Solid search functionality begins with your own site
While many search marketers pay close attention to both the major and minor tweaks search engines roll out, their own site search is sometimes neglected. Improving the usability of site search is a constant process of fine-tuning new features and adopting best practices from search leaders. For example, Google recently released Instant Previews. This allows users to preview a page directly from the search results by clicking the "magnifying glass" next to a result. When major features such as this are launched, it makes sense to consider how you can incorporate such ideas into your own site search.
Some of our customers use pop-up images that appear when users simply mouse over images within search results. This provides a quick preview of products and can also make it easy to view details for several products. This can improve the site search experience, because without it, the customer must click on the product, look at the detail, return to the search results page, and then click on the next product.
These previews reduce the search time for website visitors. This is an important step, because the faster the customer can find what they need, the more likely they are to complete a purchase. Previews can also eliminate some of the confusion that occurs when site visitors search for products or content in a broad category.
Site owners can choose what information appears in the pop-up, depending on what's most useful to their customers. For instance, product images, user ratings, prices and even stock availability and promotions such as free shipping deals could all appear in the pop-ups.
Likewise, Google, and the other search engine players, can learn from the marketer side. In the interest of making pop-ups and previews even easier for site visitors to use, it would be ideal if Google simplified the Instant Preview process even further by eliminating the need to click the magnifying glass to see the preview. The Instant Preview feature could be even more useful if it could pull out and highlight some of the most critical information on each previewed Web page, as online retailers do.
The lesson here is that site owners can glean useful ideas from Internet search engines, and the Internet search giants can watch how site search owners make their own strides toward streamlining the search process. In both cases, users benefit and site search continues to be the preferred way for visitors to find content and products.Thierry Costa, VP of marketing, SLI Systems. Reach him at email@example.com.