Definitive Guide for Optimizing Website Search Experience

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of expanding the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic or natural search engine results. Understanding how search engines work is the first step of the process in improving the visibility for the site’s search rankings. Enhancing a site's rank involves leveraging different SEO techniques to optimize the site for search. 

In this blog we will look at some key factors that help improve the website search experience:

Predictive search

Predictive search refers to autocomplete or auto-suggest features in the search functionality. As a user types in a search, predictive search uses a search algorithm based on popular searches, location, semantic analysis, emerging trends, and more, to predict the user’s search query. It can display a dropdown list of suggestions that changes as the user adds more characters to the search input.

Anticipation denotes intelligence

This quote from The Fifth Element movie fits aptly in a world that is quickly moving towards systems that demand advanced predictive capabilities. This helps in offering suggestions for the search query as well as the best-fit products/results. When a user selects a recommended result, and directly lands on the landing page without an interim search result page, accelerates the overall user’s search experience and increases revenue conversion chances as well. 

An autocomplete is customized based on the site’s business and customers interaction with the website. For an insurance firm website, it is best to showcase auto-suggest as results that on-click can take a user to its landing page. Sometimes the suggestions can be grouped into categories such as policies, Services, Publications, Blogs, etc. For instance, if a user searches for “specific policy”, it is important to show “Policies” services as a top result and then agents or people associated with the corresponding service.

  • Showing results in autosuggestion
  • Providing type-ahead auto-suggestion
  • Providing grouped results in auto-suggestion

Search results weighting and term proximity

Results weighting is also known as relevancy. It is very important to define the parameters to retrieve the most relevant information as top results. These rules should be aligned with the business expectations and should be refined and tweaked from time to time as the website content changes.

  • Title match
  • Specific field match  (also known as field ranking)
  • Term proximity- results ranking based on how close the search terms appear
  • Occurrences- the number of times searched keyword occurs in a product or category

A number of attributes and metadata can be applied to fine tune the search results in order to be considered relevant. Meta data can be applied to produce comparative and different category search results.

For insurance websites, search rules can be defined to look into the page title and then the service areas or policies to ensure best suited results. Thus, searching for a keyword ‘Life insurance’ for an insurance website will retrieve ‘personal insurance service and then agent who provides corresponding service.

Agents are the most important assets for an insurance firm and there is pressure to boost the search results in a hierarchical order. Thus, proper weighting of results to boost policies, based on position and searched keyword, is of paramount importance here. 

Search results categorization and refinement

Search results categorization or faceted search is the heart of a site search experience. This is helpful for visitors whose intent is heavily focused on a specific category. This helps the process to remove the frills and focus on the relevant content only; it prevents the user from being overwhelmed or confused by the enormous content. In order to bridge the gap between the customers and their desired content experience, it is important to make the best use of facets or categories.

Every website or vertical may work differently when it comes to facets selection. When determining facets, it is important to keep them simple enough for the user to easily navigate through and secondly, to have an intuitive structure that adds value. An insurance firm, for example, can have facets for Agents, policies, Industries, Publications, News, Events, and Blogs. 

Faceted navigation can be built in a hierarchical way as if building a pyramid or providing a common filter selection. Going towards a broad category to more specific ones while adding value can be complex but doing so can provide a better user-browsing experience. Further, if there are a lot of duplicate categories, they should be merged together, filters should be applied to individual categories to narrow them down to the right set of desired results.

Search results refinement enables a user to search with the help of filtration, which is derived from user’s browsing habits, location, and website’s domain. This feature helps to serve the user quickly by anticipating what the user requirement is. Results are organized and sorted under this feature on the basis of query, user interests, and requirement. 

Search results can be categorized in 

  • Hierarchical way
  • Common filter selection

Latest documents boosting

Freshness boost is related to boosting the search results on the basis of date of origination of a document. Users generally prefer viewing the latest search results over older documents.

Stop words

Stop words or ‘Noise’ are words that do not add value to the search process and can be conveniently ignored. Such words include ‘in’,’ the’, ‘of’, ‘seem’, and ‘as’. These words are ignored during search queries as they pose problems in matching words.

A list of excluded stop words is provided to the program thus on speed up the search performance and to suppress tangential results that contain these common words.

* Synonyms search

Users usually don't formulate good queries therefore the  web {site} search ought to handle different language or synonyms for many common words employed by site users by reviewing search logs from time to time. Such synonyms ought to be provided to the search engines that map existing language to come applicable results.

* Stemming keywords

Imagine somebody looking for “search optimization solutions”. However, if your website has terms like “optimizing search” solely, the visitant can get no ends up in such cases albeit your website has relevant data. guests could assume that your web site doesn’t have relevant content and leave.

Stemming refers to reducing the words to their word stem or base kind by removing their suffixes. An algorithmic program reduces the words “searching”, “searched”, “searches”, “researcher”, and “researched” to the stem “search”. If a hunt engine uses stemming, keyword looking out also will come the results containing the word analysis.

* Fuzzy or phrase matching

Fuzzy search refers to go looking varieties that realize matches even once a user could spell words or sort in partial words for the search. an honest internal website search will give relevant results for a minimum of the foremost common misspellings for merchandise and classes. this might make sure that your internal website search doesn't show “zero results found” on the search page for merchandise really carried by the web site.

