Get More Marketing Mileage from Your Site Search in 4 Easy Steps

Search has become such an automatic part of our online experience, it’s no surprise how often we rely on search engines and site search to get through the day. Google handles about 100 billion searches every month, which means every one of us Google users is likely responsible for at least a couple dozen of them daily. Site search has become a must-have element for online businesses of any size. Without the ability to quickly search your site for content or products, impatient online visitors will leave abruptly and may never return.

While solid website search capabilities are a critical addition to any online marketing arsenal, marketers should also realize search can provide much richer benefits to their overall strategy than just the core value proposition of search. For example, insights on visitor habits and buying behavior can be gleaned from site search data, and products and content can be merchandised within search to provide new ways to touch customers and encourage a purchase.

Here are some important insights into ways marketers should be thinking about site search and the increased value it can add to the marketing machine:

Sell with search

Selling in the real world gives merchants a few ways to promote products even when shoppers aren’t right in front of things like signs in windows and end-cap displays. Online you have even more places where you can touch customers and remind them to keep browsing—and search is one of the best locations on your website to do this kind of marketing.

For example, as visitors are reading through search results, you can use search-related banner ads to promote similar products and content to what they’re searching for, or suggest similar items. These targeted banners use a shopper’s search terms as keywords that trigger the display of highly relevant messages or calls-to-action. During the holidays, you can use banners to highlight shipping or gift-wrap deals—or, if the visitor types in a brand name, you can highlight the brand and your associated product range in the banner.

Sniff out trends

What your online visitors are searching for can tell you a great deal about how you promote your products, and which products and content you should be showcasing. It can also tell you which search terms perform well and which ones perform poorly in terms of conversions.

If holidays are important to your business, right now is a good time to prepare for the coming holiday season by examining site search data to see if customers are searching for an item you don’t carry—and could easily add to your inventory. Also, you might discover that shoppers are using an entirely different search term for a product—like searching for “Kindle” instead of the generic term “e-reader”—and you haven’t accounted for the alternate term. Or they might be commonly misspelling a brand name.

In some of the cases above, customers could very well be getting a “no results” page for their search, when in fact you have the products they want. If the keywords don’t match and valid products don’t appear for that search term—you’re looking at poor conversions and/or click-throughs. On the other hand, these searches might tip you off to the fact that your customer base is getting excited about a brand or product that you should be carrying. Additionally, a good look through site search data can give you an early tip-off about this trend.

Boost SEO effectiveness

It’s a difficult job getting people to land on your site via organic search, so you want to make their visit highly compelling from the get-go. Data culled from site search queries can you help better understand the language people are using to get to your site. The terms they are using to find you should also be incorporated into the website terms to remain consistent. In addition, landing pages that are customized to the visitor’s search term can make a big difference in conversions and time spent on your site. Advanced site search solutions can create these landing pages (eliminating extra work for your IT team), which are indexed by search engines.

When visitors ends up at one of these landing pages via a search engine, they’ll be presented with a selection of relevant products, or perhaps a brand showcase, thereby helping drive engagement just as the visitor is looking for a specific item.

Satisfy mobile customers

Mobile users are a tough crowd. They’re using devices with limited screen space and often with suboptimal online access. Yet they want answers to product questions within only a few seconds of searching. And if you have real-world store locations, you’ll find that many mobile users are searching for information when they’re right in front of a product—for instance, looking up reviews.

Fast and easy-to-use mobile site search is critical for mobile marketing and e-commerce. When executed properly, it will keep customers coming back for more. Making the search box the most prominent item on the mobile page—and using large navigation buttons—will allow mobile shoppers to find what they want even under adverse browsing conditions.

When website visitors use site search, they’re telling you in their own words what they want. That’s powerful information for your marketing campaigns. With the insights above, you can put this knowledge to good use and get more mileage out of a search solution you may have previously only used in the traditional sense—for search.

Geoff Brash is cofounder and VP of business intelligence at SLI Systems.

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