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Improving your web site’s top searches

In a recent entry, we asked if you knew the top 10 searches for your Web site’s search facility. Identifying your top searches starts you on your way to improving them. But what do you do once you know what they are? Let’s look at the major ways you can improve your Web site’s top searches.

After you identify your top searches, you follow the same basic steps for each one:

  1. Identify the best landing page. For the top pages on your site, this should be easy—what page is the right one to show? If you don’t know, someone at your company does. At IBM, if someone searches for “websphere,” they want the WebSphere home page. If they search for “web server,” they want the same page. Identify the pages that should be returned for your top searches.
  2. Check to see what pages are actually returned. When you enter your top queries, do you get that page that you picked? Is it the #1 result? If so, then celebrate and skip to step #4.
  3. Get the right pages to show up. As with search marketing, optimizing your content is your best approach here—you fix your content for your Web site search and for Google as well. But there are other things to try as well. Does your Web site search results page allow results that you select manually? (They might be called “Recommendations” or “Best Bets” on your page.) Make sure that the correct page is listed there. Does your results page have ads or other promotions? You can get an ad to link to the correct answer as well. The more ways the searcher has to get to the right place, the better off you are.
  4. Decide if you would click on it. If you’ve got the “right” page at the top of your search results list, that is great, but there’s more to do. Look at that search results page. Does the title of your #1 result tell you that it is the right answer? Look at the rest of the information that is displayed on that search results page. Does it look like the information that would cause a searcher to click? It’s great for the correct page to be the #1 result, but it’s even better if the searcher sees that it is the right answer and actually clicks on it.
  5. Check your clickthrough statistics. It’s not enough to convince yourself that searchers will click on the right page—do they? For broad queries (such as “websphere” on IBM’s site), you should see strong clickthrough on that top result: 30%, 50%, maybe even more. If your searchers don’t click through on that answer, you may need to take a fresh look at your title and the other information displayed on your results page.

Use this basic “lather, rinse, and repeat” process to go through each of your popular searches, starting with #1 and moving down the list as deep as you can. You can’t improve all searches this way, because many of your searches are entered infrequently, but this kind of attention to your most frequent ones will pay off with better search results and searchers who get where they are going on your site.

For more tips on optimizing your content, check out Search Engine Marketing, Inc. to see how to improve your Web pages so search engines can find them.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide.

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