These days, people are familiar with the concept of starting their online journey with a keyword search, which means that they are comfortable using a search box on your website.

On most Ecommerce websites the site search results page is one of the most visited pages there is and yet it is still quite common to undertake a simple search for something that this retailer surely must sell only to see ‘product not found’.

How can you make sure that your site search is not one of these annoying poor performers?

Here are our top 5 tips …

Improve your ‘no results found’ page

In fact, make sure that there is no such thing as a ‘no results’ page!

If you don’t have the product they have searched for, then offer an alternative. If your customer reaches a search results page where no products are returned, and no alternatives are offered, they’ll probably leave the site immediately.

Not only is this infuriating for the searcher, but it is losing you business every time it happens!

If their search is so ‘imaginative’ that your site search cannot identify a suitable alternative product, then offer some other help instead.

For example, you could display your current top selling products, or provide guidance on using your search facility, or links to your key product categories to help them work out where to find what they want.

Create spelling associations to help with misspellings, variations and synonyms

This is closely linked to point 1 – the lack of alternatives may be why you get a ‘no results’ page.

Good search tools allow you to create associations between words or phrases and their misspellings or variations. The best will have common misspellings already built in.

Consider misspellings, synonyms and variations that might used to describe each of your products.

For example: on a golfing equipment site, how many variations are there of writing 50 degree wedge? 50 deg, 50 degree, 50 degrees, 50°? Is there a difference in the results between it being written with or without a space between the number and degrees? Does the site search understand that these all mean the same thing?

My favourite example of getting it wrong was on a site selling televisions. Their best selling product was a Panasonic, 42 inch flat screen TV.  Or was that a 42”, or a 42in, or a 42 in? In fact the only one that brought up any results at all was 42”. I just checked and it still isn’t working!

Make sure your top products are searchable for all descriptive variations.

Help customers find relevant products with filtering options

Give your customer the option to refine their search, to narrow down their product selection, by choosing attributes such as size, colour, brand or price.

This works well because it very much mirrors the way that customers tend to shop offline.

Once you’ve found the product type that you want to buy (a laptop for example), you then tend to narrow down your product choice according to certain criteria – how much memory you need, hard disk size, processor speed, price etc.

Offer custom sorting and viewing options

Allow your customers to sort their search results in the way they want to. Whether it’s by ascending/descending price, alphabetical order, by product popularity or, if you offer them, customer reviews.  This is a typical example from Argos.

argos site search options

Also allow the customer to decide how many results she sees on a page.

There is some evidence to suggest that if you have 70 items in the search results, item 65 will be viewed more often if you show 7 pages of 10 results than 1 page of 70 results. So by all means default to a smaller number of results on each page, but give your customer the option to change that if they want.

Invest in an “intelligent search” package

Many Ecommerce systems come with a built in site search facility, and some will be better than others. But I’d strongly recommend that you look into a specialised site search solution.

Visitors who successfully use the site search to find what they want typically convert at double the rate of those who don’t.

So by encouraging more people to use the site search and making sure it delivers the right results, you will increase sales due to the higher conversion rate.

A good site search tool will do a lot of the work for you when it comes to optimising your search results. It will meet all the points listed above as well as offering other features such as custom landing pages, drag and drop of search results and easy methods to promote particular categories of product (e.g. best sellers or certain brands).

It’s worth investing in the best possible Site Search facility for your business!


If you have found this useful, then please do check out our other articles on Site Search and get in touch on 01865 595260 if you have any questions.