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Search Failure: You Can’t Stop Talking About It

Since January I’ve had dozens of discussions with marketing professionals as part of a product roadmap listening tour. My goal is to hear what’s top of mind for thought leaders, understand the pain points, and figure out how to align our product and our marketing messages with what I’m hearing. While most of the conversation focused around our new product thesis: effective visitor journeys and customer experience powered by behavior-based personalized content recommendation, people couldn’t help but talk about search failure.

Site Search

As you already know, searchers are your best prospects and are more likely convert according to the data our clients have shared with us. It’s true for B2C and it’s true for B2B. But selling this notion is hard because many companies have no clear owner for the search experience. So we don’t always talk about the positive effect our product has on search. But the people I’ve been talking to can’t help themselves. They universally volunteer that at best their search is a work in progress and at worst it’s a disaster.

So many stories

One large packaged goods company showed me a content marketing site that seemed incapable of providing search results of related articles. If you were looking for an article on living with teens, you were likely to see content marketing and products related to babies.

An executive at a leading insurance company lamented the fact that if you were looking for content related to their asset management business (a B2B play), you were just as likely to see information related to consumer offerings.

And there were also countless stories about personal B2C problems. Looking for the thing in white and only being offered red. Searching for a hoodie and being offered jackets without hoods. Seemingly random search results.

Why is that a problem?

Because of Google. You’ve spent a lot of money and effort improving SEO to attract visitors to the top of your funnel. If they land on your page and find the content wanting, they have three choices: site search, navigate, or go back to Google. Navigation is only viable if your site is simple enough to understand. For most B2B companies, this is really hard. If site search isn’t working, well your visitors are left with only one choice. Google.

There are three concerns when visitors bounce back to Google:

  1. It potentially invalidates your SEO strategy. You’re either on the wrong keywords, have the wrong content or both.
  2. Your ability to progress journeys is stymied.
  3. Your competitors get another crack at your visitors.

The Promise of AI and Site Search

A lot of site search vendors are beginning to pitch AI as a technology that will make search better. The engine is smarter, therefore results are better. That’s a start. If text analytics or machine learning models can make search content more relevant, then eventually your visitors may begin to trust your site search.

But what’s really relevant about better search is not the “how” of better search it’s the “why” of better search. Do the better results lead to fewer site bounces? Fewer exits? More conversions? Is your search data useful outside of search?

Is better search the answer?

Better search is only part of the answer. What you really want is better journey progression. What you really want are more conversions and more MQLs. That’s why we’re focused on building technologies that take better search data and using that elsewhere in the visitor journey.

If you’re a B2B company, it’s likely that site searchers make up a relatively small portion of your website visitors. But every visitor could use guidance as they try to navigate the complexities of your digital presence. Combining better search data with your journey data and your content data creates the opportunity to identify content that your visitors need so that they’re more likely to progress their journeys and less likely to bounce and exit.

Make your search smarter. But make sure you’re focused on the true goal. Increasing the likelihood that your visitors are going to connect with content that matters and progress towards their goal.

Steve Zakur

Steve Zakur

With over 20 years of experience in marketing and digital technology, Steve is now CEO of SoloSegment, a company which makes website conversions easier using AI.

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