October Webinar

According to a Forrester report, 36% of all purchases are influenced by online activity, and only 1 in 5 online businesses are happy with their internal site search. In other words, the importance of a website's internal site search cannot be overstated. Watch this partnership webinar with Groove Commerce and SearchSpring to explore how to transform your site search from a simple feature into a powerful business tool.

What you'll learn in this free webinar:

  • Top site search strategies to ensure customer retention and purchase
  • How to drive more qualified traffic to your site
  • Marketing techniques sure to optimize your online presence
  • How to convert traffic into customers and leads

Join us and watch the recording of our webinar below:


View the transcription of this webinar below:

Mack: All right everybody. Thanks for your patience. Lot of folks filing in to the webinar today, so wanted to give everybody a couple extra minutes to get started. I am Mack McGee. Welcome to the October edition of the Groove Commerce Webinar Series.

Want to welcome you for a very exciting topic today and clearly one that you all found interesting based on the audience; a record breaking audience for the Groove Webinar Series, so excited to get going.

Before we do, want to introduce a couple key people that are going to guide today’s conversation. First, as always, want to thank CEO and Founder of Groove Commerce, Ethan Giffin. Ethan will guide today’s conversations. So Ethan, welcome back as always.

Ethan: Thank you very much, Mack. Very excited to be here today.

Mack: And then with Ethan today, very excited to introduce someone else new to the Groove Commerce Webinar Series, longtime friend and partner of Groove, though, CEO & Founder of SearchSpring, Scott Zielinkski. Scott, welcome to the Groove Webinar Series. Thanks for joining us today.

Scott Zielinski: Thank you for having us.

Mack: All right, so with that everybody we want to go ahead and get started. For those of you that are new, thanks so much for joining. Hope you find the webinar to be valuable today and that you’ll join us ongoing as we do these on a monthly basis.

Want to start by telling you a little bit about Groove Commerce. Groove is an award winning full service agency focused in the eCommerce and lead generation space, providing design and development services around the Magento technology, as well as ongoing services focused on ongoing marketing and site support and maintenance, really working with you on how to generate more out of your online presence. So, providing a lot of valuable services to clients. This is another example, though, of us introducing partners who can provide service as well.

With that, I want to toss things over to Scott real quick to introduce SearchSpring to you all and tell you a little bit about what they do.

Scott: Sure. Thanks. SearchSpring is a site search and navigation company. Amongst that, we do different services. Included with that would be advanced site search, category navigation, things like rich auto complete, IntelliSuggest, mobile site search, Facebook integration, some automated SEO.

So, a full suite of offering all wrapped around site search and navigation.

Mack: All right. So with that, guys, we want to launch our first poll question of the day. We want to get to know our audience a little bit. So with that we present poll #1. This is going to be a critical poll because we want to know who is on the webinar today. What do you know about what you are doing in terms of site search right now? Tell us about it. Scott and Ethan are going to be able to cater their content accordingly. It’s going to be very helpful as we go through this.

So, are you currently using an internal site search on your eCommerce site? Select one of the following. Let us know what you know about your current site search technology.

All right. Looks like we’ve got a good majority. So let’s go ahead and close that poll up. Obviously, some interesting results there, Ethan, as we get started. You got 88% using some form of internal site search. What that is, whether it’s a product as robust as what SearchSpring guys have to offer or something more basic, kind of to be determined. Hope you all chime in with the Q&A and tell us a little bit more about it. But definitely a large portion recognize the importance of this functionality and properly looking for how to optimize it now. So with that, Ethan I’ll let you take it away.

Ethan: Well getting into today’s agenda, we want to talk about a couple of different things here. We want to know first why search matters, why it’s important to you, why you should be tuning it and optimizing it for your website.

We’re going to talk a little bit about how to turn visitors into buyers. Scott is going to share with us some of his experience there.

Next we’re going to get into some analytics to think about. What are the analytics that we want to look at when we’re thinking about our site search? There’s a lot of opportunity there and a lot of unfound gold that people just don’t know about. So what analytics do we want to look at?

And then how to drive more qualified traffic to your site. Those are the important things. And of course, as always on our Groove Webinars, we’ve saved plenty of time for Q&A to happen, and we’re pretty excited about that.

So, Scott and I are going to be taking questions at the end and answering them. So please feel free to go ahead and start entering them into the system through the GoToMeeting panel and we’ll be sure to answer those at the end of the webinar.

Next, we’re going to get into a little bit of what I think about search. And so, it really encourages engagement and increases conversions, and it really boosts average order value. So those are the three elements that I think about when I think about eCommerce site search.

Why site search matters. First, these visitors want to engage with you. These are people that are taking an active role on your website and typing something into a box and trying to get something in return. They’re conversion rate is typically 300-500% higher than the average conversion rate on your website. So these people typically buy more stuff, and their average order value is 25-50% higher than the average AOV on your website. So this is why site search matters, why you want to engage with them.

60% of retailers say it’s the second easiest way to grow sales, and yet most retailers never look under the hood. So really interesting results that came back from that poll. Again, a lot of unfound gold here.

