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Boost ROI with Site Search – Webinar Highlights

If your website is central to the customer experience, then search – an action that almost half of all your website visitors will undertake – is arguably one of the most important aspects to get right.

But how do you know whether your site search experience is up to scratch? And, if it isn’t, how do you make the business case for improving it? And where do you start, once approved?

Luckily for you, our resident site search expert, Greg Costin, recently presented an in-depth webinar answering all of these questions and more, in Boost ROI with Site Search – a Marketer’s Guide. Just to make things even easier for all the busy marketers out there, we’ve summarised the webinar highlights here.

1) Making the Business Case for Site Search

Greg kicked off his presentation by dispelling an assumption that many marketers make about their site search – which is that it ‘should just work’. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t. “Good marketing is focused around attracting customers to the website and, once there, the hardest part is done. But what if, after all your efforts, they can’t find the information they need, get frustrated and leave?”, Greg poses to viewers.

To illustrate his point, Greg takes us through his own experience with CMO.com.au, a website that publishes great content about marketing and customer experience. Despite entering one of the site’s main subject areas ‘customer experience’ into the search bar, he’s presented with a list of adverts – including several from competing publisher websites: results that are neither helpful for him nor CMO.

Not wanting to single-out CMO, Greg points out that this is merely one of many examples across the web and of how overlooking site search can undermine everything else in your customer experience and marketing efforts. (Note: 55% of users will abandon a website if they can’t find information quickly). “Visitors to your site are using these micro-moments in their experience to decide whether or not they want to do business with you”, Greg explains. “Considering that most users prefer to go straight to the search bar – and, once when they do, are 3 times more likely to buy from you – getting search right has a direct link to revenue”.

2) Where to Start

Now we know why it’s worth honing your site search, how do we get started? Greg’s advice is to get to grips with understanding the basics of your user intent, such as:

  • Who are our customers?
  • What information do they need?
  • Why do they need it?
  • When are they looking for it?
  • Where have they come from?

The answer to these questions is important and will inform how your search needs to work. Not sure where to find this information? Greg suggests searching through your existing customer personas, your website analytics and your Funnelback reports – which will also tell you what users are searching for and not able to find (an invaluable insight into how successful their search experience has been). Learning the answers to these questions can help you to fill content gaps on your site, shorten conversion paths (by getting users the answers they’re looking for, quicker), increase engagement and reduce bounce rates.

To gain an even better idea of what your search experience should be aiming for, Greg suggests taking a look at what the best and worst experiences look like for users. During his presentation, Greg visits several sites to give us live examples. In the first example, for energy provider AGL, Greg enters the simple query ‘Pay bill’; only to be faced with ‘no results’. For an energy provider that actively encourages customers to make payments online, this seemingly straightforward request will leave many customers feeling frustrated and forced to search the site in order to complete the transaction.

In contrast, when Greg enters ‘Hobart’ on the Discover Tasmania website, he’s immediately served with an array of highly relevant results, including where to stay in Hobart, things to do and tour operators. These results are also helpfully categorised into sections such as ‘editorial’, ‘attractions’ and ‘hire’, to help searchers to see the nature of the information at-a-glance while scrolling. To make the experience even easier and more immediate for searchers, Discover Tasmania provides the option to expand the result details within the search page, to find key information like maps, phone numbers or links to tour operator sites more quickly. “Not only are they shortening the transaction time, but they’re also offering different ways of viewing information and greater context around the results”, explains Greg.

3) How to Achieve ROI

The ability to calculate ROI on an improved site search experience will not only help to win internal support for continuous improvement but will help to track whether the changes you’re making are having a genuine impact.

Case study: British Colombia Institute of Technology

To evidence this, Greg ran viewers through an example of an organisation that had successfully measured the ROI of its site search – BCIT. By calculating that every website visitor was worth roughly $26 and every site search user was worth $136, BCIT were able to calculate exactly how much site search was earning the organisation. Through Funnelback tools, BCIT enhanced their search experience with promoted results, targeted banner ads and faceted search (categorised results). Alongside impressive results such as an increased conversion rate of 13.9%, the goal value of their search users increased by $5m in just 12 months.

Finally, having taken his audience through the process of creating a good site search experience and tracking ROI, Greg provided some key tips for continuous improvement.

Top Tips for Increasing Site Search Conversions…

  • Use contextual promotions
    Site search is one of the easiest ways to generate ROI on your other marketing activities – just ensure the promotion is directly relevant to the search query and helps the user in some way.
  • Remove unnecessary results
    PDFs and other types of content, or too many results, can make the search results appear cluttered and increase the chances of users dropping out.
  • Personalise
    Funnelback has an out-of-the-box personalisation tool that enables you to personalise search simply and easily.
  • Cater to errors
    As we saw with the AGL example, search that is too rigid and isn’t set up to accept variations on search terms makes for an unhelpful and frustrating experience. Search should be tolerant to typos, synonyms and variations in terminology.
  • Make the search bar obvious

In another BCIT example, Greg explains how a design experiment went wrong when the organisation decided to swap out its original search bar for a subtle magnifying glass icon. The result? Site searches dropped by 8,800 in 7 weeks which, based on a goal value of $53 per search, totalled an estimated loss of $466,400.

…and Reducing Costs

  • Provide a range of content with helpful result summaries
    Often, users might be searching for content that lies within other sites, customer portals or third-party systems, so try to make these available to them in the search results. The objective should always be to minimise the chances of users not finding relevant results.
  • Make search fast
    If you ask two people the same question and one takes time to think about it, while the other answers instantly, whose answer are you more likely to trust? The same applies to online search. The more instant the results, the more your users will trust them.
  • Use the same search technology across your website

Not only will different search technology make for a disjointed experience, but it means marketers lose the overall picture of the user search experience.

So, there you have it – how to boost ROI with site search in a nutshell. For the full presentation with extra tips and real-life examples, check out the on-demand webinar here. Alternatively, for more information on how to perfect your site search experience, read our latest eBook Increase Conversions and Cut-Through with Site Search.

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