September 1, 2011 ↘︎

If you’re ignoring internal search, slap yourself silly

While Jerome is busy posting about the in’s and out’s of implementing Search&Promote, I thought I’d wade in with a post on why businesses should consider their search as a missed opportunity.

I’ve previously posted on what I think is a hidden gold mine of information called internal search.  It’s an area of the site that many companies, quite frankly, ignore.

“Not too sure how to do anything with it, we assume it’s working just fine serving up results to random queries, so we’ll leave it alone and focus on our core purpose, driving people into our conversion funnel.”

Or something along those lines.

If that’s you, go stand in front of a mirror and slap yourself a few times!  Wake up and smell the coffee…there’s much more to search than that!  And while you’re busy trying to optimise other areas of your site, you’re also blindly missing a massive opportunity for conversion optimisation.

The usual culprits

Almost all internal search engines (those used to search your own content) rely heavily on the traditional methods used for SEO – namely optimised pages of content.  They will dutifully rummage around your content on a predetermined frequency, building indexes that are searchable by the masses.

But there’s a whole land of missed opportunity if you rely on just organic searching.

Some of the more advanced search engine appliances will be able to up weight & down weight those results.  Some of them include facets (those subcategory links on the left hand side that are quite popular these days, especially amongst retail sites).  Most of them include some form of miss-spelt word or Did You Mean… capability.

Your opportunity to Search&Promote

You’re presented with a golden opportunity here.

Search&Promote can make your existing search engine look like it’s a digital yellow pages.  And how many people really want to use Yellow Pages nowadays?

What if you want to group certain types of results, such as content or products, and display them first.  What if you want to rank results, or in fact pre-filter results based on what the user has searched for, or interacted with, previously?

What if you wanted to display a different set of results for customers versus non-customers?

What if, by doing the above, you could marginally lift conversion rates?  Would that make a difference?

This opens up a whole new level for internal search.  You begin to have some control over the content that is actually displayed, rather that letting the search engine determine it.  And you can then begin to have your search contribute more to your conversions.

Make search work for you

If you’re already running SiteCatalyst and Test&Target, then adding Search&Promote really seems to be a no-brainer.

How much traffic do you get across your search pages?  Go and have a look.  How much of that traffic ultimately converts?  Take a look (you can use participation metrics to check that one out).

Now compare that to traffic that didn’t search internally.  How do they compare?

Given the volume of traffic across your search page, are there opportunities to engage them further?  If you could optimise your search page and influence conversions, what would be needed before you can show a return on investment.  I’ll bet it’s not much.

Optimisation Calculator

I’ve included as part of this post an Optimisation Calculator (excel spreadsheet) that can help you determine annual incremental revenue from optimisation efforts.

Optimisation Calculator

To use it, just put in your traffic, conversion and revenue amounts in the coloured cells, as well as a “what if we could it increase it by…” percentage rate.

In the example I’ve used, suppose you have 40,000 unique visitors to your internal search page.  Suppose they contribute to only 77 purchases, with $36,500 revenue generated from them.  That’s a search conversion rate of about 0.19%.  Not too much.  Some companies would think it’s not worth it.  They’re not there for that reason.

Think again.

If you could lift search conversions by an incrementally small amount, say 17% overall (taking the conversion rate from 0.19% to 0.23%, then you incrementally add nearly $100,000 to your annual revenue, given the example above.

If you can achieve the same conversion rate that your site gets overall (in the example, I’ve used 2.78%) you’d incrementally add a whopping $5.8million.

Did that make you sit up and look closer?

It’s a “suite” integration

If you have SiteCatalyst and Test&Target then you’re definitely one step ahead of your competition.  If you add in Search&Promote and spend the time to integrate all three products, so they leverage each other, you can, without a doubt influence internal search conversions.

With Search&Promote, you can do all of this and more – up weight/down weight results based on SiteCatalyst data such as top content; integrate external datasources such as product databases into the search results and have a different look and feel for those results, placing them at specific locations on the page.  You can target offers or promotions to users based on their search terms or previous browsing history by adding mboxes to the results page.  You can even change the entire search filter based on things like the last product type they viewed – why show them mens pants when they previously viewed female pants, and came back to do a search.

We must open the doors of opportunity.
But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.
Lyndon B. Johnson

Well, the doors are wide open.  You’re suddenly in the land of opportunity.  Are you going to step through?

Remember, content relevance is just as, if not more, important on the search results page as it is across your other pages.  But many companies just forget about it assuming their search engine is doing a reasonable job.

Take a look at exit rates from search.

The other very much overlooked area for internal search is staff-based applications.  How many companies run intranets?  How many of you have multiple search boxes, searching different things across your company?  I’ve seen companies with between 3-10 different search types available to them, from internal product database, customer databases, content, FAQs, manual lists of links, and so on.  Search&Promote can integrate all of those into one easy to use search tool – saving hours of frustration for staff who can’t find the thing they wanted.

A small percentage increase in conversions, in a segment of traffic that virtually everybody forgets about (or discounts as not worth it) can make a whole heap of difference to your business.

Internal search…it’s an internal gold-mine waiting for you to excavate.  And the excavator is Search&Promote.

I challenge you to go take a look – spend an hour analysing your internal search traffic and play with a few “what if’s”.  Then decide if you can afford to ignore your internal search.

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