A recent client we worked with, six of the top 10 terms that they had on their internal site search were receiving $0 in revenue. And again, that seems really crazy to me that 60% of the top searches that appeared on their site, there’s no revenue associated with that.

So what are the options? Let’s look at this example retailer here on how they can engage and make it better. This kind of example retailer has 100,000 monthly visitors, about a 2.5% conversion rate. Typical average order value is about $80. We found that 11% of those visitors use search, and of those that searched we saw a huge amount of sales coming from that. So, 715 orders came just from site search. That’s a huge percentage; about 29% of their average sales and they had an average order value of $100.

So again, just 11% of the overall visitors to the site drove 29% of the sales. So how can this impact sales? We know that it’s much easier to go from a 6.5% conversion rate with your site search to a 10% by going through an optimizing, spending the time, putting the care and feeding into that. We know it’s a lot easier to do that than to take your site from 2.5% to 3.5%.

So again, if you can focus in there on that site search you can increase your average order value and your conversion rate. It’s much easier than just going in and increasing your general conversion rate on your website.

Example there, 6.5%, $71,500 in sales. 8.5% becomes $93,500 in sales. That’s a 22% lift by just going from a 6.5% conversion rate on your site search to 8.5%. If you go to a 10%, if you are lucky enough to kind of do that and make that jump, you’ve generated an extra $38,500 a month in sales from your site search.

And these numbers are kinda small for many of the etailers out there and many of the etailers on the webinar today, but it’s a good kind of base way to look at it, that if you can put some care and feeding and you get the right technology behind what you are doing, you can have a significant impact on your revenue. This affects everything from what you can spend on your pay-per-click and other advertising sources as well because you are increasing your revenue.

43% of the people we’ve seen type category name into a box, which is crazy. So if you are selling widgets, they’re typing widgets into those boxes. Why are you presenting what you are presenting back to them is one of the questions that we want to look at today. Or should you just take them to the category page?

And again, out of that example previously, only 4% of the top 10 terms produced any sales. One of the four was “enter your search here”. So, making sure that you have the right kind of technology in place and validation on your site, most people put some type of introductory text into that box. You want to make sure that people just can’t engage that and get stuck and lost.

So what are some of the options out there? We’ve got a lot of Magento users or people that want to move to Magento, so you’ve kind of got that Magento base search, the out-of-the-box. You’ve got something like Solar which is a complex black box that you’ve got to install in extra servers and configure through text files. You can kind of send out a developer and make them build something custom. But I can tell you from experience you probably wouldn’t get something great out of that, or a great third-party. And we’ve got one of those partners today on the phone from SearchSpring that’s going to talk about their IntelliSuggest.

I’m going to turn things over to Scott and he’s going to talk a little bit about the technology behind what he’s doing and how they’re using site search to engage visitors and increase revenues. So, take it away, Scott.

Scott: Great. Thanks, Ethan. So, SearchSpring’s IntelliSuggest. What is IntelliSuggest learning search? Well, over the years we’ve become very educated in what site search is and how it should react and where it should go.

The biggest thing site search comes down to is relevancy. How can you increase relevancy? And that’s by learning; learning from what your customers are searching for and really what they are shopping for.

So how does it work on your website? What we do is we’re tracking several different dimensions of analytics. We’re searching what’s searched versus clicked, what’s purchased with other products, which products are viewed, products viewed with other products, products added to the cart, which products are ultimately purchased, and what products are added to the cart in addition to other products.

So we can take all these different measurements and really apply that to your search results and make it into more of a learning type system.

So, what can we do with this data? By taking the data you are getting in, the data you have and really harvesting it, we can create some great output. We can elevate the search results. And this is going to allow your search results to become smarter and smarter over time.

In addition to that, it’s going to change seasonally and things of that nature. We can also take this data and show product recommendations, which typically show over a 300% increase in conversions.

Here’s an example of SearchSpring IntelliSuggest in action. Here we do a search for Levis in July. You can take a look at the product set and you’re going to see a lot of tank tops, t-shirts, things of that nature.

Well, as the seasons change, what your customers are looking for in terms of Levis may change. So if we look at the next slide, we can see what Levis is in January. Customers are looking for more of the warmer clothes—the sweaters and the cardigans and whatnot.

So we can see that IntelliSuggest here was able to identify the shopping measures from the customers and dynamically alter the search results based upon what customers are looking for.

So what just happened? IntelliSuggest analyzed the changes in what customers are reviewing and purchasing due to changes in seasonality. It searched the category pages and then re-ranked the display of products to ensure the most popular, highest converting products gravitated to the top of the results. Ultimately, this gives improved relevancy for customers. Being able to deliver what the customers are looking for in a quick and efficient way is how you are going to increase your conversions related to site search.

Another cool tool that can be used with SearchSpring IntelliSuggest is being able to do product recommendations. This is kind of off the search page and now this is on to either the product page or the basket page. Because we have all this data, why not take it to the next level and capitalize on that?

With this we can do recommendations in terms of people who bought this product also purchased these products, or people that viewed these products also viewed these products. The conversion rate on these recommendations is pretty incredible. It’s well over 300%. And again, this can be done on the product page and the basket page.

