By Monique Martin
Even if your Web site doesn’t have thousands or even hundreds of pages, a search function can go a long way in helping to create a positive user experience. The easier it is for someone to find things on your site, the better is for them and for you. And, if you running an ecommerce site, ensuring that your buyers can find what they’re looking for is critical to your business’s success.
Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes. How often do you search versus browse? With the incredible amount of information available on the Internet, searching (as opposed to browsing) has become second nature to most users. Don’t stop them in their tracks when they get to your site. Some visitors will even spend their entire session looking for a search function. If they don’t find it, you’ve lost a potential customer.
No matter how hard you’ve worked to make your site navigation simple and user-friendly, there will always be users who get lost. What might seem intuitive to one person can be confusing to another. Don’t let a prospective client or buyer slip through your fingers because they gave up trying to find what they’re looking for. A search function gives your site visitors another option.
Many of the users who come to your site are looking for something specific, and they don’t have a lot of time to find it. They’re as impatient in cyberspace as they are in real life. Those who want to window shop can still do so by browsing, but the majority of users want what they want, and they want it now. A search function gives users a direct line from entering your site to their goal. The easier you make it for them to achieve what they want from your site, the more likely they are to become repeat customers and recommend you to their friends and colleagues.
You can integrate your search results into your site analytics package (like Google Analytics) and gain even more insight into who is doing what, where, how and when. The more you know about your customers’ behavior, the better. Knowing what happened during and after the search process can give you a clearer vision of what you need to do to make your site more streamlined and maximize the potential gain for each session.
A search function doesn’t have to take over your site design to be effective. And, it doesn’t have to break the bank either. There are several low-cost solutions including Google’s Site Search. There are free services available, but they’re usually ad-supported, which can siphon traffic.
If you only have a handful of products or your site is serving as a small online brochure, a search function probably isn’t necessary. But, if you offer an array of products or have deep content, a search engine function is a low-cost addition with tremendous upside.
Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.