On-site optimisation of search functionality has proven to be one of the biggest revenue contributors, which is why I have selected this topic for my post today.
Most companies understand the concept of improving the user journey by delivering relevant search results. From related search terms, typographies and search history, most of the areas of search usability are covered. Search optimisation is usually owned by a skilled member of the eCommerce team who has an excellent understanding of the products or content offered, sometimes sat directly within the optimisation team or as part of the visual merchandising team.
Besides product knowledge a second essential skill is to understand the language in which visitors search. Ouch, have you hit a road block yet?
Without an employee who is proficient in the language of my target market, is it even possible to optimise my search results? Yes, there are ways to optimise your search in all countries you are expanding to and here is how:
Step 1: Analyse search demand
Depending on your data analysis tool, you will find search term reports which tell exactly, which search terms customers type. Order them by number of searches and there you have the search demand.
Example from Google Analytics
Example from Adobe Analytics
Step 2: Understand website searches
Now that you know what customers are typing into your search box, your next challenge is to translate the search terms into your language. But what if you don’t have language resource in your team?
Let me suggest a couple of possible solutions:
To get an initial understanding of the search terms, feel free to copy and paste them into an online translation tool. I hate myself for suggesting this as I am a strong enemy of using direct translations for any kind of eculturisation or optimisation work. HOWEVER, in this case, we are only using the tool to get a general understanding of what the customer is looking for when typing the word into your website’s search box.
The second suggestion is to copy and paste the search term into the search box of a marketplaces platform in the country (To find the most popular marketplaces by country, feel free to refer to this blog post). Marketplaces like Alibaba, Ebay, Amazon and many more are bound to bring back at least a general list of products which should match the search term.
Let’s say you run a webstore selling shoes. You have been successful within your home market, the UK. A couple of months ago you have launched your webstore into Germany and so far your top search term is “Sandalen”. Unsure of what this means you go to Amazon.de copy and paste the search term in and find the following:
Doesn’t this already give you the answer of where to link your search traffic for this word to?
Yes, it can be that easy.
This option is possible for websites selling products. If you are a content provider in the target country without language resource in the team, then something is going wrong in the first place. In this case, no search optimisation will make up for the machine translated articles you are throwing out to your target audience. You should revisit your strategy.
Step 3: Pre-optimisation techniques
If you are in the initial stages of entering a new target market, you might not have enough traffic yet to tell you which search terms are the most popular. In this case I have the following pre-optimisation technique for you.
If you haven’t already it is always a good idea to visit the country’s top marketplaces websites. (A list of the top ones can be viewed here)
Why? Because these websites have gathered huge amounts of search data and usually use search auto-suggestion dropdowns replicating the top searches performed by visitors to the website.
Going back to my shoe business, I would like to find out which are the top search terms for this general product type. Let’s have a look at the suggested search term list below.
The top searches were performed for men’s shoes, women’s summer shoes, nike men’s shoes etc. If you can’t understand the language you can either type the search suggestions into an online translation tool or you could use the translation service within your Chrome browser.
To receive more than 7 search suggestions, you can now go ahead and type one of the suggested search terms into the search bar. In this example, I have chosen to type the last one “schuhe damen pumps” and therefore received a further refined list of 8 auto-suggestions which you can add to your list for optimisation.
Go and gather all search terms onto a list which you can then pre-optimise, even before your website launch date.
It is a no brainer that you have just increased the chances of converting your first visitors using your on-site search box. Congratulations!
Below some proof that with the above tips you could not only improve the user journey for your visitors but also be one step ahead of your competitors.
I have come across a big international retailer selling home appliances online. In one of their target market, Germany, I have typed the top line search phrase for freezer into the Amazon.de search box. A list of the top 6 search terms was returned with the number 1 search phrase being “Kühlschrank ohne gefrierfach“ in engl. “fridge with freezer”.
Changing website to have a look at the retailer`s search results for this top search term, to my surprise I received a zero result page, suggesting, that this keyword has not been optimised on their website.
Reach your on-site search audience – With these lessons learnt
- The optimisation work for your on-site search has to be revisited for EVERY new target audience
- Use search term reports within your Analytics tools to understand search demand and gather a list of top search terms to be optimised for conversions
- Benefit from auto-suggestion search dropdowns on local marketplaces platforms to identify search results and apprehend the meaning of your top search terms
- Act early and optimise your search results before higher numbers of traffic hit your website after your official launch. Pre optimisation only increases your chances to improve the user journey of your first visitors and therefore convert them into loyal customers.