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Why is website search so hard to do well?

I’m starting to see a lot more companies working on improving their website search. It’s always made sense to me, but for some reason, most companies haven’t focused on it. But when you think about, someone who is already on your site who is willing to search within your site might be a lot better prospect than someone else. So, if you have a site search engine that your customers are disappointed in, why might that be happening?

The first problems is that people often search after they have failed to find something through navigation. So, they are already a little frustrated before they even start.

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

But it’s more than that. If you think about it, they are often searching for information that is harder to find–that’s why they fail when they are navigating in the first place.

But the biggest issue is expectations. Google sets the searcher’s expectations sky-high because searchers think they are good at search and Google has the comparatively easy job of finding good results among hundreds or thousands of sites all trying to create the right answer. On your website, only one team–maybe just one person–is responsible for that page on your site. It’s unlikely that you have several really good answers for each search result the way you do on the Internet.

Maybe the expectations we have get in the way, too. We website owners expect that when we install a search engine, it should just work. But there is a lot more to search than just the search engine. You need to tune your ranking algorithm, measure your search results, align your content with popular searches, and dozen more steps.

If your company is unhappy with your website search results, Alex Holt and I offer Biznology Jumpstart Workshops for companies just like yours to turbo-charge your site search.

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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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