The next thing I wanted to get into is customizable multi-select filters. Being able to create filters based on unique product attributes. So the data that you have on your products, whether it’s different sizes, different colors, different make, model, years, being able to give that data to your customers in a way that makes it usable for them and more efficient for them to navigate your products.

Provide more information to customers. We have social plugins as well, such as ratings and reviews, compare, and quick views. Ratings we really stress. I know personally when I am shopping Amazon.com, one of the first things I do is I sort my results by ratings because I’m looking for products that other people think are cool as well. So that’s a very good filter to put in.

Ethan: So Scott, just briefly, you have the ability to integrate third-party rating reviews results into your search2 results?

Scott: We do. So we can incorporate built-in ratings and reviews from shopping carts. We can also incorporate third-party systems such as PowerReviews or Bazaarvoice and things to that nature.

So here’s an example of the filters before search rank. You can see here, Worldwide Golf Shops search for golf drivers. You don’t really have any capability here to dial in the results. On the next slide, and this is the after, you’ll be able to see now you can filter by user or gender, men, women, kids. You can narrow your results by brand, by price, by loft, hand orientation, flex, or some other examples.

One of the really cool things about using a third-party search system such as SearchSpring is that you have that analytics on the backend to where you can analyze what your customers are filtering off of.

So if you go back in there and say, “OK, for my golf clubs I’m seeing that 98% of my customers are filtering off of loft before they filter off of anything else.” In that case, what I would probably want to do is move that facet or that refinement towards the top.

So you can continually refine your search results to tailor to what your customers are looking for based off of your analytics. In addition to that, you can do different merchandising campaigns. You can do some synonyms, some redirects. You can really do some product boosting. So, bestselling products are maybe presented more towards the top. There’s all kinds of ways that search results can continue to be learned and elevated.

Here’s some more examples of the multi-select filters. A really popular one is color—allowing your customers to actually see a visual color and filter off of that. This can also be multi-select, so if they want to see white and blue, they can check off both colors. That’s going to bring back results for both of those colors.

Same with category. It could be a scrolling up and down list. Pricing you can a sliding bar where you can set a low and a high point and it will only show products within that. Then you can also do a grid type example for size. A good example of that is shoes. Maybe you click on size 10, 10 ½, and it’s going to bring back the results for that.

There’s many different ways that you can display or deliver your facets to your customers in a really intuitive way.

Some more examples here that we can bring into is the compare feature—allowing your customers to compare the products on their search results. Maybe there are three different pairs of boots that they want to look at. Well, they can check off each pair and hit compare and it’s going to load those up for them and show them side by side, the different styles, the different colors, or maybe the different features or attributes of those boots.

A really cool feature now too that people have been integrating is quick view. Without having to go to the product page, they can now just hover over the quick view button and it pops up what I would call a mini product page where they view the details or maybe even add it to the cart right from there without having to leave the search results page.

Another example is being able to integrate some social integration—Facebook, Pinterest right there on the search results. We’ve found that to be widely used and very effective. And again, back to the rankings, being able to bring in third-party solutions as well as any custom solutions to allow your customers to not only filter by different ratings, but they could also sort by ratings. They could also filter by pros and cons. Is it lightweight? Is it a heavy product? Whatever the case may be.

Moving on to another great component of site search and navigation which is becoming very, very popular on many of the big-box site is with the rich auto complete. As it says here, it takes the guesswork out of search.

In the old days, when you would start searching it would start giving you keyword suggestions. Well, what rich auto complete is going to do is it’s going to give you those keyword suggestions in addition to showing you live product results.

So as I’m typing, it’s going to show me, in this example, the different shoes that are available for what I’m typing. So, display search suggests and product images. 1/3rd of customers who search will click onto the product image. A customer goes directly to a product page, eliminating a step in the conversion process.

So not only is it more effective in delivering the results to the customer, but it also skips steps, which ultimately leads

So not only is it more effective in delivering the results to the customer, but it also skips steps, which ultimately leads to increased conversions. So it’s one more way to connect the customer with the product in a quicker and more efficient manner.

Mack: That’s great stuff. Scott, obviously some great content there to start. We want to go ahead and poll the audience for our second poll of the day. Scott has talked about IntelliSuggest, filters, and rich auto complete as some of the key functionality behind search. So with that, we want to launch our second poll.

How happy are you with your current site search? Seeing some of these key components that define a powerful search feature, how excited are you about what you are currently using? Go ahead and we’ll range in answers there from thrilled to “I have no idea” and see where everybody comes up.

It looks like we’ve got enough of a majority here to go ahead and close out that poll. Some interesting results. Obviously, the thrilled down, and maybe that’s because of some of what you’ve talked about, Scott, in terms of the features that are key to defining a successful search. And the rest kinda sitting there in the middle and probably identifying some areas where there could be to improve.

So with that, I think what everybody is really going to find as we dive into the second part of the webinar now is really starting to tie in the analytics component to this and what Ethan and a lot of the strategy team here at Groove has seen in conjunction with Scott’s team in utilizing this feature.

