Most of you know that I work with large companies on improving their site search. [Disclaimer: I am a Senior Strategist for SoloSegment, which sells site search improvement technology.] But one of the ways to improve site search that you might not have though of is with search suggestions, the clever technique that guesses what searchers will type based on what has been searched for in the past.
You’ve probably seen these auto-suggest capabilities when you use Google or other search engines. Most site search experiences have one, too. Unfortunately the way they work doesn’t do much to improve site search. Sure, getting suggestions makes the experience a bit better, but it doesn’t offer much help in searchers finding what they are looking for.
The secret to a search suggestion tool that actually makes search better is in the analytics. First, you need to identify how you know when searches are better, which you can do by measuring the experience. Failed searches yield no results, or yield results that aren’t clicked on–or results that get clicked on, but the searcher quickly returns back to the search results page. You can guess that anything else might be a success.
Now that you can measure your successful searches, you have something to work with in auto-suggest–you can suggest not just keywords that are popular, but those that get the highest success rates. That way you are nudging searchers into choosing keywords that are more successful. You haven’t done any heavy lifting, but your searchers are suddenly finding more of what they are looking for than before. Such is the power of suggestion.