How to Implement an Internal Search Engine for Small Businesses

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Since the '90s, search engines have grown and evolved into the sophisticated search experience most of us have come to expect today. Thanks to modern advancements in AI and natural language processing (NLP), search has been revolutionized in recent years and changed the way we interact with the digital world.

In a relatively short amount of time, we went from skimming encyclopedias to inputting basic keywords and search terms online that would retrieve data like an index. Now, we simply say topics into our smart devices.

"Hey, Google, who was president in 1998?"

It's been a fast track to follow, and tackling internal search can feel like a huge undertaking for many small businesses. But, with the right strategy and tools, the good news is it doesn't have to be so intimidating.

There are many on-site search tools available, but it's important to know what you're looking for and what resources you'll need to implement your search strategy.

Outdated search is a way of the past and can do your business more harm than good.

Behavioral studies show that search has evolved over the years, and so have consumers. We know that users interacting with search features are further along the buyer's journey than browsers, who are merely window shopping.

Providing a positive search experience to users that are ready to buy is imperative to converting searchers into buyers.

Why Internal Site Search Is So Important

The basis of internal search is to provide the user with a streamlined and efficient way to locate what they're looking for quickly. The less friction users encounter when navigating your site, the less likely they are to bounce — just a couple of seconds can make all the difference.

Today's consumer is all about convenience, so it's not too surprising that the search box feature is typically the most utilized website function. When you have a visitor who knows what they're looking for, it's a profitable opportunity to deliver relevant options. If the internal search result page returns unrelated items or a list of links to sort through, that user is very likely to jump to another site.

In addition to being user-friendly, internal search results can provide valuable analytics that can be used to understand your visitors better. It's how people will get to your products, so you need to recognize what they're looking for and any issues they have along the way.

Site search results analytics allow you to see the full picture of the user experience.

Utilize Site Search Analysis to Better Your Conversion Rates

Researching user analytics can be beneficial to your business in two ways: understanding customer intent and the effectiveness of your site navigation. When you look at the most common queries being searched, you can better understand what people are looking for and how quickly they can find it.

Improve Site Navigation

By researching your analytic reports, you can interpret whether users are searching for simple tasks that could be accomplished, or if users are having a hard time finding content or products that may not have enough visual cues. This may mean that the header doesn't include enough information or the left navigation is too small, but you can analyze the data to optimize your site and increase activity.

Understanding Customer Intent

This is a great way to leverage the benefits of an internal search function. Regardless of what industry you're in, you're better equipped to deliver what they want when you understand what the user is looking for.

We already know that users who interact with search produce higher conversions — but we can take it further to understand which products or services are receiving the most searches and if they're looking for more details once they arrive on the appropriate page.

Consumer intent can be broken down into categories such as informational and transactional. These two are pretty straightforward as informational intent pertains to people looking to learn more about a product or service. Transactional intent is when a user is looking to make a purchase.

Informational intent will include searches like "what is" or "how to" and should lead users to relevant articles on your site where you can then link them to related product pages. You should optimize your category pages by including the full question in your most important content: Page titles, HTML headers, and descriptions.

Transactional intent searches will mostly consist of direct inquiries for specific products or services. The goal here is to make it very clear how the user can convert and what the outcome will be. You can optimize a landing page by having an obvious call-to-action with uncomplicated visuals that include all of the information necessary and a short conversion process.

How Internal Search Can Improve Overall SEO Performance

There are a variety of ways a small business can improve search engine optimization (SEO) but an internal site search functionality is one of the most overlooked ways it can be done. When you optimize your content correctly, you can compete with the bigger brands and even piggyback off their most common searches.

The objective is to make it as easy as possible for users and search engines to determine what your webpage is about, identify whether your page is relevant to specific search queries and if its relevancy ranks high on the search engine results page (SERP).

Once you've analyzed the search data from your domain, utilize the most searched keywords and relevant results to create pages that are geared towards user intent. A current SEO strategy is less about keyword repetition and more about understanding your site visitors, what they're looking for, and how you can create content that helps meet their needs.

Which Metrics Should I Measure to Optimize On-Site Search?

If you're familiar with SEO, you'll notice a lot of the same terms are critical to internal search as well. The following list includes key elements your business should research consistently.

  • Search queries – what the user is looking for
  • Keywords – the exact term being targeted
  • Searches – the number of times a search query/keyword is entered
  • Clicks – the number of times the content being returned was clicked
  • Conversion – the number of times a user completed the intended action
  • Search with No Results – searches that returned no relevant documents

Understanding consumer behavior and how they interact with your on-site search is worth the investment in your business and long-term goals. You can learn valid details of your site performance and which products are worth promoting — all while offering the consumer a quick and convenient mode of finding what they want.

The more you analyze your search data, the more useful your content will be, which will lead to high-quality traffic, better conversions, and a competitive edge in your industry.

Summary

Internal search pages are usually an after-thought for busy business owners, but it's an integral piece of the customer journey that can provide a lot of valuable insight. You can set your brand apart when you utilize the information with a growth mindset. A well-optimized on-site custom search bar can create a seamless user experience where content can easily be found, and users can quickly make confident decisions.

To understand your audience better, you have to imagine how they think. Internal search analytics can provide the full picture of how they interact with your brand and whether their visit was successful.

If visitors are searching for more facts after they arrive on your landing page, you should rethink your blog posts and website content. If users exit your site after viewing the search results, you need to look further into the search solutions being delivered and how they're displayed.

Don't get frustrated with the process — learn from it to strengthen your brand. It's an ongoing effort to provide the best experience possible and answer consumer needs with direct answers that you can control.

Modern-day search has changed digital consumer behavior. As we incorporate voice search and AI assistants into an internal search engine it is increasingly important to strategize your marketing efforts toward user intent. When you use this approach to produce high-quality content, you'll see higher engagement, more conversions, and rank higher on SERPs.

Internal search and SEO work synonymously to deliver accurate answers to consumers.

To better understand how search analytics can help increase your SEO performance, schedule a personal demo with a team member today.

Sources:

  1. 20 Years Of Google Has Changed the Way We Think. Here's How, According to a Historian of Information | TIME
  2. Six ways search data can drive content marketing success | Econsultancy
  3. A small business' step-by-step guide to dominating local search in 2021 | Search Engine Watch

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