Try as we might, many visitors (especially new ones) ignore our carefully crafted and affectionately tested navigational setup. They skim the page for the little magnifying glass that often appears in the site search bar. Animals! Just kidding, but it can be frustrating (for both parties) if the internal site search isn’t functioning to the best of its ability.
How do you get your site search to function in a way where everybody wins? Understand intent. That is the foundation. When a shopper lands on your site and navigates to the search bar, they are going to use their own words to get what they want. These shopper generated terms are not always terms that resonate with your search.
That is the main piece of this puzzle so once you understand intent, you can easily figure out whether or not your site contains the products/content that your visitors are looking for.
Understand when, why, how many, etc. people are using your site search. Most people largely underestimate how visitors are interacting with internal site search. As a general rule, if 5% or more of visitors are using your site search, it means that your site search is one (if not the) most valuable navigational tools on your site.
Once you have the percentage of shoppers that are using your site search, learn what they are searching for. Delve into your analytics and see what is being queried. Are there trends? Are these trends going up or down? Is there a seasonality to the queries? By spending a few minutes with your data, you will be able to learn so much about what your shoppers are looking for. Thus, you can start to cater to those needs.
Now it is time to measure site search quality. You now know what your shoppers are looking for. But are you filling that need? To find out, measure things like bounce rate, time spent on page, and the number of search result pages a shopper views. Then, dig deeper. What are the results on those pages? Do they make sense?
Finally, measure your results by focusing on the conversions. Conversions, though typically associated with revenue, can measure any positive interaction a visitor has with your site. Is your site search helping support your goals, or completely missing the boat?