Consumers have been re-trained by AI-powered search engines to expect direct answers to their most specific questions, no matter where they search. And their expectations for your website are higher than ever too, so your brand needs to be able to provide the answers customers are searching for directly on your site.
As we discussed last week, a customer who comes to your restaurant chain's website and asks "which menu items are gluten-free?" is looking for a direct answer. The answer they get likely affects their decision to order from your restaurant or to visit one of your locations. If this question is answered seamlessly — and even presents a click-to-order or click-to-call option — that's a great customer experience that leads directly to revenue. But if they don't find the answer? They're more likely to bounce back to a search engine and potentially transact with a competitor.
A great site search experience satisfies your customer and drives revenue. But how can your brand better understand the customer journey that happens on your website — and how can you optimize your on-site search experience to funnel customers from question to action?
Use site search tracking to understand the on-website journey.
The first step is to ensure you have processes in place to track and measure the journey happening on your website.
There are tools available that give you visibility into the extent to which users took advantage of your site's search function, which search terms they entered, and how effectively the search results created deeper engagement with your site.
For example, are customers on your financial services organization frequently searching for advisors by specialty? By appointment time? What searches lead them to click on a related page, or call you to book an appointment? This is key to understanding the types of searches that are most likely to lead to key actions. Successfully mapping and tracking the customer journey lends you a deeper understanding of your customer — getting you ready to craft your search experience to streamline that journey.
Answer key customer questions.
Combined with general research about the types of questions customers ask related to your business vertical, tracking the customer journey that's happening on your website will tell you what the most popular (and most important) questions are.
Answering basic questions like "closest store location" or "what are your hours?" should be a given. But what about more complex queries? To use the financial services example, if you find that customers are frequently relying on site search for questions like "which advisors near me speak Spanish?" or "family trust advisors who take Saturday appointments" you need to ensure that they're finding an answer to that complex question directly — without having to click around on your site. Research suggests that if customers can't find what they're looking for in 2–3 attempts, they will leave your website.
Answering these types of multi-dimensional queries requires interrelated information from across your organization, drawing on diverse attributes like advisor specialties, skills, appointment times, and more. You can structure your information so that you can answer these questions by building and maintaining a brand knowledge graph.
Learn more about why you need a brand knowledge graph here.
Make it easy for customers to take action.
You're likely familiar with the concept of targeting high-intent keywords. You should already be conducting keyword research, including using a keyword planning tool to obtain a list of seed keywords. If you can effectively reach customers who are performing those searches which indicate a higher likelihood that they will take a certain action, you can more effectively drive conversions.
Now apply that principle to optimize your site search experience, and ensure that customers who are performing high-intent searches on your website have an easy path to purchase.
Your site search tracking tools should provide a window into which on-website searches are generating more clicks and appear more likely to lead to transactions. In the financial services search example, a customer using terms like "book appointment" or "call my advisor" is clearly indicating intent to make an appointment. Long-tail questions often show strong intent too: That customer making the highly specific search for an advisor near them who speaks Spanish is likely much closer to making an appointment than someone who is just performing a general search for a "financial advisor" or who is asking an informational question like "why do I need an advisor?"
To pave a seamless pathway from question to commerce, it pays to build click-to-call or click-to-book functionality directly into the pages on your website that provide answers to these types of questions. If booking an appointment is only one click away, that interested customer is far more likely to convert — and more likely to rely on your website the next time they need you.