Grumpy Cat

Using the search function on a website can be like going to the dentist.

If the experience is good, you don’t think much of it and you move along through your day. If the experience is bad, you think angry thoughts and resist the urge to flee.

That analogy is dramatic but appropriate. 

According to a Jupiter Media Matrix statistic cited at the recent CMSWire webinar “Taking Search Out of the Box,” 80 percent of visitors abandon sites if search functionality is poor and, according to IDC, 22 percent of site searches return no results.

“No results found is an invitation to leave the website,” said Yatin Dhareshwar, director of Enterprise Content Management at Yash Technologies and co-presenter at the webinar, which was sponsored by HP Marketing Optimization. 

Why Search Can Suck

So with such dire consequences, why are there so many bad site search experiences? One reason is lack of staffing. According to a Findwise Search and Findability survey, respondents reported that site search is “mission critical” but also reported that only around one full-time staff member was dedicated to it.

Another reason is the lack of process to optimize the technology. Customer-facing departments need to work with IT to identify related pieces of content, associate business terms with popular keywords and prioritize content they want to market within the results page.

“Search may become an afterthought or something that’s left to the IT team to sort out,” said Tom Brown, director of marketing solutions at Hewlett-Packard and a webinar co-presenter. “And the well-meaning IT team may do a fine technical job making all the content searchable however some important business decisions are left unanswered.”

During a webinar poll, 44 percent of respondents reported that either IT or marketing owned site search, while 56 percent reported that IT and marketing worked together.

How Search Gets Good

HP site search webinar
The good news is that site search is getting better. Content managers and the systems they use are becoming more savvy about using metadata to optimize search results. Plus search is working across more data sources and becoming more personalized.

During the webinar, HP demonstrated how its SiteSearch technology customized search results based on user profiles, user behavior, geographic location or even third party data. 

It also used that information to proactively place relevant content in web pages, eliminating the need to visit the search box at all.

“The search engine is being continuously put to use behind the scenes to dynamically and automatically to generate content relevant to visitors as they navigate the site,” said Yatin. 

As the volume of enterprise content grows and becomes more diverse, site search will become increasingly important, challenging site search engines to get better at delivering the right content.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Ryan Alldread.