June Webinar
Groove’s June webinar was all about site search. Why is it important? How can you improve it? And how much does it impact conversion? Get some insightful tips around how you can make more money online by tweaking the design and functionality of your site search.


View the Transcription of this Webinar Below:

Mack: Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us. Good morning for any of our West Coast folks. I’m Mack McGee. I’m the VP of Sales and Marketing for Groove Commerce. I appreciate you all coming out today for what should be a very informative and interesting webinar. With that, we want to get started pretty quickly here.
The theme of today’s webinar is: Supercharge your E-commerce site search. That’s going to be run and led by Ethan Giffin. As you saw in the webinar description, half of Groove Commerce’s business is consulting, and a lot of that is looking at how people can increase the performance of their site. Time and time again, regardless of what people sell, we have found that e-commerce site search can exponentially increase the performance of your site.
So today, Ethan’s going to walk you through tips around how to decide what site search is right for you, how to leverage that site search, particularly with Magento Enterprise platform, and from there, just how to continue an ongoing optimization of the performance of that site search. We’re going to dive into some actual examples and some actual real numbers and what that all means.
With that, I want to introduce Ethan Giffin, who is the CEO & Founder of Groove Commerce. Ethan just got back from San Diego, been speaking out there, doing live site reviews with a jam-packed audience with friend and colleague David Wertheimer from Alexander Interactive. But with that, I want to introduce Ethan and let him take it away. So with that, Ethan?
Ethan Giffin: Thanks, Mack. And welcome everybody on the webinar today. Today is the second in our series of: Supercharge your Site Search webinars. Just really quickly, so we can get a show of hands, if you can hear me OK, please hit the “raise hand” button in your webinar control panel, just so we can make sure that we’ve got everybody doing fine in terms of audio.
Very good. I see everybody hitting their hands. So this is the second in our series of webinars on how to supercharge your website. I think in the previous “Five Ways to Supercharge your Magento Site” webinar we had about two slides focused on site search. I could probably talk about this subject all day. So let’s get going.
What do we think about site search? Like my friend Randy Moss says, “Straight catch, homie.” Randy is not doing so well right now, and I hope you guys are doing better with your e-commerce sites. Site search is one of the quickest ways in order to optimize and generate more revenue through your website.
Mack is going to start us out with a little question to get the day started.
Mack: With that, we want to go ahead and ask you: How satisfied are you with your current site search? We really want to get a poll on what the current taste is regarding your current e-commerce site search. So if everybody would, go ahead and fill this out. Let’s see what the audience has to say.
Ethan: All right, the votes keep coming in. Excellent. We’ve got about 76% that have voted. We’re going to go ahead and close that and get going. So about more than half of you, about 58% of you aren’t satisfied. 32% are moderately satisfied, and 11% of you are very satisfied. I’d like to meet and talk with the very satisfied folks. I think those of you that are moderately or not satisfied, hopefully you get a few tips out of today that will help you generate some more revenue.
So why optimizing site search matters. These visitors want to engage. They’re not just someone that surfs your website. They’re someone that’s typing into a box and hitting submit. They want to engage with you. Research has shown that their conversion rate is 300-500% higher than the average conversion rate on your website. So they’re a great group of folks to interact with.
Average order value is 25-50% higher than the average site visitor. So again, if you are able to figure out how to optimize and convert these visitors, they are not only going to convert at a higher rate, they are also going to buy more stuff from you, which is what we all want.
According to a great Marketing Sherpa study, 60% of all retailers say that optimizing your site search is the second easiest way to grow sales. That’s pretty interesting. Again, I always talk about my friend Bryan Eisenberg, and he talks about the leaky bucket. This is one of those holes in the bucket that’s pretty easy to go stick your thumb in. It’s not a pinhole sized hole. So you are able to go in there and, if done the right way and with the right though, folks are able to generate some nice revenue and ROI from their site search activities. Yet, most retailers still never look under the hood.
We’re surprised today, even, at the size of retailers that we meet with, when we’re reviewing their websites, that have done very little with their site search. A recent client of ours, we started looking at their site search in order to optimize it. Six out of the top 10 terms that people looked for on their website generated zero revenue. So it’s a really important thing to think about that six out of 10 times people are frustrated and not finding what they want. Yet, almost all of those six things are available on the website. So how are we going to get people in the right direction and not have them be frustrated?
So what are the options? There’s a lot of options these days. Thinking about the options, you’ve got the out of the box Magento site search. I would say that it’s got some great functionality. It allows you to enter synonyms and redirects and things. But at the end of the day, it’s a straight text site search and doesn’t really contain any type of fuzzy logic in order to help figure out what the visitor’s intentions are.
