Search Bar Optimization: You Need It Even If You Don't Know It Yet

If you are wondering whether optimizing site search is for you, here's one thing you definitely need to know: 61% of your competitors don't pay enough attention to how their site's search bar works. If you put some time and effort into your site search, you'll stand out from the crowd quite quickly. In this piece, we'll explain why e-stores should always aim to optimize their search box - and the obvious benefits this optimization yields.

5 reasons why you need to optimize your search bar

Between 30% and 60% of visitors rely on it

Customers use the search box to find what they are looking for: numbers vary from site to site, but generally between 30% and 60% of users fall back on the internal site search. It's quicker than crawling the site using navigation - which can also be quite confusing, depending on how familiar you are with industry-specific vocabulary on the site you are surfing.

Site search is twice as effective at converting

Customers who use the search box, more often than not, already know what they need. They simply want to see if your store offers it and on what terms (price, shipping costs, etc.) In short, these customers have a much more pronounced shopping intent - and are much likelier to become buyers. 2 to 4 times likelier than those who don't use search, in fact - according to eConsultancy.
Site searches convert at a much higher rate
Visitors relying on search convert much more effectively

Explorers account for 45% of all revenue

According to Forrester, an average of 15% of users relies on the search box - but they will contribute 45% of all revenue to your kitty.
Almost half your sales happen through search - that's a crazy number if you stop and think about it.

84% of visitors want to find a solution by relying on search

Parature did a study and discovered that an insane 84% of users prefer combing through the website themselves as opposed to having to write emails or phone your customer's service. Shoppers want to solve the problem, all they need is a tool for it.

As many as 47% of customers won't return if you fail them

According to Accenture, as many as 47% will leave your site as a result of bad customer service. That's almost half of your potential buying force - and how search works plays a significant role in it.

What does an optimal search box look like?

Now that we've established you need to optimize your search bar, it's time to answer the less obvious question: what should you be looking for in a perfect search box? A lot of things count, so let's get down to it.

Location, location, location

We've migrated from books to papers to computers to phones when we read but the habits remain the same: we still rely heavily on the F-shaped pattern when scanning pages of text. That means we look across the top first, and then at the left-hand side.

It matters when choosing your search bar's placement. Always try to position at the top, on the right-hand side - where users usually expect to find it - or centrally. Avoid placing it on the left: research shows numbers drop off dramatically because the top-left corner is not an obvious place to look.
Place your bar at the top, centrally
Embrace the top central placement

Announce your search bar to the world - and keep reminding everyone it's there to be used

Your search bar should stand out, be easily detectable, and, what's no less important - it should be on every page, in the exact same place (with the exception of your shopping cart - you don't want to distract customers from completing their purchase). But generally, few will want to return to your home page every time they need to adjust their search query, so incorporate the search box across all pages.

Make sure your search box comes alive when someone interacts with it too. Make it expand from the original smaller size, make the placeholder text disappear, make the borders change color. The customer should be in no doubt he's actually using the bar when he clicks on it.

Make use of the sticky widget

Should your users decide to refine their input data while scrolling the page, having a sticky search widget on hand will be an enormous help. All they have to do is click the search button in the form of the magnifying glass icon and the search box will appear. This allows users to toggle the search bar at will - and they'll appreciate the sentiment.

Optimize your search for mobile

According to Statista, over 60% of all searches in the US in 2021 were conducted via phones. People won't always have a laptop on hand to browse your website. You should be prepared for that, and offer a search field that fits the smaller screens nicely without losing its functionality. Oh yes, about that…
Mobile search bar
Pay attention to how you search bar looks on mobile

The functionality your search bar should offer

Your search bar should come with a few bells and whistles. People expect search engines to perform at a certain level. You might position your bar centrally, make it consistent and mobile-friendly all you like but it won't be nearly enough unless the bar features several functions.

Autocomplete

AKA predictive search. When was the last time you spelled your search out in full on Google or Amazon? Have you ever stopped to think it wasn't always this way? That's because you get used to nice things quickly.

Your search bar should be one step ahead of your shopper and offer suggestions to complete his or her query so they don't have to bother.

Typo-resistance

AKA 'Did you Mean?' Users will make spelling mistakes, trust us. They will be in a hurry, or typing on a small screen - and they'll misspell words: 10-15% of customers do that, half of them leave the site if their query doesn't return results. Your search bar should thus be ready to present those results even if a typo crept in somewhere along the way.

Search history

When users feel they are close to finding what they need, they'll go back and refine their search. They'll alter the initial search input or add words to it. That's why it's paramount for your search box to remember earlier queries. For that reason, you should also aim to display the original search in the box after the shopper presses 'enter'. Having to type from scratch will likely make the user rage-quit your site.

Synonyms

Not everyone is well-versed in how new clothing items are called, for example. Even fairly simple stuff like 'trousers' WILL be called 'pants' and you'll have to work around that - or else lose sales.

That's where synonyms come in. Make sure you think of every possible way your catalog items might be called. Keep tabs on what your users search for if you must. But don't return the infuriating 'no results' page' because you didn't think of adding 'bikini' as a synonym for 'beachwear'.
Add commonly used words to your vocabulary through the admin
Use synonyms to help shoppers

Avoid the "no results" page

Have you ever been on the receiving end of the 'sorry, nothing found' page? It's depressing and maddening in equal measure. Especially if you think your item is basic enough to be on the site but for some reason, it doesn't appear to be. You'd probably feel hard done by and won't return to the said website.

A skillful combination of autocomplete, synonyms, and redirects can help you minimize the number of blank pages: we went over the subject in detail right here.

Provide basic info about products

Right as your customers are typing along. Users like everything that saves them time and effort: so a widget that shows what a product looks like, how much it will cost and how many are left in stock is a lazy man's dream come true.

Closing thoughts

Nowadays the search box on websites has become part of the package, a lot of users rely on it to find what they need. It's not a question of whether you should have a search bar on your website - but rather a question of how much time and effort you should put into optimizing it.

The short answer is simple: visitors expect certain functionality from the search bar, having quickly gotten used to Google's and Amazon's speedy and hassle-free boxes. A lot of things - like autocomplete and typo-resistance - are now considered the bare minimum, but in reality, you should create a search bar experience which offers something beyond this.

If you are scratching your head which service can satisfy the many needs of your consumers, we have your back: Searchanise's Smart Search and Filter features every one of the tools described above - and much more. Go ahead and install it in just a few clicks, sit back, and watch your conversion rate skyrocket.
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Alexey Baguzin
Senior copywriter at Searchanise. Rum, Beatles and football lover. Maybe not in that order.

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