With that, I want to toss over to Ethan for the analytics portion today and talking about how site search really plays into that.

Ethan: Thanks, Mack. What we’re going to look at here is some analytics to think about in terms of your site search. Great information from Scott. You kinda saw what the auto complete does. You saw the images in the auto complete. They all kind of add to the overall search experience for the visitor. We know that pictures sell products. So again, very, very important when you are thinking about how you would plug that in. And people often ask, “Why would I use the third-party?” All of those examples are there. That’s why. It would be very expensive to build all of those pieces on your own and try to develop them yourself.

So let’s get into some analytics to think about. But first I want to kind of really look at the steps to optimizing your site search. It all begins with analytics—being able to track what people are doing, what is converting. Then you are kind of choosing your path of which direction you are going with your site search. You are looking at the design elements; things like the selectors and the color palettes. How are you going to display that information out? Configuring up your site search is the next piece. And then you kinda go into this mode where it’s ongoing review and analytics just over and over; ongoing review and analytics to look at what’s working for you.

So, site search analytics. Make sure that your Google analytics tracks site search. A lot of people we come across, their sites are still not set up properly for that. I’m going to show you how to do that here in a second.

You want to look at things like the top 100 searches that people do on your site. You want to look at the top 100 searches with no revenue and the top 100 searches that have zero results. Those last two are really holes in the overall process there in places that you can start to plug.

So you want to run these searches on your own by yourself through your site, see what you get back, and really think, like, would you be happy with that if you were looking for that product? If you go to Amazon and run that kind of search, what do you get back?

Is a similar product often called something else? Those are things to think about. As Scott talked about, creating synonyms for products, again, are important. Are important words being missed from your product descriptions that people are looking for? So if it’s things like SKU or model number and those aren’t involved in the site search, then people are going to be looking for those things and not finding that you already have. And do you not currently sell this product?

One of our clients saw a significant amount of keyword searches for a product that they did offer in store but did not offer online. We were able then to go and work with them and basically fill a hole there that people were looking for.

Is it last year’s or a discontinued model? Are people looking for old things? Are they looking for last year’s model of the Sony camera that they’ve replaced? How are you going to handle that? How are you going to direct people to the new products? Are those pages that are going to be ever green on your site or are those pages that are going to go away? But again, those are something that you want to think about with your site search and how people are looking. Last year’s model, was it a two? Did it become a three this year? Are you going to map that over or how are you going to present that back to your visitors?

Setting up search analytics is really, really simple. You go into the configuration area of your Google Analytics and you just click…this one is set up to not track site search. You add it in; do track site search. And depending upon…typically there’s a query parameter. In the case of Magento it’s a Q. You can put that in there and then it will look for that, what that equals, and then it will start to grab that information as people are searching for it on the site. So, really, really easy to do, and something that I recommend everyone do if you haven’t already.

One of the great things too is something like SearchSpring kind of pairs together their analytics data with Google Analytics and kind of presents back a holistic picture, because Google Analytics doesn’t have a lot of the reporting that you need for ongoing optimization.

This is just a quick example of the site search report in analytics.

One of the things that I really like to touch on is your no results page. This is place where people can get lost and stuck. This is an example of the out-of-the-box Magento no search results page that just comes back with your search returns no results. How stuck do you think people are going to get at this point?

How can you guide people kinda back into the sales funnel? You want to make sure that you do that properly. Again, this is kind of a quick example of a proper no results page. It’s something that you can test and optimize as well. We like to put things like reiterate the search term people are looking for. We like to kind of list out some popular search terms. Maybe have the box to perform another search or call for assistance. And then I would show between three and nine of the best sellers or a buyer’s guide on this page as well.

Again, if you look at the difference between these two pages, this is a dead end. Every page on your site should be a revolving door or a conversion point. So this is definitely a dead end. But this is a revolving door that gets people to that next step so they can kind of find something they are looking for, add it to their cart, and eventually check out.

We’re going to turn things back over to Scott. He’s going to talk about how to utilize site search tools to drive some more qualified traffic to your website.

Scott: Thanks Ethan. Some great content you just went over. A lot of that ties right into SearchSpring. To touch on a comment that you made there with the Google Analytics, the SearchSpring dashboard, the first thing that you see when you login is an integration that we have with Google Analytics that basically sucks out bottom line numbers and shows you that data in an easy to read format.

But yeah, like you said, knowing what’s going on with your search and understanding what people are searching for and not finding and really understanding analytics is very key.

But moving forward here, driving qualified traffic. So basically, what this really means is that we have all this data. We know what your customers are searching for. So how can we capitalize on that and how can we take that data and get some prequalified or targeted traffic back to your site by leveraging that IntelliSuggest data?

And the way that we do that is what we call our SEO cloud. It’s an automated SEO cloud, or you may have heard the term a user generated search cloud. The concept is pretty simple. We are taking the most popular searched keywords on your site and creating clouds and landing pages based off of that. The idea is that if it’s the most popular search terms on your site, the idea of it being very popular on the actual search engines is very likely. So if we can kinda match those two up and drive that long-tailed traffic, if you will, conversions to those pages are significantly higher.

