8 min

How Auto Complete Search Helps Users

Auto Complete is a function we use every day. But does it really help us or our businesses? Yext explains how auto complete benefits your users.

By Yext

Nov 4, 2021

8 min

Sometimes users will approach the search bar with an idea of what they're looking for but don't have the specifics.

Perhaps they aren't spelling one of the words correctly or aren't sure exactly what to type in the search to find what they're looking for.

This is where autocomplete helps users and businesses.

Users depend on auto complete and predictive search functions all the time when using search engines. The major services have crafted intelligent and reliable auto complete systems that predict the consumer's search to help provide the most successful string for what they're searching.

Without a function like auto complete guiding the user to the content that they're searching for the user is likely to have a frustrating experience on your page which 88% of users refer to as a reason they wouldn't return to your site.

At Yext, we're obsessed with knowing everything there is about search engines because an optimized search function is key to customer satisfaction.

Here's everything you need to know about auto complete search and how it helps your business and your users.

What Is Auto Complete and How Does It Work?

Simply put, auto complete is a search engine protocol that uses previous search strings and available content to predict what the user is typing and suggest the most successful string to find what they want. From keyword research to building your reputation, those suggestions can vastly improve your digital marketing and SEO strategy.

Customers may not know how to optimize their search queries to get their best results and that's where autocomplete steps in. It's a great feature that saves users time in the search process with auto-suggestions by using relevance factors. For instance, Google will often show less popular searches above ones with greater popularity if they deem them more relevant.

After collecting and analyzing what users search, the engine is able to recognize what the user is hoping to find and guide them to the search question that will yield the best results. To come up with suggestions, your search engine looks at real searches being conducted on e-commerce sites and discover trending ones. Autocomplete results also can also show you keyword suggestions based on your past searches.

Auto complete, or as it's also called predictive search, provides the user with a list of options underneath the search bar that they can select. Many of today's social media platforms offer the ability to create and curate search suggestions using type-ahead lists within the search box.

How Does Auto Complete Help Users?

Auto complete has a lot of benefits to users, from expediting their search time to optimizing their search results. User friendly, you can change the options to alter the amount of input characters you would would like the autocomplete feature to base their suggestions on.

Furthermore, its also invaluable for a site search, boosting conversion rates for many businesses.

From streamlining a user's experience by helping them find what they're looking for to providing related and potentially successful search options, here are a few ways auto complete can benefit your users and, by extension, your company.

Helps Users Craft Successful Queries

As we've mentioned, sometimes the user knows what they want but not exactly how to find it. Auto complete can assist in this situation by analyzing the user's search and comparing it to other user searches, successful search results, and related content within its index.

What online businesses want to avoid is a zero results page. If the user's search terms are far off enough that your engine isn't sure what they're looking for, it won't be able to return any results. If a user ends up hitting a zero results page they're likely to leave your site altogether and start over on a generic search engine.

Auto complete can assist in this scenario by logging previous search attempts from other users and use that information to provide accurate search entries that correlate to products or content that actually exists on your page.

A tool that gently nudges the us

er to what they're looking for, without being overbearing, is going to reduce zero-result pages

Highlights Options on Your Page

If a user is using the internal search engine on your page to find something, predictive search can help by suggesting related content that they might not have considered but also fits the requirements they're looking for.

For example, say that you have an online bakery shop, and customers can search your website for desserts that they can then order and pick up or have delivered.

Auto complete allows you to recommend other treats to them while they're looking for what they had in mind.

The user starts typing in "chocolate chip banana bread," and as they're typing, the auto complete options line up with "chocolate chip cookies," "banana cinnamon bread," "chocolate-covered banana pie."

You can also have a recommendations section on each page. But autocomplete gives you a noninvasive marketing tool.

Improves User Satisfaction

An auto complete function that successfully operates with all of these other benefits has a main, combined benefit: Customer satisfaction.

Users have become used to high-quality search engines and thus expect a high standard for any website they're on.

Excellent search suggestions and accurate, high-speed predictions ensure a positive user experience which is key to increasing your conversion rates.

With all of the options available to consumers on the internet, your business should be as optimized and successful as possible, or else your user may turn to someone else.

Auto Complete Tips

Even after implementing an auto complete system into the internal search engine on your website, there are a few things to keep in mind to truly optimize the experience for your audience.

Keyboard Interaction

Your user's hands are already on the keyboard; make the most of it. Instead of requiring them to reach over to their mouse, add the convenience of using the arrow keys to select from the list of suggested search queries.

This will increase interaction with auto complete results as well as the user experience.

Response Time

In order for your users to feel like the auto complete is working with them as a viable resource instead of another loading component to look past, your autocomplete suggestions have to be provided quickly.

The maximum amount of time you want to aim for is 0.1 seconds. That's the threshold for most users when it comes to recognizing whether something was truly instantaneous or not.

Any longer and your user will type faster than the auto complete comes up, and they may skip over it while they search.

Rank Auto Complete Suggestions

Auto complete suggestions are created based on the current user's previous searches, layered with the search history of other similar users.

Taking that information and adding another layer of data on top of it, such as popular products or content on your site creates a high-quality rank system, personalized to each unique consumer.

Another factor that could affect the auto complete suggestion rankings might include the user's location. Depending on where your search bar is, accessing location can make the user experience extremely personalized and more likely to increase conversion rates.

Key note, there are autocomplete policies which restrict explicit content that goes against search engine guidelines, which in turn, limit the complete capacity of the feature itself.

Ensure That Your Auto Complete is Mobile Friendly

63% of all online shoppers these days are using mobile devices and it's important for all aspects of your website to be mobile-friendly, or else you might be pushing your users away.

Autocomplete, found in Android and iOS smartphones, complete the words a user is typing as well. However, you can minimize external UI elements that might distract from the auto complete suggestions (or the other way around) if you wish.

Another important tip is making sure that the text is easily legible on mobile. This could include making the auto complete results larger in font size or even highlighted so that the user is able to refer to them comfortably.

However, you also don't want the auto complete to overpower the experience. Having an exit box for the customer to reduce the size of the auto complete suggestions by a margin or completely gives the user a sense of control.

Keep The List of Auto Complete Options Limited

As we've mentioned before there's an overwhelming amount of information on the internet. Customers are constantly blasted with websites claiming to be the most reliable, products offering the best results, etc.

Consumers want their results to be refined for them to the best possible options, and this includes auto complete.

While a list of five to eight auto complete suggestions is fine, anything more than that and your user may start to feel bothered by the number of options.

Keeping your list tight and to the point gives them the confidence in choosing one instead of carrying on with their search.

In Conclusion

Auto complete is a fairly familiar tool at this point. But it's essential to provide a positive user experience for your customers.

Users depend on easily navigated websites and search engines, and a finely tuned auto complete is just one of the keys to optimizing your web page. It's a tool to streamline your content, designed to make it faster to complete searches and allows users to find what they're looking for even if they aren't completely sure what to type into a search bar.

It's a powerful function when it comes to suggesting related products and content to your consumers when set up correctly.


  1. Essential UX Statistics — Everything You Need to Know

  2. No Results Page

  3. Mobile vs. Desktop Usage in 2020

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