By Marcus Law, SLI Systems
The ever-increasing power of online search gives new meaning to the search box for marketing professionals. For the past several years, keyword advertising and SEO campaigns have been baseline elements of most marketing campaigns. However, many marketers may not realise that site search functionality on a website can generate significant benefits for marketing efforts, including intelligence on customer preferences, the ability to create more targeted direct marking campaigns, and support for a fast, smooth mobile experience.
Though its importance is often overlooked, site search is actually a key contributor to the success of online businesses. For example, visitors who use the search box convert at a higher rate and spend more money per visit than those who don’t. Site search users view more pages and maintain a higher level of engagement with a site. Of course, this is only true when site search is architected well. When it delivers a poor experience, a business will experience more bounces, cart abandonment, and missed revenue opportunities. A robust, user-friendly site search is not only a necessary element of a website, but one that should be featured prominently.
So, not only does site search make online businesses better, it also gives marketing programs more power. Here are some effective ways to weave site search into your marketing strategy and gain more ROI from your investment in search.
More intelligent merchandising
By mining site search data, such as information about what customers search for and the search terms they use, marketers can do a better job of merchandising their products and services and anticipate changing market conditions. For instance, your site search solution can automatically generate banners based on the search keywords that customers use, and then place those banners within search results to provide additional opportunities to promote products. Your site search data also shows you the language your customers use when searching on your site, so you can be sure to incorporate that language into product descriptions and other areas where appropriate.
Another highly effective search-driven merchandising tool: Create merchandising banners on product landing pages that show products relevant to the original search term a user entered in Google. Visitors are presented with your top products for their search term along with the actual product they selected on Google. This approach works well for long-tail and product-specific search terms, and is shown to keep customers engaged and drives more page views and conversions.
Relevant email marketing
The marketing messages that flood customers’ email inboxes make it a challenge to stand out in the crowd. But information gleaned from site search can elevate your email marketing campaigns to make them highly relevant and hard to ignore. You can integrate site search with your email marketing application to promote items that a visitor has searched for previously, or items that fall under their brand or product preferences. Either way, you’re making it much more tempting for an email recipient to click through on a link, since they’re being presented with choices they may like. Tests show that this approach can have a significant impact on email open and click-through rates, and ultimately drive more purchases.
Visitor-driven search terms for SEO
Along the same lines as mining search keywords to improve merchandising efforts, keywords from site search data are tailor-made for popping into your SEO campaigns. Think of it this way: site search keywords represent the search terms your site visitors actually use, not terms that you’ve guessed. Because they’re real search terms, they’re bound to be more targeted and effective. The language your visitors use in your site search will be very similar to the language they use when searching the web for the same products or content.
Fast, scanable mobile commerce
The mobile version of your company’s website is fast becoming the browsing venue of choice for a growing number of people. The question is whether your mobile site is equipped to handle these customers, and to display the products and information visitors seek. Mobile users are notoriously impatient – they want fast and easy-to-access information, even though they’re using small screens and relying on inconsistent data speeds.
Site search can make your mobile site a better place to browse and shop because it connects visitors to the products and information they need in much less time, improving conversions and making your site stickier. For example, making the search box the most prominent item on the mobile page, and using large navigation buttons, will allow visitors to find what they want even under challenging browsing conditions.
Merging social with search
Whether on mobile devices or PCs, your customers probably dive into social networks on a frequent basis. You can do much more than promote sales and highlight products on social networks– you can encourage searching from within the social setting itself. Clothing retailer Boden lets its Facebook fans search for products directly from its Facebook page – when they click on products they’re taken directly to the Boden website. Also, as mentioned above, your site search reports are a great source of information about the search terms your customers use on your own site. These terms can easily be plugged into your social media marketing efforts so you’re speaking your customers’ language both on and off your site.
No doubt you will find many more ways to get greater value from site search. There is a treasure trove of data within search that can be put to use in many different ways to make your marketing messages more precise and campaigns more successful. Savvy marketers who recognise the power of taking site search to the next level – beyond merely using it for its core function – are generating more targeted campaigns, enhancing the customer experience, building greater brand visibility and netting significant returns.
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