In addition to that, it helps decrease bounce rates. It’s going to decrease the bounce rates through improved relevancy and increased engagement and boosting in the organic SEO.

So here’s an example of a site, Battery Mart here, that’s using the search cloud. They have a couple search clouds that are on this page—the “what’s hot” and “what’s upcoming”. “What’s hot” is the most popular searches, and then “upcoming” is what we track and we say, “OK, these are keywords that are being searched quite a bit lately and they are really climbing the charts.” So, odds are that these keywords are going to move over to the other side.

Ultimately, what matters is what the search engines are going to see on these search clouds and index and create landing pages out of.

So automated SEO, you need landing pages to optimize these keywords. These pages are automatically created. And they are SEO optimized as well. So the concept is for the search engines to spider, crawl and index these pages, optimizing keywords.

So, results. Potential customers see these same terms within Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In this particular example we can see a search for 12 Volt 500 AH batteries. All of the top results are coming from this particular user’s search cloud. So we can see that the number one result for 12 Volt 500 AH batteries goes to batteries.batterymart.com, which is their search cloud landing page.

So, we also call this the icing on the cake. You are taking your data that you already have and really maximizing it and capitalizing it and bringing back that additional revenue and additional customer base that may have not have been there initially.

So, decreased bounce rates. Bounce rate defined is the percentage of a single page visit or visits in which the person left the site from the entrance page or landing page. More simplistically, Google direct users to a site and the user clicks back without engaging with any aspect of the site.

How to decrease bounce rates. On average, bounce rates decrease by 8% as a result of encouraged engagement using things such as the site search to auto complete or rich auto complete, having those customizable select facets or filters, allowing your customers to filter by as much data as possible that’s relevant to their search results. The design aspect of how your search results layout is; is it a grid view? Is it a list view? Do you have the quick view? Are your images in the proper size? All those different things are really going to affect your bounce rate.

Then improved relevancy. Does your search continually learn what your customers are looking for? Or are you having to always go in there and continually manipulate it? Another good example that we see on site search commonly is pluralization or spellings. Does your search have the capability to understand a misspelling and still bring back the results of the proper spelling? Or will it understand things like hyphens or apostrophes? So, t-shirt versus t-shirts. Nine out of 10 times we will always see completely different result sets based on that. So that’s something to look at as well.

And then bringing in social links—allowing your customers to share that product or that result set amongst their friends on Facebook or Pinterest.

Mack: Great stuff, Scott. Great stuff, Ethan. With that I want to queue up our poll #3. Obviously a lot of great content today. So, depending on the user you are and where you are coming from in terms of what you are using for site search right now, there’s a ton of different ways to go out of today’s webinar and content.

So let us know. Do you want to hear from us to discuss a follow-up on your own site search and what you could do? This could be hearing from Groove, hearing from SearchSpring. We want to talk to those people that are looking to optimize this portion of their website. And hopefully, after today’s content and what our panelists have shared, you are seeing the value that this can drive in terms of revenue.

It looks like we’ve got a good enough majority there to go ahead and close that poll out. So with that, I want to kick into the Q&A. Guys, big audience, lot of questions. I want to start to dive into these. As we get into the Q&A, feel free to keep sending your questions in. We want to hit on as many as we can today.

Before we dive into it, I want to remind everybody we’ve got another webinar coming up next month in November. Excited to partner with our great partner buySAFE for a very interesting topic—checkout process optimization: 11 steps to increasing revenue. So, going to be a great topic. Got a great partner in buySAFE that’s got some awesome content to share in terms of what they’ve found through their technology and just some great stuff coming up for you in November. So we look forward to that. You’ll be able to register for that later today.

With that, I want to dive into questions. Ethan, the first question is actually going to go to you because it’s around analytics and what you dove into. People are wanting to know what are we seeing in terms of average order value with people using search? And then you talked about moving that conversion rate up. This person is asking, “What do you typically see in trying to get that done?”

Ethan: I think that that’s kind of a difficult question. It’s really based upon what you are selling, what your average order value is for what you are selling, and then how that kind of rolls back into your site search. Is it really bad? Is it horrible? Is it nonexistent? You know, those kind of things.

But we’ve seen increases very regularly 20%, 30%. I’ll kind of ask Scott if he has any kind of typical increases of what his clients are seeing when they engage with him in a more kind of thorough site search product.

Scott: Yeah. You know, the increases are astronomical in most cases. You know, 10%, 15% is pretty common to see on site search related increases on conversions. It’s a case by case scenario, but site search is a very important tool on the site. In a lot of studies that we see, in fact, we were just looking at some analytics yesterday for a merchant and site search, only 12% of their customers were using site search, yet it was attributing to over 50% of their overall revenue, which is huge.

So if they could take their user base from 12% to 15% using site search, you know, whether that’s making the search box a little bit bigger, more noticeable, whatever the case may be, that’s a huge return in numbers on the bottom line.

Ethan: Yeah. And then once you get them in the search, taking the steps to make sure what you are getting back is very relevant. That’s the part where I touched on of kind of running these top searches on your own and seeing what you get back and seeing if you would be happy with that. And then go run the same search on Amazon and see what you get back there. There’s a site that’s built almost entirely on search versus browsing.

