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What’s your site search costing you?

When we announced the IBM OmniFind Yahoo! Edition, our free search engine software, there was a minor dustup in the blogosphere about what “free” means. OK, we admit it. You need hardware, (Sheesh!) And you do need someone to initially make those three clicks to install it. And we know our software is “set it and forget it”—so your maintenance costs are low. But are those the costs you should be thinking about? No. Those costs are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. (And after watching Titanic, I vowed to hang around only proverbial icebergs from then on.)

The most expensive site search you’ll ever own is the one that doesn’t work.

Searchers using the average Web site search facility find what they are looking for just 34 percent of the time. When compared to the success people experience using Internet search engines, it’s no wonder that searchers are expecting more from your site search facility.

When your site search doesn’t work, you lose customers because they might abandon your site for your competitors. But it’s even worse than that. When your site search is consistently disappointing, your regular visitors may come less frequently, or they may begin to use search alternatives—the Google toolbar threatens your sales, too.

Clearly, a sub-par search facility on your site is leaking customers to your competitors. Let’s look now at the positive side—what does having a good site search facility get you?

  • If they can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Simple, huh? In some ways, it is. Some of your customers won’t find what you sell by navigating—when they seek, you want them to find.
  • The larger your catalog, the more you need search. It’s no surprise that huge e-tailers focus on search—when you have thousands and thousands of items for sale, navigation gets mighty tedious. Can you imagine using eBay without search? Searchers use eBay’s excellent site search over two billion times a month. But you don’t need to be an eBay to need a good site search. If you have even 100 pages on your Web site, navigation becomes more problematic.
  • Search provides free market research. Where else can you find out exactly what is on your customers’ minds without paying a dime? Examining the list of what searchers type tells you what problems they have, which products are hot, and what content is missing from your site.

So, you may be sitting there with a site search facility that you and your customers find disappointing. But maybe you’ve never felt able to try another one, because of the time and expense required to implement it. I mean, you thought the one you have now would work, and it hasn’t. Do you really want to go out on a limb to justify the cost of another search engine that might be just as bad or even worse?

Well, you don’t have to. For no money, in just a few minutes, you can download a free search engine. You can set it loose to index your site. Try it out and see if the result are superior. If it’s not, nobody needs to know. What have you got yo lose?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for 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 serves 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 is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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