Why It’s Smart To Invest in On-site Search Optimization
Search does not only happen on platforms, such as Google and Bing. You could argue that on-site search matters just as much, because it keeps users engaged and browsing through your content. That is why every SEO agency believes in optimizing your website for both cases.
It is a win-win situation when both are covered in your website strategy.
This guide covers the basics of on-site search optimization, including:
- On-site search and its effects on UX and SEO
- Three must-haves for effective on-site search
There’s a lot to discuss, so get ready to take notes.
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On-Site Search: Why Search Engines Care About UX
On-site search refers to your website’s search functionality, a previously underrated aspect of web design. Many website owners overlook its effects, unlike more popular advanced SEO techniques. However, its impact is invaluable, especially for websites that post regularly.
Although the on-site search bar is part of the user interface (UI), its design (or lack thereof) has immense implications for the user experience (UX). In other words, UI affects UX, customer satisfaction, and SEO. Look at this example for a better idea.
As you can see, good on-site search functionality results in excellent UX, encouraging users to stay longer and browse more. This is important because positive website engagement is among the critical determining factors that affect your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Hence, when you keep your website’s visitors satisfied, they send subtle signals to search engines that your website contains valuable and beneficial information for users. You have more to lose by leaving on-site searches unoptimized, than by making the slightest improvements to them.
3 Elements That Affect On-Site Search Effectiveness
Before concerning yourself with how to publish articles by the hundreds, for example, first stop and evaluate the critical aspects of your on-page SEO. Slow load times and poor searchability lead to an unpleasant and even frustrating UX, thus defeating your goal of connecting users to the great articles contained within.
Consider the scenario below and how you would react to it as a website user:
- You are a blogger writing about artificial intelligence (AI) app developments. You see a website that looks promising but finding information on it is proving complicated.
Which of the following would you most likely do to finish writing your blog as soon as possible? (Remember that the issue is not the absence of information but the difficulty in finding it.)
1. Stay and keep searching.
2. Leave and find another source that may be easier to use.
This thought experiment illustrates just how important it is to make your content accessible on-site, just as it is to make your website visible on SERPs in the first place. With that in mind, look below at the three critical elements that affect your website’s search function.
1. A High-Visibility Placement
The most obvious and critical element of good on-site search is placement, meaning if users cannot see your search bar it may as well not even exist. This shows the significance of taking UX-related decisions seriously, when considering proper web design that is responsive.
It is best to place the search bar where people expect to see it. If you feel stumped for placement ideas, especially intuitive and user-friendly ones, consider the typical best practices listed below:
1. Place a magnifying glass icon on the top menu panel of the page, especially on the home page.
2. Include a sizable block dedicated only to the on-site search bar at, or near, the top of the page.
3. Have a left- or right-hand side panel containing dropdown menus and a search bar.
2. Designed for Function First
Your website’s on-site search bar is one of those crucial elements that prioritizes function over fashion. That means an over-designed search bar is useless if it’s not connecting users with relevant content suggestions. This is a waste of your time, and more importantly, the user’s time.
Another valuable component that can be added, is collected keyword or search data that can be used to boost your on-page SEO effectively. A word of caution, though, if you choose this path. Make sure that you are aware of and understand the rules governing data privacy, to avoid any potential legal concerns.
The shortage of discussions around this topic makes it challenging to know exactly what works best, but do not let that deter you from experimenting. The leanness of content on the subject of on-site search is all the more reason to work on it as soon as possible – putting you ahead of the competition.
3. Optimized for Accessibility
Accessibility, in regards to UI and UX, significantly affects how well users respond to your site’s search function. For instance, a recent shift in website accessibility is voice search, originally designed for visually impaired users. Now, it doubles as a hands-free search solution.
Here are a few accessibility and UX features you should consider adding to your on-site search:
- Placeholder text to make it stand out more and advertises its intended purpose for users
- An auto-complete feature, to give users helpful suggestions that decreases search time
- Content suggestions, for instances when searches return zero relevant or matching page results
- A simple and clean results UI that yields the right amount of helpful information for users
- Filters to allow searchers to manage their results through different categories or criteria
Search optimization matters inside, and outside, of your website because together both parts make the content more accessible to users. Imagine the disappointment and frustration, if after a person finds your website, they then cannot navigate effectively to get to pages beyond the initial one.
This would severely limit how much of your content users can browse, giving them a reason to simply leave and look elsewhere. Besides, optimizing on-site search is not very costly. You can install plugins that can do all this work for you, or you can hire an SEO agency for expert advice.
Need assistance optimizing your website’s on-site search? Contact us to learn what we can do to help.
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