The future of search engine optimization is uncertain right now. Google is experimenting with personalization, and the need for quality, engaging, and usable content is becoming more important than ever.
One part of a site’s usability is the ease with which a user can find desired content. A common way to make this easier, is site search, which Google itself happily provides.
Google Site Search is nothing new, but it is how you use it that really makes the difference. Google itself has provided some design advice for use of Google Site Search to capitalize on its potential. Google Software Engineer Nicholas Weininger offers the following tips:
1. Make your search box easy to find
2. Make sure search is always available
3. Customize the appearance of search to fit your site
5. Be open to feedback
6. Learn what users are looking for
7. Let visitors know who’s got your back
The first one is pretty self-explanatory. With regards to the second one, making sure search is always available, make sure you have a search box on every page of your site. Don’t make them have to hunt around to find it again, because they might just choose to leave the site and pursue what they’re looking for by other means.
Number 3, customizing the appearance, means that your search box doesn’t have to look just like Google. It should flow well with the rest of your site design, but tying in number 7, a “powered by Google” logo next to the search bar might not be a bad idea, because people know and trust Google as being a helpful search engine.
Numbers 4,5, and 6 really all go hand in hand. Sometimes it pays to experiment and find out what works best. Ask for feedback on your site search. Dissatisfied users will usually be happy to let you know what they don’t like, and these are the opinions you should really value, because they can help you see where you need to make improvements. I delved into this concept a little more in this SmallBusinessNewz article.
“To help get users where they’re going, it’s always good to provide a ‘Didn’t find what you were looking for?’ link at the bottom of your search results to allow your site visitors to contact you,” says Weininger. “Additionally, Google Analytics can help you track what users are searching for at a macro-level, and what they are and aren’t finding in the process.” You can use that information in your efforts to optimize your content for your own internal search engine.
In the long run, usability can ultimately contribute to conversions. You are likely to have a lower bounce rate if your site is more user-friendly. And when users can easily find what they are looking for, they are more likely to convert. For more on effective ways to use Site Search, check out this article.