CQL’s Lead User Experience Architect, MacKenzie DeWitt, along with the Founder and CEO of Syatt Media, Jon Garyfalakis, recently joined forces with Workarea for a roundtable discussion on site and search optimization strategies to increase conversions. Workarea hosted the webinar event, which included attendees from manufacturing, retail, and ecommerce backgrounds, all of whom were looking for new ways to increase their conversion strategy.
Moderated by Worarea’s VP of Marketing, Bill Tarbell, the roundtable discussion centered around a variety of questions that looked at search engine strategies from both a technical and UX perspective. Subtopics on changes in search, search optimization analytics, search from a UI perspective, and much more were addressed by both MacKenzie and Jon. This discussion is outlined below in our roundtable webinar recap.
How is Search Changing for Ecommerce Users in the Short Term and Long Term?
As more and more people are using their mobile phones to shop, marketers have found that search strategy is not just for those browsing online stores from their desktop. Now, changes in search are part of a mobile and desktop strategy. For both instances, one thing is certain from MacKenzie’s perspective. “The more comfortable people get with using search, the more companies see the importance of investing in that. People are really becoming accustomed to searching, so what we are seeing is search more as a front door to the site, especially for users that know what they are looking for,” said MacKenzie. Perhaps this is why we are seeing short-term changes to search on mobile and desktop, where the search icon (🔍) or search bar is either anchored or a collapsible element right at the top of the page.
Jon sees these short-term search strategies as an opportunity for long-term conversion effects, “Search is really a catalyst of that conversion feature. We see catalog sizes increasing, users are able to access the products they need more quickly, and brands categorize properly to meet user search needs,” said Jon. All of this makes marketers and brand managers wonder how they can use these search strategies, both short-term and long-term, to their full potential. It’s all in the data.
The High-Level Aspects of Search that Should be Measured and Optimized
When it comes to measuring success, there needs to be data to quantify a result. With data, there needs to be measurability so that the desired effect can be optimized for the best-possible outcome. The same goes for developing the best strategy for your users to get what they want.
According to Jon, there are three main categories to measure when it comes to optimizing site search for conversions:
- Acquisition: The way in which your user acquires a product through searching
- Conversion: The act of converting that shopper to a buyer
- Retention: Keep this buyer coming back for more
When these categories are measured, companies can better understand how their users are not only operating their on-site searches, but what triggers a conversion. This data not only shows user search trends, but also what keyword terms may need to be added or removed from your backend search tool. Jon noted, “Merchants should be looking at a weekly basis, and KPI’s on a monthly basis. For merchants, this can slide away easily since there are thousands of changing products. Marketers should meet with a broader team – if they are not properly looking at search on a weekly basis they are using conversion opportunities. So often, it can be overwhelming on where to start or look. You can start looking at a macro level with the top 10 products.”
MacKenzie added another important aspect to search optimization: understanding your users. “One of the things that’s really important is recognizing your personas. We ask ourselves what are they looking for? This gives you clarity in what you should be presenting. Colors, ratings, shipping, new vs selling fast, low in stock – we don’t want to overwhelm our users, but how do we give them a snapshot of what they are looking for that is useful?” said MacKenzie.
In addition to user metrics and understanding personas, the user interface plays an important role in site search.
A UI Perspective on Site Search
When it comes to online search, there is one word we love: “simple”. A simple and seamless process for finding what you are searching for is ideal for users. No one likes to search for something such as “blue jeans” and only lounge pants show up in search results. Below, MacKenzie lays out some UI organizational options for how search results play out on a results landing page.
- Scannable: Content is short, sweet, and to the point. Links to other pages and products are used to provide your readers with supplemental information.
- Quantity of information: The amount of information provided on the page for each product. This includes information such as sale item, pricing and price cuts, item ID number, and more.
- Refinements: Controls that can refine search results categorically, such as item color options, pricing scale, apparel sizes, and more.
- Swatches or iconography: Iconography assists the user in their journey for a product. For example, when you search “soap” on Target’s website, they not only show top rated soap options, but also suggest subtopic options that categorize “soap”, such as “hand soap,” “bath soap,” “soap bar,” and so on.
- Category pages: Similar to using iconography for product searches and related categories, these category pages host the subtopic information, and point the user in the right direction.
In terms of search specifically on mobile, Jon points out that the search needs to be the primary tool driving users toward the product page.
Search Relevance and the Tools Used to Improve Search Results
We touched on this earlier with measurability, but an attendee of the webinar wanted to know specifics. Jon said, “When it comes to looking at results, there are a few things to pay attention to, such as the synonyms attached to these results, related-popular products, and other product options available from a specific search.” He continued, “ You should look at the results that are populating for the most popular products and hypothesize if these are relevant to your search. Marry in some content that drives the user to navigate to what they want. In a case where you get very specific, have options for terms and a reductive map on top of search.”
MacKenzie also mentioned some tools CQL uses to identify what keywords and synonyms are helpful when navigating organic search results from users. These include: Quantum Metrics, Google Search Console, and SEM Rush. These tools not only help with identifying popular search and keyword terms, but also the understanding of common misspellings and phonetic misspellings.
When Should I Show Content Results Around Product Results?
When it comes to searching for a product, it’s important to consider whether or not your user wants to see content around product results. MacKenzie explains, “You need to understand the content and when it’s appropriate. Maybe someone is more into the loyalty of the brand, and they want to see the rewards. Maybe it’s the availability of “need help” – “not finding the product you want” – an influential indicator of converting by interacting with the specialist.” In some cases, the results are driven by the user’s specific intention.
Jon splits content and product results into two categories:
- Is this a considered purchase or non-considered purchase?: Is this a high-value item that they need to consider, or is it something that they will add to their cart without thinking about it in too much detail?
- Type of traffic to a subset or category: Is there somewhere where you need to nurture them along the way? If so, it’s appropriate to use content. For instance, if you are looking for a power tool, you are also provided with the products that attach to that tool.
How Does Language and Multiple Languages Factor into Your Site Search?
Another attendee wanted to inquire with the roundtable on language options for site search. Jon addressed this from a technical perspective, he said, “If you are in a multi-website setup, you can do that directly for that instance. You can use the synonym function, or in the description, you use the spanish term. In the backend of Workarea, you can make a rule stating that this word means that word.” There are options for multi-brand and single-brand sites to accommodate multiple languages without hindering a user’s search and ability to convert.
Top Things to Consider When Starting to Understand Your Site’s Search
Sometimes the best place to start is understanding your products. Jon Said, “Start with knowing your top products and categories. Pick the one that looks like it’s hurting the most, and work on it from there.”
MacKenzie weighed in, “Look at performance – where are shoppers not having success? Is it a term? Are the results not what they expected or is it cumbersome? Reenact this to better understand where things are catching and ultimately terminating a conversion.”
When you walk the journey yourself, you are better acquainted with your search functions. For example, MacKenzie pointed out this can help you discover “dead-end” pages. These are pages that end with an error or “cannot find this item.” She said this should never happen. The user should always be prompted to keep moving – whether that be a “did you mean?” recommendation or a “contact us” prompt. It’s important there is always a next step to keep the user engaged.
Trust the Experts on Search Optimization Strategies to Increase Conversions
Here at CQL, we understand the importance of search optimization and how it impacts your business. We have experienced and talented digital marketing and UX & UI professionals waiting to help you convert shoppers to buyers with key search optimization strategies. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your business increase its conversions.