And how to capitalise on search insights.

Mara Kympizi Product Development Director

Think about how many searches we do every day, how ingrained this movement and experience is in our daily lives, that we don't even realise we're doing it, for example, looking up a contact on our mobile phone, a video on YouTube, a recipe or a “how-to” on Google, a product on a website, and so on. When searching, we don't expect search to just work; we've gone beyond that. We expect to get the answer to what we've asked for in a fraction of the time, without hassle and with results that are relevant. Because satisfaction comes when the results perfectly match our search intent so much to say... that the search "autocompletes" us.

There is indeed a very delicate relationship in the digital world, between customer search intent and discovery and an unbreakable rule; relevancy. This applies to any type of content searched for, but, in this post, I will focus on e-commerce. Imagine yourself walking into a brick-and-mortar store and saying to the salesperson you are in the market for a black mini skirt; and, then, the salesperson comes back and brings you a black men’s shirt, floral shorts and, lastly, a blue-black skirt - in that order. How frustrated would you be? Although this would never happen in the physical world, sadly, it happens at least one out of two times while searching online.

Everyone’s searching for something online, but only a few people find it…

More commonly used than the navigation menu (49%), filter feature (37%), and homepage recommendations (30%), consumers depend on the site’s search engine when online shopping, with 78% saying they typically use it to search for products and 52% of them are exiting the site if the search was unsuccessful. In fact, when searching for an item on a retail website, 80% of consumers, at least half of the time, go directly to the search box before browsing, with 62% doing this most or all of the time. (Google Cloud for Retail: Why search abandonment is the metric that matters)

Due to the increased level of purchase intent, searchers are known to convert up to 5–6x higher than the average non–site search visitor. In terms of value, searchers account for up to 14% of all revenue, and case studies have shown increased conversion rates of 43% from site search optimization.

The massive opportunity of On-site Search

Site search has tremendous potential to grow the business, reduce support costs, and generate a better customer experience, it is, however, a feature that is often neglected by online retailers, leading to missed opportunities in driving sales, in understanding their audiences, and enhancing user engagement.

How to optimise your Site Search

To understand how to optimise for a better search experience, we first need to break down the key components of a good search engine:

1. Powerful Indexing

An index is like a 'database' in a relational database. Simply put, it is the place where the data used by a search engine is stored. Unlike a database table, an index is optimised for search operations. In an e-commerce site, for example, you would want users to get results for products and pages at minimum, so you will be configuring two indexes: one for products and one for pages, since these two are different entities with different information. Powerful indexing means that the engine searches in all indexes faster than users can type – it can run searches over millions of products and content without breaking a sweat.

2. Query Matching Options

Depending on index and different data, you may wish to configure how the engine will match the user’s query. You can set it to be an exact match for the whole phrase of the user’s input, a not exact one, which will match at least one of the query’s words or both, for the engine to perform both operations, starting from exact with a fallback to any word, if necessary.

3. Relevance Tuning

Relevance Tuning per index level gives you the ultimate control to change how fields (searchable attributes) are weighted against one another and boost relevance given a value within a field.

4. Synonyms

Same industry retailers and brands often call the same or similar items with slightly different terms, and this is absolutely confusing to most users. Daily dilemmas such as pants vs trousers, nail lacquer vs varnish and t-shirts vs tees, just to name a few, should not bother your site visitors and you shouldn’t punish them with a no-results page for failing to know your preferred terminology, especially when all you have is 15 seconds to keep them engaged before they bounce off your site.

Therefore, the ability to build synonym sets is mandatory for a search engine. A synonym set may contain two or more queries that have similar meaning and will return the expected results for any word of the synonym set.

5. Fuzzy Match

With fuzzy match, your site allows users to make mistakes while typing and still find the records they’re looking for. This is done by matching words that are close in spelling and configuring tolerance of misplaced characters.

6. Word Stemming

Word Stemming reduces words to their base form, so the search engine can match the exact term plus words with the same stem, thus broadening the results.