* Zero results handling

Sometimes users encounter No Search Results for his or her search question. Such encounters could occur as a results of twin within the searched question even once content exists. sadly, No Result Pages oft become a dead finish for users wherever they're lost or stuck. For all such cases, your internal website search ought to offer: 

  • writing system corrections
  • high searches or fashionable classes
  • suggestions for similar queries that come results
  • different searches or choices for processing search additional

This will increase the probabilities of users clicking on one thing on the search results pages and not abandoning the web site as a result of they couldn’t realize what they were searching for.

* paging

Pagination improves search results’ performance and will scale back muddle on the page. it's vital that a balance between the standard and amount of search results is maintained. Users ought to see relevant data within the initial few displayed results. In some cases, user’s area unit displayed all the results at once; in others, they'll be shown segments of the results.

* Sorting 

Sorting is a vital feature that provides users the power to customize their search expertise supported any specific data field, together with date, pricing, fashionable results, or result title in alphabetical order.
Thought leadership content will be sorted by their date, year, or sort like event, news, publications or blogs. 

* Personalizing search expertise

Search must anticipate what a user wants and will transcend matching simply the keywords. An additional dimension will be intercalary – search will be personalized. Search results area unit inhabited not solely supported ranking algorithms however area unit additional refined by user’s search history pattern and even location. If a user is looking out service from London, as an example, looking for insurance policies ought to retrieve relevant content WHO observe in London location.

Marketers tailor personalized search experiences for every distinctive web site visitant by leverage the excellent identification and his/her activity knowledge. This might embody demographic data, previous activities on website, email interaction, and different selling initiatives. At every step of the client journey, personalized search expertise offers every website visitant content and merchandise that area unit most relevant to them.

* Search logs and analytics

Analyze high searched keywords for added insights. Watching the highest searched keywords and checking if any of them yielded zero, few or poor search results will facilitate improve a user’s search expertise. Such data serves to grasp user behavior and intent higher. These insights will then facilitate kind higher methods to optimize your web site.

Also, maintain trailing and reportage of all keyword searches within the net analytics tool so as to realize insights from user keyword searches. you'll simply tack together this within the net analytics tool and track by specifying a question string parameter within the URL with the keyword.

Design your content in a very method that it includes the outstanding keywords thus it will be picked simply. For keywords that feature in your keywords analytics report, build special space to feature them. you will add it to navigation, show it as featured content, or produce outstanding links on your most-visited pages in order that users will directly reach that content. 

In addition to the higher than, it’s vital to grasp the inner website search usage on conversions. created a visitant phase within the net analytics tool to grasp however cogent your internal search is on your conversions. If a better share of tourists convert exploitation the website’s internal site search, you'll take steps to form your search tool additional outstanding on the web site by creating the search text box larger or adding further search boxes on the website’s common entry points like the house page.

Most web site searches aren't drained real time, rather they're run against search indexes. this can be done to fetch quicker results for user searches. However, to urge the simplest out of this, indexes ought to be oft designed in order that no content update is skipped over on and therefore the results solely show the newest and updated content. Sitecore supports Lucene, Solr and Coveo search engines. when content changes, Sitecore runs employment to update the indexes. This ensures freshness of the search results.

To gauge the effectiveness of your web site search take into account performance and correctness metrics as shown below:

  • Traditional IR evaluation metrics are recall and precision. While the former relates to the document fractions, relevant to the query, which is retrieved successfully, the latter is relevant to the user's information need.

For example, if you are searching for ‘Intellectual Property London’, the query can be formed to provide results as follows:

Intellectual OR Property OR London

This will give a large number of matching records that complement either Intellectual or Property or London. Most results are generally irrelevant to the user and this can have an impact on search result’s performance.

Intellectual AND Property AND London

This will give records that contain Intellectual, Property and London keywords. The results count will be comparatively lesser; nonetheless, it should offer what the user is looking for.

Site search usage analytics and reporting with Coveo for Sitecore is easy with a flexible dashboard and actionable reports. This provides marketers with a clear insight into the key search performance metrics including most popular keyword searches, search keyword frequency, and search conversion rates.

Setting up Google analytics on your internal site search can also provide preconfigured reports to work with out of the box. This can be further customized to create reports that are relevant to you. The different categories that you can view in such reports include the ones highlighted in the image below:

Search Engines with Sitecore

The factors that we discussed above such as defining ranking algorithms, faceting, paging, sorting, synonym, fuzzy or phrase matching are easily configurable through search engines available with Sitecore.

Sitecore allows you to easily configure the factors such as ranking algorithms, faceting, paging, sorting, etc. with the search engines that are integrated with it. Some of the features to highlight here would include:

Search engine features:

  • Full text search capabilities
  • Comprehensive administrative interface
  • Monitor logging
  • Query suggestions, spelling and more
  • Faceted search and filtering
  • Power extensions to indexing rich content (such as PDFs, Word), language detection
  • Performance optimizations
  • Scalable and fault tolerant

Sitecore works with Lucene, Solr and Coveo search engines. You may choose your best pick on the basis of budget, external system support, the size of the application, and others.

CONCLUSION:

The search functionality of a website is very significant – the effectiveness of this can directly influence a user’s perception of your business. Fortify this function to enable a user to find what she set out for in the least possible time. Besides great experiences for your users, it can also mean converting a potential customer into a final one for your business. 

Let the journey via your website begin!

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