Search Mattersô

Keeping Visitors Engaged With Site Search

B2B sites tend to be more difficult for visitors to find what theyíre looking for. Perhaps itís because things donít always fit neatly into more intuitive consumer categories. Perhaps itís because B2B sites are often laden with so much diverse information. While site owners can engineer enhanced usability, better optimize and structure content, or create better organic landing pages, none of these options is a quick fix. Googleís Site Search offers a quick, inexpensive way to keep visitors engaged and (hopefully) get them quickly to their destination on your site.

Weíve all clicked on promising organic search results and been quickly disappointed that the landing page doesnít contain what weíre looking for. In many cases Iíll often land at a site Iím fairly certain contains what I want, so Iíll take a few clicks through the siteís navigation. But if I donít find what I want in a few clicks, I donít have the patience to keep searching. Iíll go to another site. All of us see these visits in our analytics, too. A four-page, 20-second visit. Then, theyíre gone.

Site search functionality offers a way to keep visitors engaged a while longer. If visitors donít quickly find what they want through navigation, they may try the siteís search tool. Many B2B visitors will go to the siteís search tool right away as an alternative to navigating to find an answer.

While many larger sites have already have site search functions, more often than not Iíve been disappointed with their search results. When Iím looking for a specific product or service, Iíll get hundreds of search results, but the first 30 results will be investor news releases or obscure technical articles. The results arenít relevant to my quest. Not only do I leave without my desired answer, Iíve also formed some negative perceptions of the company and its website.

Last week, Google relaunched its rebranded custom search engine as Google Site Search. I think itís a good answer for many B2B sites. It doesnít cost much. Pricing depends on the number of pages indexed and the number of annual queries. For a site with less than 5,000 pages and less than 250,000 annual search queries, the cost is $100 per year. Pretty reasonable.

Getting all of your content indexed by Google can be a challenge, especially with large B2B sites. Google Site Search offers the opportunity of deeper site indexing for site-specific search. While this deeper site indexing wonít get more pages indexed by Google or help you in your Google rankings for web searches at Google.com, it will help you ensure all of your pages are reflected in the index of your siteís Google Site Search. This means searchers will get different (and likely better) results using Googleís Site Search on your site than if they used Google.com to search for information on your site (e.g., incorporating site:www.yoursite.com into the Google query).

Googleís site search also gives site owners the opportunity to ďbiasĒ the search results in a couple ways. For sites in which new content is typically more important, site owners can ensure search results are more heavily weighted to newer site content. Site owners can also bias search results to reflect certain sections of the site more than others, e.g., product-related pages more than company-information pages. This can help drive searchers more quickly to revenue-generating pages.

If you donít have search capabilities on your B2B site, it makes sense to spend $100 to try it. Thereís not much you can do for $100 these days. So try it out. Then watch your analytics. Notice what visitors search for. That alone is great information. Also, see if your bounce rates decline, or if the average time on your site goes up materially. And watch your conversion rates.

If you already have search functionality on your site, you still may want to test out Google Site Search. Set it up and do some comparative searches. See if you think the search results are more relevant or if the user experience is better. Iím not sure if Googleís Site Search will be better than what you already have (and Iím not trying to sell Googleís Site Search), but again, for $100, itís worth a test.

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