7. Dictionary and Greeklish Transliteration

Use of Greeklish is unique to Greek speakers and that is the reason why Greeklish Transliteration is not supported from foreign/global search tools. If your market includes Greece, you need a search engine that can cope with almost any type of Greeklish (Greek words written in Latin characters).

8. Searchandising

Another must-have is Searchandising. Searchandising or searchandizing is another form of merchandising used for search. You can curate search results for a given search query and decide on the ordering of products to be displayed in search results by using an intuitive UI in visual mode, which reflects the product tiles and product information necessary to a merchandiser, such as price, inventory and brand. The ability to also hide products from showing in search results for a given search query is quite helpful as well.

9. Control over stop words and negative keywords

It is important for an admin to be able to manage exclusions for filler words from search operations and ban negative keywords from appearing as suggestions.

10. Testing Tool & Search Insights

You should be able to assess your index configurations and how the weights you've set or edited will affect results, before publishing and by getting “explained” answers.

A sophisticated search engine also comes with a rich dashboard of metrics to help you better understand your shoppers’ search-related activity. By understanding what your users are searching for, which of their queries are returning results or not, you can optimize your CX.

How to capitalise on Site Search

Put more emphasis on the search bar.

Given the importance of search in an e-shop, as shown in the stats we mentioned at the beginning of the post, if your search function is hidden underneath a search icon of a magnifying glass, you might want to reconsider it, because certainly you are losing conversions. Place the search box in plain view, at a central focal point and make sure the search bar is large enough to attract attention. An additional good practice is to use microcopy as a textual prompt to help the user out.

Add Features that delight and help searchers, such as:

  • Search as you type
    Amplifies the best-scored results instantly, while user is typing, from the first keystrokes.
  • Suggestions
    Displays relevant suggestions during typing. If the engine is capable of “learning” from user-generated queries and rank popular searches, then you have a winner.
  • Autocomplete
    Automatically provides real-time suggestions to complete the word or phrase a user enters in the text box.
  • Voice Search
    Uses the power of speech recognition to search content by transforming voice signals to text.

Analyse the data.

Every time visitors type something into the search bar, they’re providing valuable information about what they want. Analysing your site search data can help you evaluate the quality of your search function, reveal important keywords, and give you insights to improve conversion rates. Apart from understanding what users are looking for when they’re searching, you can also get insights about which queries did not turn any results and may start wondering if a product range you were not sure about launching in the first place, could now make sense, since it is expected by your audience.

With site search analysis, you’re able to enhance your website’s performance and your marketing strategy, based on what you constantly discover about your users. For example:

  • You can searchandise product / content appearance based on popularity for your popular search terms.
  • Top searches can be your next marketing campaigns’ focus!
  • Merchandise your product listings and place in the front positions your highly-searched products.
  • Monitor changes and trends in the frequency of a particular product or product categories’ searches to gain real-time insight into what’s currently hot and what’s not.
  • Search queries can be an inspiration for keywords on your Search Ads.
  • See the connections - evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts if your recent searches are related to your latest marketing promotion.
  • Help your users to also find answers from your content or policy pages and save both their and your customer support agents’ time.
  • Indirectly help your page SEO - it’s no coincidence that some of the highest-ranking websites are also easy to search.
  • Reduce the site’s bounce rate and search exit rate. More importantly, don’t let searchers leave to visit a competitor’s site.
  • There will always be cases where you cannot avoid returning a no results page. Don’t leave this page blank, fill in the page’s real estate with Product Recommendations!
  • Apart from your search tool insights, you can also track site search in Google Analytics 4.


On-site search is not merely a tool, but a critical element in crafting a seamless, intuitive, and satisfying online shopping experience. It's about connecting users to what they seek in the most efficient and relevant way possible. By optimising on-site search and leveraging the rich insights it provides, e-commerce businesses can significantly enhance user satisfaction, increase conversions, and drive growth. Remember, every search made on your site is an opportunity - a chance to understand your customers better, to meet their needs more effectively, and to build a relationship that goes beyond the transactional. Seize this opportunity, embrace the intricacies of on-site search, and transform these insights into actionable strategies that propel your business forward.

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