So again, that relevancy plus engagement is the key to kind of getting that increase.

Mack: Sticking on this topic for a minute guys, so this question comes in, and I love this question because it hits on something we are talking about with a lot of people right now, Ethan, particularly on our side. And Scott, I am sure you guys are dealing with it too.

You’ve got holiday shopping season coming up. So you’ve got people on your site that are maybe buying for people that would normally shop your site in terms of gifting. What can you do as they probably might be using site search? Any recommendations that you guys would make for this audience? As they are used to using search to find things, how can they help use a site search on a site that they may not be familiar with that or the products that are being returned in results?

Scott, we’ll toss that to you first and then let Ethan chime in if there’s anything else.

Scott: I think that’s a great example of why having your site search as relevant as possible for the people that are not familiar with their products. You have a parts type website where you have customers coming and knowing what they are looking for. They know how to use the system.

But when you come to, let’s say, a gift type website, they don’t know what they are looking for. They don’t know how to find it. So having your site search optimized as much as possible, as relevant as possible, and those filters, those facets are really going to help drive the customers to what they are looking for.

One of the things that we’ve done to take it even a step further is we can actually create gift finders or product finders based off of that data, which makes it even more intuitive for the customers to find what they are looking for. Or maybe if it’s gifts, the gift finder will say, “OK, are you looking for a man or a woman?” And then based on what they select, it will give them another option after that: “OK, well you are looking for this, this, and this.” And it really helps them get to that end result as quick as possible and a much more relevant experience for them.

Ethan: Yeah, that’s great Scott. I guess on my side I’ve got something that’s just real tactical. Most site searches are product based only. So most of them aren’t typically looking at the content areas of your website in terms of the content pages within your CMS, things like return policies, shipping policies, sizing charts. Even if you sell gift cards, look at a synonym for gift certificates.

In something like SearchSpring you can go in and put redirects in. I would make sure that for your key terms, things like your return policy, things like your shipping policy, sizing charts. If you sell gift cards on your site, make sure you have synonyms for gift certificate set up.

So, kind of those kinds of things are what people are looking for when they are gifting and not necessarily always product related. So making sure that you are kind of redirecting the folks that are looking for the important content pages on your site within the site search is a real tactical, real easy thing that you can do and get some results from.

Mack: Great. This question hits on Scott. In terms of talking about core site search, as you identified the features that are critical to defining a good, optimized site search, can you talk to us about what those top few are?

Scot: Absolutely. First of all, what we are trying to do is give a 50,000 foot kind or level of what SearchSpring does. And obviously there’s much, much more of what it can do and attribute to the site search.

The number one thing is pure relevancy. If you are not showing what your customers are looking for on the first page or the first couple results, they’re gone. They are going to assume that you don’t have that product. They are not going to sit there and spend the time and paginate all the way through to page four to find the product that they really should expect at the top of the results. So relevancy is really, really key. And there’s so many different factors that tie into relevancy. Ethan has touched on a few of them. Those are the things like the merchandising, being able to boost different products.

At SearchSpring you can actually go in, say if someone does a search for “widget”, you want product X, Y, Z to show up number one no matter what. You can do things with synonyms, looking at your reporting and kind of tying that together and seeing, you know, are people doing searches for keywords that are good but they just don’t match up with your data? How can we match those up?

So relevancy—getting those products up in front of that customer’s eyes right on the top of the results on the first page is number one.

The second thing is being able to bring in refinements. Allow your customer to filter that out. Many, many times they are going to do a very vague search which is going to blow up the search results. So being able to have that ability to refine a set of products, say maybe 400, down to 25 results instantly by clicking on a facet or a refinement is going to be very powerful for that customer.

Ethan: Yeah, a recent search for myself I was looking for a specific black hat for my Halloween costume. So I was going through a significant amount of elements and products to kind of…I just wanted to see the black hat. So that kind of took a search that started out with 450, 475 products and took me down to about 48. I was quickly able to migrate through those and find the one I was looking for.

So giving the user the ability to kind of refine that is very important. We get overwhelmed very quickly with too many results.

Scott: One more thing to add to that. I would say the speed and efficiency or design aspect of your search results is going to be very critical as well, making it easy to read and easy to use.

For example, our biggest implementation that we offer our merchants is AJAX. The cool thing about AJAX is it allows you to filter, and search, and sort and all that without even having to reload the page. It just happens instantly for the customer.

We find that it makes it more intuitive, it’s a faster experience, increased conversions. And then to tie into that is quick view—allowing them to see mini product pages pop up right there in front of them, add the product to the cart, and they can continue to search.

So taking in all those different aspects into the search is critical as well.

Mack: OK, great. Next question. Ethan, looking at site search and landing pages. Scott, what have you guys seen in terms of deciding how far down do you drill someone in terms of taking them to a category page where maybe you see a couple products versus taking them all the way into a product detail page just off of the site search feature?

