Internal Site Search: Benefits & Tips

Site search has often been a neglected component of SEO campaigns. If you didn’t think site search was important before, you might want to reconsider.

In this article, I will review:
Internal site search benefits
Internal site search tips

Internal site search, or onsite search, has often been a neglected component of search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns. It’s well known that traditional SEO practices are an effective means to getting visitors to your website, but what happens once someone clicks through from search engines? If you didn’t think site search was an important factor before, you might want to reconsider.

It’s surprisingly common for visitors to not find what they’re looking for after using a website’s search engine. Unfortunately, companies often overlook this functionality even though it has long-lasting benefits, such as

  • Reducing the cost for call center support
  • Increasing conversion rates
  • Increasing revenue by getting people where they need to go quickly and easily
  • Building customer retention
  • Building trust by providing relevant content

It’s also important to note that traditional SEO is different than that of internal site search: Traditional SEO allows visitors to browse the different website options for information they’re most likely searching for before clicking through; site search is when visitors know exactly what they want and they want to get the information as quickly as possible.

What’s great about internal site search is that it could assist in traditional SEO efforts. By analyzing site search keywords, you should be able to make better decisions as to what content should go on your website so that in the end your users will convert.

Internal Site Search Benefits

  • Understand what visitors are looking for
    Discovering what visitors are looking for on your website will decide whether or not content needs to be created or modified. For example, let’s say you’re an insurance company and you noticed there’s been an unusual influx of searches revolving around hurricane insurance. Whether your company offers hurricane insurance or not, it might be a good idea to address this query on your website. This could help reduce the number of customers that contact your call center, possibly persuade you to add a new offering, or promote your other products and services.

  • Learn if visitors are finding what they need
    It’s not enough to just have random pages populating search results, but rather pages that are promoting quality results in order to get users to convert. It’s possible to discover if visitors are finding what they’re looking for right away or if they need to constantly refine their searches. When this type of activity occurs, it could mean that people are not finding what they’re looking for and indicate a content gap.

  • Discover ways to improve click-throughs for better conversion rates
    There are ways to discover if your visitors are clicking on any of the site search results. Low click-through rates could indicate content gaps and a demand for new content pages to be created in order to address popular search queries. This could also mean that all your page content is lacking valuable title tags or descriptions with the desired keywords included.

  • Verify if visitors are using site navigation more or less
    If the number of site search queries is extremely high, it could mean visitors are not finding what they need with the navigation bar. Knowing what people type into site search could help with modifying taxonomy to offer another way of finding content faster and easily.

Internal Site Search Tips

  • Use internal search to identify content gaps
    When visitors are using your internal site search functionality, they are literally telling you exactly what they want to find and read. Evaluating the most popular keywords visitors are typing into the search box can assist with discovering content that needs to be created and/or updated. Whether it’s a white paper, product catalog, article, etc., it’s a good idea to produce the content visitors want. This type of information can also assist in providing new products, services and features that you haven’t considered offering before. You can even use this information to consider adding new navigation/sub-navigation categories.

  • Discover the most popular search queries and improve the landing pages
    Take a look at the most popular search queries visitors are typing into internal site search and evaluate the quality of the results. Ensure that the top results produce quality landing pages that will answer visitor questions/requests and drive them through the conversion funnel. Depending on the contents of the page, have appropriate and noticeable calls to actions on every landing page.

  • Make the search box easy to find and away from other boxes
    The search box should always be visible on every page across your website. Most websites have it at the very top since that’s where visitors tend to look if they should decide to even use the search box functionality. If not located at the top, just be sure the search box is noticeable and easy to find right away. One way to discover the best position for your website is to do testing. 

  • Include text within the search box so people know what it is
    Help visitors distinguish the search box from other website components and boxes. Include text such as “Type search here…” or “Product name, catalogue number or keyword”. Just be sure this text disappears after someone clicks inside the box to save them the step of deleting the text themselves.

  • Bold the search query keywords within search results
    After a search is conducted, help visitors find the keywords they typed into the search box quickly by bolding those keywords in the titles and descriptions in search results. Most search engines will provide the snippet of text from the pages that populated search results with the keywords bolded. This will help with increasing click through or assist visitors in refining their search if they didn’t find what they were looking for originally.  

  • Include auto-correct to prevent misspellings and offer search suggestions
    Auto-correct features are great as they help with preventing misspellings in search boxes that often lead to result pages that produce no results. This could create missed opportunities for situations where visitors choose to not conduct another search and ultimately leave your site. It also helps with speeding up the search process and ensures these searches will return results. 

  • Provide recommendations and tips for pages that produce no results
    Help offer tips for visitors to refine their searches for failed search pages. Also consider adding a “Did you mean…” option for searches with misspellings as another way to grab the traffic you could have lost. Some visitors may not have realized they made a typo in the search box and just assumed you didn’t have the answer. 

  • Have the most relevant results appear for synonyms and misspellings to prevent failed searches
    One of the most common ways for visitors to get a page with no results is due to misspellings. Many internal site search programs allow places to add synonyms and misspellings to prevent failed searches from happening. 

  • Provide faceting to refine search results
    Faceted navigation makes it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for quickly, improves findability, and helps remove “noise” with keywords that produce a large number of search results. It can also provide a way to narrow search listings from your other digital properties, such as a blog, special landing pages, investor’s website, social networks, etc.

  • Measure search volume and click through rate to refine search results
    The best way to discover if your internal site search efforts are working is to test and measure a few different factors, including, but not limited to the metrics below. These types of stats can assist in tweaking the algorithm and manually changing search result placements for popular keyword searches. 
    • Number of times someone uses internal site search
    • Number of times someone clicked on any result 
    • Number of searches that yielded no results
    • Number of times someone clicked on a result, didn’t like it, went back to search results and clicked on a different result 
    • Keywords used in site search and the type/number of conversions they accomplished (e.g. registrations, logins, etc.)
About the author

Christina is an SEO consultant and the founder of MediaSesh. She has been in the SEO industry since 2009 and has helped companies of all sizes to improve their visibility on search engines.