An internal search engine on a company website can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool when used correctly. Easy navigation is one thing, but search capability brings your U/X performance to a whole new level.
If you think your B2B website is fine without one–after all, you’re not selling consumer products –you may want to think again.
Here’s the full lowdown on how and why an internal search engine on your website can place the buyer’s journey on a direct path to making a purchase.
Why have an internal search engine if you’re not an e-commerce company?
As a B2B company, there are lots of reasons to include a search feature on your main website:
- You’ve developed a mountain of evergreen content for strategic points along the buyer’s journey, and you want it to be easily retrievable;
- You always want to give visitors a reason to stay longer and inquire further, creating more paths to convince and convert;
- They let you craft an internal keyword strategy that quickly leads interested users to content with the answers and solutions they most need in the moment;
- Search bars open up a wealth of user behavior analytics you can use to fine tune your marketing strategies. All user queries can be preserved and analyzed.
Internal search is especially useful in providing context and structure to a website with large volumes of content.
It’s more of a discovery tool than a mere search tool, as it covers different dimensions of your site’s content. Internal search helps users to understand what is available across your whole site and reveals content they might not otherwise have discovered.
Coupled with a smart keyword strategy (see below), it provides a more efficient path for the user to find exactly what they’re looking for among your wide content inventory, infusing whatever calls to action you’ve embedded in that content with greater power to close the sale.
Visitors to your site won’t have to spend time browsing menus to find what they want or worse, get discouraged when menus don’t seem to provide the right answer.
On the most basic level, a visitor likely has some understanding about your product and/or trust in your company to take time to search on your site.
Think about that. They believe your site may have the solution and/or product they are looking for. Why not help get them where they want to go?
Citing data from Econsultancy and ConversionXL, here’s how JP Sherman, writing on Moz, put it:
“Performing an on-site search is a strong behavioral predictor of intent to convert.”
The research he points to shows that on-site searchers are twice as likely to convert and more likely to return with purchasing intent.
Internal search enables the use of internal SEO and keywords to guide your buyer’s journey.
Overall, the use of an internally guided search offers a solution to marketers who are constantly dealing with irrelevant search results. Here, every search is relevant so long as your keywords are deployed in the content you’re indexing.
If you’ve already been using long-form keywords, they’ll usually already have the shorter form incorporated. Unlike a general web search, however, a short form keyword on an internal search engine has no outside competition; it leads only to your own content. So whether a query contains a short or long keyword phrase, you’ve got it covered either way.
Drilling down even further, marketers can learn how particular bits of content relate to others by following them down the search funnel. This knowledge can be used to leverage lesser-known content by tying it to more popular search terms.
This strategy gives marketers significant influence on the user journey within their search.
Artificial Intelligence: The New Search Frontier
The gradual evolution from plain-vanilla internal search to what some vendors are calling “guided” search is being driven by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as machine learning. AI-powered search provides marketers with predictive knowledge that helps them make sense out of the masses of data from subsites, content, channels, and more—and apply it to identify user intent, trends in behavior, and successful content.
This cognitive technology enables engineers to create autonomous systems that can recognize links between search words and common queries, as well as learn and improve themselves based on the feedback of previous search results
Site search engines essentially become smarter with every new user interaction. They learn about user-intent, queries, and concepts with greater speed, efficiency, and less human error. Search results can dramatically improve in quality and relevance, along with greater personalization. This helps you better understand your customers and manually tweak search engine settings to your advantage.
Selecting the best internal search engine to install
Until recently, you had to choose between custom-built solutions (very expensive) or the one-size-fits-all solution, Google Site Search. Google Site Search worked well enough for basic sites but stopped short of being the type of flexible and powerful solution that greatly enhanced the website user experience or empowered marketing teams. And besides, that option is now going away. Google announced the discontinuation of Google Site Search and Search Appliance, with all their strengths and shortcomings, by April 2018.
In their place, the search giant is offering the new Google Custom Search. However, Custom Search contains a host of unsatisfactory features, such as the visual disconnect of the search display from the rest of the site, and a lack of control over the customization of results.
Even worse, the new Google solution is 100% ad supported. Ads from across the internet appear in your search results, some of which might even be from competitors.
With most of Google’s popular on-site search products retired, the gap is being filled with intuitive new search solutions from providers that offer more features based on customer preferences, data analytics, and the ease of implementation.
The search solution you select for your website should have, at the very least, customizable features so that you have control over your search engine.
When evaluating internal search engine products, here are the criteria to consider:
- Ease of implementation
- Reliable relevance engines
- Design Customization – UX design experts recommend placement of the search window above the fold, near the top of the page at left or right side.
- Tools, analytics and dashboards that let you tweak query terms and analyze search behaviors to fine-tune your marketing.
Got more questions about content and search strategy? Leadit marketers are happy to answer in person. Contact us today for a quick chat.
Shannon Prager is recognized B2B marketing strategist and the President of Leadit Marketing. She is responsible for the daily operations and management of Leadit Marketing as well as the long term vision for the company.
A marketing leader with over 19 years of B2B demand generation and marketing experience, she understands the importance of a fully developed integrated marketing strategy. Shannon’s background includes demand generation, marketing automation, social media, digital marketing, customer marketing, account based marketing and marketing operations. You can follow her on LinkedIn via https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannonprager or Twitter @ https://twitter.com/LeaditMarketing
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