Five Winning Site Search Tips to Increase Conversion

By Mark Brixton | 16 Nov 2011

73% of visitors will leave your site if they can’t find what they are looking for! Mark Brixton from SLI Systems shares five tips to increase your site conversion.

Site search is one of the most critical success factors for online retailers – it is the virtual equivalent of the in-store sales representative. A quality site search function guides customers through their desired path to purchase quickly and painlessly – a poor site search function leaves a customer frustrated, disappointed and GONE!

Why does this little box have so much influence on your conversions? It’s important to understand that visitors often refer to the site search function, especially when the navigation fails to reveal what they are searching for. If it is hard to find, hard to use and/or does not yield the desired results (or in some cases any results at all), visitors will simply move onto the next website and you will have lost a potential customer.

Our research has shown that 73% of visitors will leave a website after two minutes if they cannot find what they are searching for!

Efficient site search doesn’t need to be hard – a lot of tips and tricks for site search are simple things that can improve the user experience and yield positive results for your business in the long term. Here are five tips of what you should be considering for your site search:

1. Make it Easy to Find

The site search box should be clearly visible and positioned ‘above the fold’, so that visitors do not need to scroll down the page to find it. It should be available at both the top and bottom of every page on your website and large enough to contain the most common search phrases used by your visitors.

To avoid confusion, you should not position your site search box next to other boxes, such as newsletter-subscribe sign up forms.

In order to optimise your site search, you can also test various elements of the box (e.g. position, size, colour, text, etc.) to determine what yields the best results and provides the best user experience.

2. Make it Convenient

Make it easy for your visitors to use your site search. This may mean entering text prompts such as ‘enter search here’ and or coding the page so that the cursor is in the search box, making it easy to locate and clear what the purpose of the box is.

You may also consider adding an auto-complete function – these features require fewer keys stokes and ensure visitors can find exactly what they’re looking for without having to guess what keywords they should be using. Results obtained from auto-complete features are also likely to return more relevant results.

3. Optimise Your Search Results

With visitors increasingly time poor and the ‘convenience factor’ associated with online shopping, you need to ensure that your search results pages are generated quickly as slow loading pages will result in low conversions.

The most crucial part of optimising your search results is to ensure the returned results are relevant. Results returned from site search are based on complex algorithms cataloguing your database of products. There are various rules that can be applied to site search to enhance the delivery of relevant, targeted and strategic results, such as learning and merchandising rules.

Much like going into a shop and having to sort through messy racks, the appearance of your search results can also play a large role in encouraging visitors to click through. If you are a retailer, this might mean including details such as the brand, model, size, colour, and category. Additionally, including images, videos, reviews and ratings in the search results will help visitors assess the results quickly to find what they’re looking for.

4. Offer Refinement and Ranking Options

The ability to refine results allows visitors to find exactly what it is they are looking for. This may include adding refinement options to the search results, such as brand, model, colour, price, most popular, etc., depending on what type of business you have. You should also allow visitors to rank results based on various factors, some of the most common include price, date, brand and rating.

For instance, online retailer SurfStitch presents these refinement options particularly well, offering visitors a plethora of choices and allowing them to really hone in on the products that they are searching for.

5. Leverage Merchandising Opportunities

Site search presents a multitude of conversion opportunities, which many business fail to leverage. Depending on the type of your business, you could take advantage of this by including the following within the search results:

  • Pricing/sale information;
  • Add to cart/buy now options;
  • Ratings and reviews; and/or
  • Stock availability.

Another effective strategy to encourage conversion is to highlight items that are on sale and/or shipping offers/discounts with a ‘special logo’ or banner. This may create a sense of urgency with visitors and give them an incentive to purchase on the spot.

It is also worth considering that more advanced site search software will allow you to strategically place promotional or sale items within the search results to meet the merchandising needs of your business.


3 thoughts on “Five Winning Site Search Tips to Increase Conversion”

  1. tim says:

    Mark great article. What are some of the best websites in Australia doing good Site Search?

  2. Mark says:

    Thanks Tim

    Take a look at: – includes non-product content like social media / forums – an unparalleled focus on the user experience across their whole site – also a nice clean user experience

    Feel free to contact me direct if you have any questions – [email protected]

  3. Clix says:

    Hi Mark,

    I just wanted to ask you – what are the greatest tools I can use as a newbie in my marketing effort.



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