Ethan: I will say that that’s something that needs to be reviewed on a case by case basis. Many times, people that aren’t quite ready to re-platform and they don’t have all the features and functions yet in terms of what they want in terms of their platform within their landing pages. Sometimes kind of sending them to a page that has filters performs much better than it does if you just send them to the old static page. Whereas, other folks that may have newer platforms, they may want to send people to those category pages that have extra content, extra information about what they are doing.

So we kinda look at it on a case by case basis. I’d be curious if Scott had any kind of feedback around that as well.

Scott: Yeah, you know, it does determine, you know, is this a new site or a re-platforming of an existing site? The cool thing about the AJAX integration with SearchSpring is that it’s essentially plug and play deployment.

We can take it and add it to existing landing pages. We can add just the facets. We can actually load the facets and some results. So what we’ve seen a lot is where customers will come in and say, “Hey, I’ve got this hierarchy of categories that are 12 levels deep. I’m losing customers because they’re clicking down this cave so far. And if they’ve taken the wrong route, well now they’ve got to back all the way out and try to figure out what the other path is.”

With bringing in the faceting on the top level parent category, if you will, it allows them to drill down to what they are looking for quicker, but also back out of it much quicker. They can just remove the refinements, if you will, that they’ve selected.

So we’ve seen many, many sites that are 10, 12 categories deep, and now they are just top level faceting because it makes it so much quicker and efficient for the customer.

Mack: Cool. I know you both can weigh in on this next question probably in two different ways. We’ve got a question around some of the stuff that you hit on around the SEO cloud today, Scott. People want to know, have we seen how, in a post-Panda world, this is impacting folks from an SEO perspective? I am sure Ethan will have an SEO opinion on this maybe. But let’s turn it over to you, Scott, first in terms of how that SEO technology is working out.

Scott: Yeah. We’ve actually been seeing good results from that. Our marketing manager Kyle would probably be able to touch more on that. But to make it short and quick, the automated SEO component of SearchSpring has been playing very, very well with the Panda changes. And we’re seeing some great results.

Mack: All right Ethan, from the SEO world, SEO corner, what have we got?

Ethan: I would say you really just need to evaluate all the other things that you have going on, on your site. Again, if you’ve developed a lot of SEO content versus not, if you have a less sophisticated eCommerce platform, a lot of times we’ve seen success with that. It really kind of depends on what your overall strategy is and what your ability is to kind of create some of those landing pages that you need and get them done.

There’s definitely times where it’s a huge asset. If you are kind of doing a ton of your own SEO, if you are doing a ton of A/B testing on your category pages and all these other things that are more sophisticated, you may not necessarily utilize that because you are kinda doing other things that account for that.

Mack: OK. This question, Scott, geared at you guys with the ability to use your technology outside of Magento in other technology products. We wanted to let you weigh in on that for this etailer.

Scott: SearchSpring, by no means, is specific to Magento. It’s virtually compatible with every single platform out there. The way that SearchSpring is designed is it’s super plug and play. You name the shopping cart or platform and we’ve integrated with it.

A lot of the platforms out there we have direct integrations with, such as Magento. It’s either API’s or some sort of modular extensions. So yeah, definitely not platform dependent by any means.

Mack: OK, great. Next question comes from someone who has implemented a new third-party site search tool. They are looking for: What are the important metrics to use in my site search report? Guys, can you weigh in on what are some key metrics here in terms of what someone should be looking at, maybe top three, top four?

Scott: I think Ethan kinda touched on it a little bit ago. Looking to see what are your top searches and then analyzing that and saying, “OK, how can I take these top searches to the next level?” Either it’s marketing, or maybe if I see these top 100 keywords just blowing up for me, I’m going to take those and maybe throw those into AdWords on the Google side and just kinda do some marketing for that.

I definitely want to see what people are searching for and getting no results and why they are getting no results. Is it because they are searching keywords that are very similar but just not matching up? So, do I need to create synonyms? Or are they searching for products that just don’t exist and I don’t carry, but maybe I should because a lot of people are searching for them.

Another good one is looking at your refinements and your facets. Which ones are being used the most? Those are the ones that you are going to want to push to the top. It’s going to increase your usability for your site search.

Ethan: I think when I touched on my elements within the presentation it was really just about kinda knowing. And as my friend GI Joe says: “Knowing is half the battle”; a frequent quote of mine on these webinars.

The big thing is that most people don’t realize what the actual results are for some of their most popular terms. So going through that exercise. And a lot of times people just want to kind of stick themselves in the eye with a pencil after they actually see how frustrated people become themselves with their own websites.

So, really kind of analyzing that and taking those terms going through that. You could spend a day or two upfront doing this, and then once you kinda get into that kind of ongoing optimization, it’s like how could I spend a couple of hours every month just kind of tuning and boosting for everything else?

So it’s really about that kind of overall awareness and seeing what you get back. Again, I like to just go to Amazon and put that same term into Amazon. What are the products that they are presenting back? I tell people don’t always copy what Amazon is doing because they are testing more than you could ever imagine. And the amount of traffic they have, you’ll see things that may or may not be overall successful, but they are just going through all of these different tests with it.

