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SES SJ: Google on Converting Visitors To Customers

Posted on Aug 13th, 2009
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    Nitin Mangtani, Lead Product Manager at Google presented a sponsored session on converting your visitors to customers, specifically through the use of internal site searches.

    Businesses spend a tremendous amount of time, resources, and capital on website development and online marketing initiatives.  Getting people to a site is a challenge in itself, but another key aspect is retaining those visitors and converting them into buyers or subscribers.

    Google search has set a high bar for relevance, speed, and ease of use. Unfortunately most site searches don’t meet these high expectations: 85 percent don’t return what the user sought, and 80 percent of visitors will abandon a site if search functionality is poor (Jupiter Research).

    Search is the starting point to the world’s information.  The major search engines have provided a great user experience and consumers have become accustomed to achieving high quality search results.

    Why should this be different when a visitor comes to your site?  You should be delivering that same experience users are accustomed to with Google and the other engines on your own website.

    A good site search or internal search is imperative for a positive user experience.  Whether your website is information or commerce-rich, people need to find what they are looking for.  Two key points to providing a great user experience:

    • Search is one of the most vital features of any content-rich or product-rich web site
    • Support is the second most vital aspect – people need to be assisted on their way

    Site search tips

    Capture data points of searches which get zero search results:  use that data to create content which will fill the void.  Give people exactly what they are looking for.

    How easy is it to find the site-search?  Must be simple – don’t hide the search box.  Instead of having a button that says search, where you have to click through to another page to actually conduct a search, have a search box above the fold in plain sight.

    Are all your pages getting indexed in search?  Make sure this is happening not just in Google, but in internal site searches.

    Are synonyms triggering related pages?  IE – if you have a site selling computers, is your search engine looking at pages about laptops too if someone does a query for the term netbook?

    Date biasing – influencing search rankings by the age of content.  Administrators should specify the influence of age in site search from low, medium, high to maximum, depending on strategy.

    Top results biasing – ability to control biasing of Top N search results.  This is important to highlight items you are interested in putting in the spotlight.

    Give higher importance to specific section of web site – for example first 3 results can be from product or catalog pages, to help increase conversions.

    Good content and products are vital – without that, it doesn’t matter if people are searching.

    Study the use of your site search.  Site search metrics can provide deep insights into what your customers want.

    Benefits to integrating Google site-search, specifically

    • Narrow search queries:  related search results for on-site search through query refinements
    • Top result can be defined by marketing team such as a page you want to promote
    • Organic results are run through Google’s algorithm
    • Almost no one makes it to page 2 – if your search engine can’t deliver the most relevant results in the top 5 or top 10 results users will give up.
    • Query suggest helps users
    • Can allow user to search within a specific product
    • Takes just minutes to build a granular site search
    • Can blend search and shopping experience with e-commerce
    • Ability to manually shape search results

    Google’s approach to site search, 3 aspects:

    1)  End user – if you can’t build a good search for the end user it is worthless.

    2)  Ease of use

    3)  Latency – last but not the least.  As the latency goes higher, the usage drops.  Latency is directly associated with user happiness.  Google tries to keep the search at sub-second results.

    Learn search engine marketing and social media strategies from 2009 SES SJ coverage by TopRank Online Marketing