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Site Search As Key Performance Indicator

Jan 14, 2008
Do you know what's happening in your own site search? Understanding site search is one of the most important KPI (Key Performance Indicator) you should measure. According to a Forrester study, over 50 percent of major web sites fail in search usability. When your search fails to deliver, your conversion suffers. A low converting site will result is less sales and decreased revenue. Search is not just another nice feature to have. You have to think of search as a revenue generating part of your business.

Your company works hard to drive traffic to your site. Many visitors will use your on site search instead of browsing through your site. Online shoppers want to use site search to expedite the shopping experience. The faster and easier they can locate the product they are looking for the more likely they'll buy on your site. The more roadblock you set in place to inconvenience the shopper, the more likely they'll buy from someone else.

Do you know what they are searching for? Are you in any way measuring what search phrases are queried on your site? It is not enough to have site search as a feature. You must analyze it. You have to understand it. Then, you have to make adjustments based on your findings.

The best place to start learning about your site search is through the search log files. If you don't monitor your log files, you will fail to gain an insight into what your customers are looking for on your site. Understanding site search is a KPI that should be part of your tactical operations. Learning about site search will tell you what your customers are looking for.

In addition to understanding what site visitors are searching for, you have to test what results yield from searches. For example, if your customers are searching for "return policy" what results are they shown? Are the search results relevant to the search queries? If the result you get is not the best possible result, you have to tweak you search engine. The top few results must be relevant, because searchers are not interested in reading deep down your search results. Result number 10 is infinitely more irrelevant than result number 1.

Every reasonable search phrase should result in relevant search results. For example, if the site searcher types "return policy" in the search field, the search should result in some result. Every e-commerce site should have a return policy; therefore, the site search should yield the relevant result. One of the worst possible outcomes for a search query would be no result. If a user types any relevant key phrase, it should result in relevant results. If they don't, your search is failing your customers.

Site search is a tool to enhance customer satisfaction. If it works as it is supposed to, it has done its job. If site search fails it becomes a frustrating experience instead of a positive experience resulting in lower conversion rates, lost sales opportunities, loss of revenue and unhappy site visitors.
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