This survey is a result of combining of all the advantages of product searches in major online stores and it is definitely worth using as a starting point for improving the quality of product search in the online store.

Any owner of a large or small online store knows that the most visited page of his site after the home page is a search page. While many, having checked the statistics of page visits, may find quite the opposite.

With all the courage I can say – if your search page is not in a list of top 5 visited pages, so your search, to put it mildly, is your weak point. Improve and optimize your search, and you can significantly increase your sales.

Before you begin, analyze your search by answering some key questions influencing the quality of your search:

  • How exactly do you get search results in an online shop? Do they correspond to the needs and expectations?
  • What happens if a user made a mistake in the product name (typo, misspelling)? Are there any tips?
  • Does the search give you similar results, such as “Player” – “mp3 player”?
  • What happens if there are no search results?

If most of the answers are positive, and your search is fast and stable – congratulations, you’re on the right track. For those who could not answer yes to any question, let’s consider each of these in detail separately.

Accuracy / Compliance

Accuracy of results perhaps is the key difference which separates good search at online store from a bad search.

Try to make the search results match the search phrase maximally.

For stores with a lot of product that should not be a problem, all depends on “search engine.” Often stores with a small quantity of products use union «OR» in search phrases instead of «AND»: for example, when a customer input a query “TV Samsung», he gets combined results of the queries “TV” and «Samsung» – this will give you the opportunity to avoid showing the page “No search results “- but will make potential buyers to look through not interesting results, that in most cases will make the buyer to search for a product in another online store. Achieve precision – let a search phrase «Samsung 21-inch” show only 21-inch product – no one forbids you to show as the 21-inch TV and 21-inch monitors.

Show the most relevant results at the top of a list

Thus, the phrase “freezer”, shows all the freezers at the top of a list, and only then a fridge-freezer. Online stores often show the best selling products first. This technique is possible and justified, but be sure to show the best selling “freezer” first, and only then the best selling refrigerators – and always let the buyer to choose option of sorting criteria / filtering results.

If the search results items are divided into categories, show the most appropriate categories first

Thus, for the previous query “freezer” the first category would be “freezers”, the following – “refrigerators”, then “automobile refrigerators,” etc.

If the search query exactly matches the category or product, you can automatically send the user to the relevant page or section

Sometimes users enter either too simple or complex search queries. If the request is simple and coincides exactly with the category of goods on your website – boldly forward him to the new partition (as it’s done at zappos.com). For example, you sell computers, but at laptops section you have a separate complex module of selection laptops by different parameters. In case of inquiry “laptop Samsung» it would be logical to redirect a buyer to the section “laptops / Samsung», or to the section “notebooks” with the selected filter «Samsung».

If the request matches the name of the product to 90% or found only one product – you can redirect the buyer directly to the product, thus necessarily inform him about it, making it possible to continue the search using a separate link.

Errors / typos / consonance

Analyze common mistakes / typos of search phrases in your store. Show the buyer the results for the correct spelling of search phrase

Buyers often make mistakes and errors. Feel free to use them for their own purposes! Be sure that the buyer who was looking for “phone Sony Erricson k450» will find «Ericsson», even if it is written with an error!

But it is worth noting that for large projects the manual search of all typos and affixing them to the correct request, is a laborious process. Then use the special extension of adjustments of input errors.

If the search phrase has a mistake, point out it to your customer. Show results for both wrong, and for the correct version of the phrase

This will attract the buyer’s attention to the error, but will not force him to leave your store, having received “no search results”. So, a good practice would be to show the following result for the search query “phone Sony Erricson k450»:

at the query “phone Sony Erricson k450» – results found – 0.

Perhaps you mean “phone Sony Ericsson k450» – results found – 5:

This technique is used in all major online stores (amazon, ebay, bonprix, zappos). Search Spell Correction extension can help you in this issue.

Differentiate punctuation, abbreviations, plural, spellings of search phrase

Make sure that the punctuation, abbreviations, plural, and other spellings of search phrase does not affect the results of a search query. For example, the query “printer HP-440», «Hewlett Packard 440» and «Hewlett-Packard 440” should return the same search results of desired printer.

Synonyms / words within the meaning of

Substitute synonyms and words similar in meaning, if it’s possible

Analyzing frequent searches on your site create a dictionary of synonyms and word substitutes. This will expand the search capabilities on your site, as well as enable customers to quickly find the right product. For example, for a query «DVD player” it’s worth to show the results, combined with a query «DVD player.”

If there are no results for the search query, let the buyer know that some items are found within the synonyms

Perhaps search phrase of a buyer did not give any results. But using synonym dictionary will help a customer to find similar items. It is important to show the buyer that his search did not match any product, but there are similar results for the search phrases. This will cause the buyer to think about search phrases, and maybe to find the necessary good quickly.

Display search results for the phrase first, and only then by synonyms

If the search query «DVD player” found 1 item, and its synonym ”DVD” found 20 products – ensure that the first product in the list of results will be available on query «DVD Player”, and only then 20 products of a particular request.

“Phrase is not found”, or what to do next?

Clearly display in the search results that the entered search returned no results

This message must be the first thing a buyer will see, and it should be highlighted from the rest of the information on the page.

Show tips to expand / modify the search and get the results

Please show a buyer any errors, advanced search options, having reduced the detail of the search query, and so on.

Display recent queries or related requests

Displaying of previous requests will relieve the buyer from having to type them again, and related searches (ideally in parentheses indicate the number of results for similar queries) will help to find the right product. This is, for example, is made at amazon.com

Pay attention to the queries of customers

Always try to analyze the requests of your customers, especially the ones that fail. This will help to quickly gather a dictionary of usual mistakes and typos, synonyms and similar words. Perhaps, if a particular product is often searched but is not found in the store, maybe you should start to sell it?

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