You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. You only get so many seconds of engagement from a potential site visitor before they bounce, so making your website completely and utterly idiot-proof should be what you spend most of your design and web building resources on. Nobody should have to spend even an extra nano-second trying to find the information you are looking for. Whether it’s for products or shipping, everything should be laid out in such a way that without any instruction, the user can find whatever they are looking for. However, I’m not here to give you a masterclass in UI design, but a hot tip on searchability… which is by far one of the most important usability elements in a site.
Before we proceed, if your website is not currently searchable, then you’ve got some work to do! Whether you have three pages or 100, it is incredibly important to give users the ability to type in key terms and find what they are looking for with one click. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure the search bar is in a prominent and easy to find location both on desktop and mobile. Once you’ve done this, we can move on to the rest of the tips.
Set-Up With Google Analytics
Not only do you need to give your user the ultimately usable experience when they land, but tracking search terms can offer you very valuable data for how people are using your website and what things they have trouble finding on their own.
Once you have installed and tested a search box on your website, head to Google Analytics, and enable Internal Site Search tracking, by following the tips in the article below. To do so, go to Admin > View Settings, and scroll all the way down. Here is the official Analytics Help article on this topic.
For the sake of this brevity, we will focus here specifically on how to streamline your search tracking in the Shopify platform as this is not only a very popular platform for most eCommerce websites but also functions fairly similarly to many other platforms of its type. If your site runs on Shopify, just type in the letter “q” into the query parameter field, and allow Google Analytics a few weeks to collect search terms people enter. No matter what platform you are on, it will take some time for your data to roll in once you set it up.
Now that you have everything set up and ready to go, let’s really tackle what you came here for: the optimization.
As before, we will focus on the Shopify platform for these tips, but the concepts illustrated here can be applied to many other platforms with a slightly different set of steps that you can easily locate in the help section of whatever platform you are using.
Tagging Shopify product pages
The main goal of a search box on an e-commerce site is to return potential customers a list of products that match their search query. There is a quick way to identify search queries that return empty search results. Here is how.
- Export all Google Analytics search terms into a CSV file (Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms, and Export).
- Use Excel’s CONCATENATE function to generate search URLs for every search term:
- If you are on the Chrome browser, install an extension that allows you to open multiple URLs at once. I use Bulk URL Opener. Seems to get the job done!
- Load newly generated search URLs from column B in the bulk of 20 to reference those that are empty.
- Take each search term that did not generate any search results, and cross-reference it to a product you think is the best match.
- Once you know a search term and the product that it needs to be matched with, add that search term as a product tag field of your Shopify store.
“When a customer searches for a term that matches a product tag, the tagged products will appear in search results, although the tags are invisible to customers.”
You just made your search box more searchable!
Remember, as with most optimization, reaching the perfect list of search terms and tags can take some time and monitoring. This is an ongoing process that you can investigate every now and then to continue to catch more and more search terms and direct them to the correct places on your website.
And just like that! You’ve improved the searchability of your website, and taken control of your search bar, which you’ve hopefully now installed if you didn’t have one already! There are a million ways to improve your site’s usability and direct users to the right place faster, and all of the tools are right at your fingertips!