You have Solar, which is a great kind of open source, do it yourself site search. Not bad if you have the technical ability to be able to go in and make the changes and edits that you want. I tend to shy away, frankly, from things that are do-it-yourself on this. I like to let people that are much smarter about algorithms and mathematical equations figure out how to do this fuzzy logic and present the right things.
Then you get into some of the third-party hosted solutions. Some of the nice ones out there are Nextopia, SearchSpring, and FLI. All three are very reputable search companies and all have great features and functionality that meet different needs.
And then lastly, again, going back to the custom built search solution, this is what I definitely don’t recommend. What you don’t want is some developer in a dark closet that doesn’t really know much about search making arbitrary decisions that are going to affect a significant amount of revenue on your website.
So we’ve seen just about everything in terms of site searches—people that have rolled their own e-commerce platforms. The site search is usually something like at the end that people barely think about and rarely touch.
So let’s kind of tee up the next question. I’m going to turn it back over to Mack.
Mack: Thanks, Ethan. With that, we want to launch our next question of the day. We want to know what site search functionality do you use on your current e-commerce website? Select one of the following below. We want to get kind of an idea of what folks are working with out there. So we’ve got Magento out-of-the-box, Solar, third-party provider, custom built, or other.
Ethan: Some pretty interesting results coming in. We’ve got about 63% of you who have voted, which is great today. I’m glad everybody’s taking part. We’ve got about 39% are Magento out-of-the-box. 16% of you are using Solar. 32% are using a third party. 5% are using custom built. And 11% are using other, and that’s from about 70% of the attendees today on the webinar. Really good, and I think that all of you should be able to find some elements that you can utilize in terms of overall improvement.
Let’s look at one of our retailer case studies. This retailer gets about 100,000 monthly visitors to their website. They get about 2,500 orders a month, or roughly about a 2.5% conversion rate. Let’s keep the numbers fairly straightforward and simple. Their typical AOV, Average Order Value, is about $80 across their website.
11% of their visitors interacted with the site search. Pretty interesting. It’s a small but powerful amount. Of those that searched, some pretty interesting metrics. Of those that used the site search, they had about a 6.5% conversion rate. They had about $100 average order value—a $20 increase from $80. And again, when we talk to most retailers, they’re like, “How can I get an extra $20 out?” How can I get an extra $15 out?” That little bit is enough to really help cover the cost of marketing your site, your pay-per-click costs, all of these things that everyone is stretched with in terms of margins. And that 11% of visitors actually turned out to be about 29% of the overall sales of the website. So that’s about 715 orders that just came from visitors that interacted with the site search. That’s a pretty big amount of people not to really pay attention to.
And we also feel strongly that, looking at the site search, it wasn’t really thought about; it was just kinda there. No one had ever really looked under the hood. No one had ever thought about all the advanced features and functionality that you should be doing in terms of getting visitors in the right direction.
So how can this impact sales? First off, it’s much easier to go from a 6.5% conversion rate to a 10% conversion rate with your site search than it is to go from a 2.5% conversion rate to a 3.5% conversion rate with your overall conversion rate on the website. So many things impact that. But very targeted activity on your site search can drive significant revenue.
So our baseline at 6.5% is about $71,500 in gross sales that came from people that interacted with your site search. If you get that to 8.5%, that bumps it up around $93,500 in sales. That’s a plus of $22,000. If you bump it up again to 10%, that equals $110,000 in sales from your site search, or a gross increase of $38,500.
If you look at that spanned across a 12 month period, even at a 8.5% increase, which is very basic for someone that has done little customization of their site search, that’s still about $264,000 in gross sales. Or if a typical retailer has about a 40%, it’s over $100,000 in gross profit. For that person that can get it to 10%, that’s $462,000 in plus gross sales, or $184,000 in gross profit if they’re running at that 40% mark.
Those are big numbers. Think about that. If you think about how that could offset shipping costs, how that could offset marketing costs, offset your development costs. There’s a lot of opportunity there to generate additional revenue from existing visitors and people that want to engage from you and buy.
Another tidbit that came out of the Marketing Sherpa study was 43% of visitors type a category name into your search box. So how do you want to handle that? There’s a lot of different ways that we’re going to talk about. But again, getting 43% of those 11,000 people to the right landing page, that’s gotta definitely help conversion rate, and that’s a pretty easy win for most sites to look at.
And again, remember, only four out of the top 10 search terms produced any sales. So I like our odds with this. It’s something that everyone should be thinking about. And this is the kinda funny thing. On one out of those four that actually produced any revenue was “enter your site search here”—the default text that it brought into the search box. So again, something to think about how this impacts a pretty large percentage of most retailers’ sales.
