more prominently on your homepage or navigation. This will prevent customers from wandering off if they can’t easily find what they are looking for.

Gain Prospect Insight & Increase Sales
Viewing what your prospects search for can be a very valuable tool during the sales cycle. It’s a no-nonsense way to see what their priorities are in choosing a product. Knowing your prospect’s exact needs in their own words can help the sales team mold future conversations to showcase product features that the lead will find most desirable. They will feel that it’s as if the product was uniquely made for their situation. Nothing shows intent like a search for pricing, letting the sales rep know this is not a casual visitor browsing the site and it may be time to start making a deal.