Again, as you see what results come back, that may help you as a smaller retailer to go in and figure out, all right, what products need to be boosted to the top? Do we want to show our top rated products at the top of the searches? Do we want to have a blend of our newest products first, then our most popular? That will drive you down that path to kind of figure out what you want to present there.

Mack: OK, guys. Again, either one of you probably weigh in on this with different perspectives, maybe, even. But the prominence, the effect that this feature has on sites, how big do you make the search as part of site design/user interface so that people know to use this once you have fine-tuned it to take advantage of it?

Ethan: I think you should hide it as much as you can on the page and make it as small as possible. No, I’m just kidding. You know, our feeling is that people will kind of scale to the size of the box. So if your search box is small and hidden, then people are going to put very little information into it because they don’t see what goes beyond the edge.

So I would suggest a decent sized search box that’s very prominent, probably within the header. I got a phone call from my good buddy Brian Isenberg recently and he was doing a whole write-up on blogs and people that were utilizing their blogs. He was like, “You know what you are doing wrong with your blog?” I was like, “No.” He was like, “Well, you put your site search right beside your email opt-in box,” and it was something that even we kind of just missed in terms of overall thinking.

You want to kind of make sure that it’s by itself, you’ve got a good call to action on it, and it’s a nice size on the page. Especially with the auto complete and the auto complete with the preview, you want to have some room there to kind of show some real content as people are typing in there.

Scott: I would definitely agree with all of that.

Mack: Great. Guys, next question: Any way to eliminate the results of in-house searches to avoid skewing your data, your results that you are seeing as you log into that?
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t speak to other applications, but with SearchSpring we can isolate the IP’s for the office. So we can exclude those so that it doesn’t skew any of the reporting.

Mack: Great. Guys, with that I want to kind of wrap things up for today. Final points walking away, Scott, let’s start with you. Final takeaways someone can take away from today’s webinar on the stuff that we’ve covered in terms of things to implement, things to consider as they move forward?

Scott: I think most of the attendees are going to understand that site search is a very important tool. Some walkaway points are what can I do to increase the usability of my site search? I think one of the biggest ones is rich auto complete. Implementing a feature like that is going to show some great return.

Looking at doing things even on the small side—implementing quick view and the social integration like the Pinterest buttons and the Facebook buttons. Allowing your customers to become more socially interactive with the results not only engages them more but it also increases the visibility of those products out in these social environments.

The biggest thing that I say with site search is don’t be overwhelmed with it. Don’t feel like it’s more than you can bite off. Start somewhere and just slowly work on it. If you are using a third-party search provider like us it makes it even easier because we do everything for you.

So the walkaway is that site search is extremely important. It’s definitely conversion boosting and it attributes to a large component of the overall sales and the bottom line.

Mack: Great. Ethan?

Ethan: Yeah, I would agree with all of those points. Again, kind of many etailers are still not properly thinking about site search. I would constantly be evaluating the results that you are getting, even if you are already on a third-party provider. Don’t just take things for granted. Make sure you’ve got your own checks and balances in place. It’s too much revenue to just kind of leave out there and to not be able to properly track and account for.

I again would recommend to start small. If you’ve got an older platform it’s a good way to kind of dip your toe in the water and start to make some significant changes. If you have an existing platform, one of the things that we see with Magento, one of the problems is the internal site search has a lot of overhead in terms of all of the synonyms and tracking and things that are going on with that. So if you can kind of eliminate that overhead from your servers you are able to kind of put more speed and oomph in other places.

So I think there’s a lot of ways that it can benefit you. Again, you don’t have to start out with a six month long integration. You can get going really quickly and then just kind of iterate through it and build on it if you are putting the right pieces in place.

A lot of these tips and tricks we do with our current clients that engage with us on kind of site search optimization. I hate to kind of give them all away for free, but I’m doing it anyway because Mack is making me. But these are some of the ways that we can kind of go in and make a few quick changes for clients to boost their revenue fairly quickly. So just a lot of great information to think about.

Mack: All right, great. Well, first and foremost, thank you SearchSpring, thank you Scott for participating today. I hope everybody sees this is what’s really cool. And while SearchSpring says they do work with other things besides Magento, this is the awesome part about Magento, though. I think the partnership network that you see here and the solutions partner like Groove Commerce partnering with a great technology provider like SearchSpring to bring value to the client. So just a really cool example of the Magento ecosystem.

You will see it again next month with next month’s webinar in November on the checkout process as we partner with buySAFE, another great Magento extension, another great partner of Groove Commerce bringing value to clients.

Thank you guys for joining us. Ethan, Scott, thank you for joining us. A lot of great content today. Hopefully people take that away. You will see this in a recorded version following up after this for those of you that want to review this material again.

Join us again next month for our webinar. You will be able to sign up later today. And again, thank you audience. We appreciate that you all take time out of your day to participate in the webinar series with us. We hope you find the content valuable. We’ll take your feedback, your questions as much as we can to make sure that this webinar series adds value to you.

In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us at info@grooveCommerce.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Engage with SearchSpring as well. A lot of great content coming out of both companies on a monthly basis. And until next time everybody, best of luck out there selling as we head into the busy months of the year. See you next month on our webinar. Thanks everyone.

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