Why is your website search lousy?


Most websites have a lousy search facility. As a web user, you probably agree with that assertion. You’ve tried searching websites and you hardly ever find what you are looking for–at least not without a lot of work. But how about your website? What is the search like there? You might not want to admit it, but it probably isn’t as good as it could be. You’d like it to be better, wouldn’t you? But, if you are like most people, you don’t really know why your website search isn’t working and you don’t know what to do to make it improve.

Search Box
Photo credit: YOU & I tee

That doesn’t make you dumb–it makes you normal. Website search isn’t easy to make work–that’s why most of them don’t. But one of the biggest  reasons behind the failure of website search is that people blame the search engine. “Our search engine stinks,” they usually say. But most of the time that isn’t what’s wrong. That’s not to say that some search engines aren’t better than others, but most of them are rather good.

What else are you looking at?

  • Do you know what people are looking for? You probably have a whole team looking at external search optimization for Google, but how many people are looking at your most popular site search keywords? In most companies, it’s none. Think about how well your SEO would work if you did not keyword research. That’s one reason that your search facility might not be providing the right results–you don’t know what people are looking for, so how can you improve the results?
  • Do you know what the right answers are? For some searches, it’s extremely obvious what the right answer is, but not all. Once you know what people are looking for, the next step is to figure out what information will satisfy their curiosity. For SEO, this is called “choosing your landing page”–do you have anyone doing that for site search? What are your site search landing pages? Most companies don’t know.
  • Do you have the right answers on your site? Often, when I answer the first two questions with clients (usually for the first time), they discover that many of the correct site search landing pages don’t even exist on their site.

There are many other possibilities to analyze the results. The problem isn’t that there aren’t analysis techniques, but that so few people use them. I think the reason is that website search is really a specialty. Very few people really understand how to make it better. And if you’re not one of those few, we’d be happy to help. Alex Holt and I provide Biznology Jumpstart Workshops for Website Search, where your website search problems are analyzed by your own team with the proper training. When you realize how much a lousy website search can cost your business, you might want to take some steps to make it better.


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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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