7 min

What is the Difference Between a Web Search and a Database Search?

Yext jumps into what a web search is and how it differs from a database search. Learn more here.

By Yext

Mar 4, 2022

7 min

Understanding the difference between a web search and a database search might seem like semantics, but it's an important part of maintaining your company's website.

Let's breaks down the difference between an internal site search and a database search, as well as what their search results pages look like.

What is the Difference Between a Web Search and a Database Search?

Before we can explore the difference between a web search and a database search, let's clarify how a database and an internal search engine differ. A database stores information to be accessed sometime in the future. An encyclopedia is a good example of a database since it contains data about various subjects and makes it easy to look up a specific word or concept.

Online databases, or databases in servers, work in a very similar way. As long as users know where to look, they can find the information stored through a database management system, as long as they have the proper credentials or access. Users with the right access can add new data points, modify existing data, or retrieve the information they need with a database search.

Search engines function similarly to databases since they can also retrieve data based on inquiries. The main difference is that search engines and databases sort data in different ways and search results will be different. Databases can handle much more information than search engines, but search engines can parse unstructured data.

Unstructured data can't be stored in most databases or related to other information since it isn't classified like structured data is. The most common example of unstructured data is simple text.

Most companies need both a search engine within their website, known as a site search, and a database to accommodate their large variety of information.

When to Use Database or Web Search

A database works best in situations when a large amount of data needs to be stored and processed. Another good example is store inventory. Maintaining the list of the items for sale, their properties, prices, descriptions, and other specs would work best in a database to keep track of everything.

Many students are encouraged to use library databases to access articles from newspapers and officially approved journals. Unlike what you might find on the internet, databases contain vetted information already being sorted and cataloged. However, library databases usually require a paid subscription.

A web search, on the other hand, is best for processing unstructured data, like text. If you have multiple pages on your website like blog entries, you'll need an internal search that filters the pages so visitors can track down the subject they're searching for.

Why Site Searches Are Important

A search bar is one of the best resources for websites, regardless of size. Some people just want to look around, but the bulk of your money will come from clients who know what items or services they want. They require a quick approach to establish whether you can provide them with what they require and avoid wasting time if that is impossible.

That is why adhering to on-site search best practices is critical. Customers will have a far better experience with your website if they can quickly use a keyword search to verify your products or get relevant results to their problems without contacting your support.

Incorporate Natural Language

Customers are frequently unaware of SEO keywords to identify specific pages when they have inquiries or want to search for something. Everyone is accustomed to relying on a Google search's capacity to comprehend natural language and would want to submit their search in full text in the manner they would ask it aloud to another person.

A search engine tool that can handle natural language simplifies the search process for clients and increases the likelihood that the returns will be meaningful to their query.

When your search engine uses natural language, you can put direct answers, rich material, and calls to action at the fingertips of your clients.

Search Engine Results Pages

Search engine results pages, or SERP, are coveted by businesses and advertisers online. When a user is completing their research process, they're most likely to click on a result from the first page, specifically a link near the top of the page since that's what they'll see first. Therefore, ranking well with search engines is imperative for businesses to attract more customers.

The competition for a high ranking on popular internet-wide search engines like Google is very fierce. SERPs are based around keywords that the search engine identifies within the query and display the results that are not only relevant but also with high traffic. Interestingly, even if multiple people search for the same words or phrases, they will get different SERPs because every SERP is unique.

However, that ranking system also applies to internal website searches too. You want to ensure that the top-ranking links are products or pages that are relevant to your customer's search and don't clog the best real estate on the SERP with unrelated pages that will frustrate the user and make them scroll down to find anything useful.

Organic Results

Organic results are the ones that come from ranking highly within a search engine's criteria. The reward is one of the coveted top spots on the SERP. Search engines all use different criteria for ranking results, outside of the traffic a website sees and its relevance to the query. They might take things into account like:

  • User location

  • Browsing history

  • Previous shopping history

  • Cache settings

Most search engines don't disclose everything they use to rank websites to stop web companies from 'gaming the system' and catering exclusively to their needs. Ideally, the algorithm should be met naturally to encourage organic discovery. There are three types of searches, some of which are more likely to yield organic results than others.

Navigational Searches

With navigational searches, users are looking for a certain website. They already know what they're looking for, and they just need a quick and easy way to find it. The best example of this is knowing a brand name and searching it to find the right website.

Transactional Searches

Transactional searches most often yield paid results, which we will address in more depth below. These searches often involve the word buy and imply that the user wants to make a purchase. For advertisers, a user performing a search with high intent of buying something is the optimal customer, so they pay for their website to feature high up in the SERP.

Informational Searches

As the name suggests, informational searches are often the type that will lead you to a forum or a Wikipedia page. The user asks a question with the intent of learning the answer, possibly learning some related content, and then ending their session on a website. You are most likely to find organic results with informational searches since advertisers figure that these users are the least likely to continue through the sales funnel and make a purchase.

Paid Results

Despite their supposed commitment to encouraging organic discovery through websites that happen to meet their criteria and are ranked highly for maximum discoverability, most search engines also feature paid results. These results take up the best real estate on the page by appearing at the very top of the SERP. On Google, you might notice that the first three or four results on your SERP might say "Ad," indicating that it is a paid advertisement.

While organic searches can feature pictures, paid results often were slightly smaller and did not have any accompanying pictures. However, now it is much more challenging to distinguish between paid results and organic results at first glance.

Knowledge Graph

Another aspect of a SERP may include short, succinct answers to common questions about the topic you searched or related questions. In this way, users can see snippets of a web page that answer a direct question. The knowledge graph collects information about the topic in question from all across the internet so that the SERP can deliver a precise answer to a user's question.

In Conclusion

Recognizing how on-site searches operate is a crucial element of tailoring your website to the demands of your visitors. It's crucial to continually test your search functionality to verify that your clients get the rapid, helpful return they expect. This will enhance your income by leading clients to what they want without them having to spend too much time searching.

Contact us to learn more about the importance of a dependable internal search and engaging your customers.

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