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Why you are ignoring your ugly site search

That headline isn’t fair to everyone, because some marketers are really working to make site search better. But I am pointing my finger at the rest of you. Here are the reasons I have been told that you are ignoring fixing your site search:

  • No one uses it. So, if it is terrible, it is a sign of intelligence that your customers avoid it. But guess what? If you look at your analytics, you will probably find that your site search results page is in the top 10 of all pages on your site. For some of you, it’s #1 in page views–even higher than your home page. So, um, they do use it.
  • It doesn’t have any value. Yes it does. Studies show anywhere from 43% to 600% higher conversion rates for site searchers. And that’s not because it works so well. It’s because those are your most determined customers. Rather than fleeing your site when they couldn’t find that product, they stayed and searched on your site because they are convinced you have it and they want to buy it from you. Bad site search annoys your best customers.
  • It’s not really that bad. You’re making that up. You have no idea how bad it is because you don’t look at any analytics to tell you. My partners at SoloSegment offer a site search analytics system that would tell you if you were using it, but you aren’t. You have no idea how bad it is. It is common for fewer than one in three searches to find what they are looking for. How happy would you be with any other page that was that bad?
  • It’s owned by the IT team. And why is that? Because it is technology? Please. The IT team runs your CMS and your eCommerce system but you decide what those systems show on your site. You’d die laughing if you heard another marketer tell you that they let their IT team decide the content on their site. But you let the IT team be in charge of what content the site search engine shows. Why? It’s not OK that your customers are being disappointed just because it is someone else’s fault within your company. Step up.
  • You don’t know what to do to make it better. Now we are getting somewhere. This is the first time you left denial of the problem and deflection of responsibility to just admit that you don’t know how to fix it.

When you are ready to fix it, let me know. We’ll start with the analytics to see how bad it is and then we will gradually make improvements to the user interface, the content, and the search engine configuration to make it better. We will A/B test everything–even search configurations–to get the experience that your customers deserve. You can do it if you want to. You just have to want to.

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,, most recently as the Manager of 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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