Blog | Improvements to Site Search

3rd January 2014

site search improvementsHave you ever checked your own site search function? How it works, the results pages it produces and  the search terms being used by your customers?

Your site search holds valuable information about your visitors and their buying habits – information that you simply cannot afford to ignore. These people typically know exactly what they want and need to be taken immediately to their pages of choice. They are the visitors with their wallets on the table, towards the end of the sales cycle and therefore the kind of visitors you should take care of.

The client’s problem

When we looked into the analytics of one client’s site, we found that only 9% of users actually used search. Rather more exciting however was the fact that those who DID make a search tended to convert at a much higher rate than those who didn’t – 2.66% compared to 1.05%.

The suggestion here was that if we could encourage people to go directly to the product on their mind instead of browsing aimlessly for it, we could raise conversion rates.

Multivariate testing changes

Once the problem and opportunity was identified, we set about making changes. Our multivariate testing approach means that first create and test a number of alternatives before making a decision – no single person can predict what will work, so let the market choose for you.

We developed 4 alternative search functions on the website, changing both the position and design. Previously the search box had sat on the left hand side under the logo and was a simple white box with header. Our alternatives included moving it to the header area to the right of the logo, changing its colours and using more influencing text. We ran each test for one week and listened to what the market told us.

A 60% increase in happy users

site search results

In the end option 3 had the highest usage by a long way. It’s increase in visibility resulted in a 60.49% boost in searches conducted, and a longer period spent on the website, up 25.41%.

Although this didn’t double the conversion rates (from 1.05% to 2.66%) for those new site search users, it did raise conversion rates by 6.98%.

We learned that some browsers who don’t typically buy will now use the search function to find their way around the website – with nearly 7% of them now opting to make a purchase.

It’s not only your site search

Even though we were happy with the changes made and the boost to conversions, we didn’t stop there. In order to improve user experience you should continue through the whole process, and that means looking at the results pages.

We are currently going through the results pages for the Top 40 search terms and seeing what the users see. Although naturally influenced by product availability, we have already improved the design of these pages, increasing the information presented on certain items to test if this influences conversions. We hope to have those results to you later this month.


Adam Pritchard

Founder of this agency and Shopit, Adam has nearly 20 years of digital experience, from the days of getting 3M and Pioneer UK web-friendly, to leading project teams on development and marketing projects for the likes of Tesco, Royal College of Nursing and National Tyres. Secretary of junior football club Winton Wanderers, most of the weekend is spent coaching kids, or reading the Sunday papers with coffee and cake.