Seek and ye shall find
If we’re serious about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), we spend a huge amount of time making sure Google and co can find our pages and return results for the keywords on our sites.
But what about search within your site? Should you be spending the same amount of effort to ensure your site visitors can find what they’re looking for by including search functionality?
Unless you’re Amazon – or you have a large stock of online products for sale, then the answer’s no.
If you have a site search, you’d better make sure it looks and functions pretty much exactly like Google. That’s what your visitors will expect; and if it doesn’t, then at best they won’t use it – and at worst, they’ll leave with a slightly dented view of your site as a whole.
In this business, first impressions count – and they last.
The exception: online store search
Of course, if you have a large catalogue of products for sale online, then you do need some way of making sure these are searchable.
Most online shopping solutions come with this functionality built in: allowing visitors to specify a product, size or colour and see a list of items which match those criteria.
You should also make sure your products are categorised and tagged appropriately; and have navigation to easily allow visitors to browse your wares.
And make sure it’s only your products which are indexed by this type of search. People are coming to your site to shop, not be presented with a list of all your blog posts which happen to mention the product or the colour.
But in all other instances, you’re better leaving the searching to Google.
But how will they find things?
If you’re wanting to make sure visitors find your content easily, it’s much better to focus on two things:
- SEO – to ensure that if people are searching Google & co for your keywords, that your pages have a good chance of being returned in the search results.
- Usability; or User Centred Design – scary terms, perhaps – but all they mean is designing your site to make sure it’s as easy as possible for a visitor to use. Clean design, simple navigation, crisp uncluttered layouts: all of these will go a long way towards making sure your site visitors find what they’re looking for.
So, focus your efforts on making your site the best it can be – or get someone in to help make sure it is.
And leave the search tools to the professionals.