This is an example of a very basic site search, but this is where things have kinda gone awry a little bit. On the page, the first thing is there’s just an arbitrary search box just floating there at the top of the page in the middle. That’s where you want to reiterate the search phrase that people are looking for; kinda show them more information.
On the content area of your page in the active window, you want to have better product merchandise. How are you going to integrate your site content and forums and community, as well as the product? Then on the left-hand side, you really want to think about utilizing filtered navigation on these site search pages.
So again, it’s thinking about how are you going to blend products, versus category pages, versus your brand pages, versus content? All of those things flow together. And typically, most site searches, at least most out-of-the-box site searches, just focus on showing products, and that may not be the base case scenario for you.
So how do we fix site search? It’s an ongoing process to optimizing your site search. At the top it’s starting with your analytics. Then we’re going to move into choosing your path. It’s the overall design and usability of the pages, the configuration of the search engine, and then ongoing review.
So that’s going to tee up our third question of the day.
Mack: So we want to know how many of you currently track your users’ interaction, and that could be search terms, pages viewed, or just, ultimately, conversion rate, or all of the above with your site search. Select one of the following.
Ethan: Interesting results. About 82% of you said yes. About 18% said no. Definitely good. Definitely not always the case when we talk to folks. So the audience today is a little bit more advanced, but definitely in the right direction.
So, just very, very briefly we’re going to touch on this. For those 18% that haven’t properly set up your site search analytics, if you go into your Google Analytics, “Edit your profile”, you’re going to find a couple of things you want to click on.
First off, if you haven’t set yourself up as an e-commerce website, you’re going to want to do that right here. Secondly, you have an option to record site search or don’t record site search. You’re definitely going to want to do that. You’re going to want to click “record site search”. And you’re going to need to put in what we call a query parameter. If you don’t know what a query parameter is, on the URL on the page it’s that thing that comes after the question mark there that may have a lot of crazy characters in it.
For Magento, that query parameter is Q. So what Google Analytics is going to do is automatically look at pages, and any page that has Q=, it’s going to know that’s a page that’s going to be utilizing site search an grab the data out of that and help you and stuff it into analytics so that you can better understand what you’re doing.
It takes about five minutes to set all of this up. As long as your site has a query parameter for the search, you don’t have to do anything to the site. Google Analytics will go ahead and start recording this. And within a couple of days you’ll probably have some great actionable data that you can start to look at.
So, site search analytics. We’re going to all make sure that we’re using Google Analytics or Omniture, or whatever analytics package that you have to track your site search. Some of them are more advanced than others, but you at least want a baseline.
Next, we’re going to start to look at things like the top 100 searches. One of the things that I’d recommend doing with Google Analytics is exporting this report. You at least want two weeks’ worth of data, depending upon the size of your site. Probably at least 30 days worth of data. I would take that and export it. We like to export that and maybe import that as a Google Document so that multiple people can edit it and it can become a living, breathing document that you can add new sheets over time, because you may want to track this by month so that you can start to adjust and fine-tune the search. It’s not something that happens overnight. It does take a little bit of time to get this going good.
So you want to look at things like the top 100 searches. You want to look at the top 100 searches with no revenue, and that’s going to be under the “E-commerce” tab. What are the things that people are looking for that they’re not finding when they’re interacting with your site? I think many of you would be surprised.
Top 100 searches with no results. There’s no easy way to get that out of Google Analytics. You can do some hacky things and set up a goal. And if you tag the page the right way you can tag the “no results” page and start to pull that up. It may screw up some other goal tracking that you’re doing. Many of the analytics vendors have reporting like that available that come out of the box. We haven’t found that for Magento yet that isn’t done without customizing things and pulling it out on a custom basis.
You want to start to look at things like are similar products called something else? Are people looking for something on your site but using the wrong way to describe it? That stuff should become quickly apparent to you.
You want to look at are you missing important words from your products and category page descriptions? Are people looking for information about specific products but they’re not seeing it because you don’t have the words on your product pages? Very, very important.
Do you not currently sell the products? For example, we work with a retailer that had a huge interest for a very particular product that was very much within their industry and they could carry it. And they actually did carry it, but not online. When you have hundreds of people looking for this product, why not put that thing online? And even if it’s something that’s bought over the phone or offline only, maybe you can generate a lead page for this and drive traffic to it, because people are looking for this when they’re engaging.
Is it last year’s or discontinued models? You want to make sure that you’re setting up redirects for last year’s very popular product SKU’s and driving them to this year’s version. For example, Sony updates their line of digital cameras on a regular basis. If you sell those cameras online, you want to make sure that you’re redirecting folks from that old page to the new when they’re engaged with site search.
Some folks have some strategy around keeping those old pages out online so that the search engines have them and you’re driving SEO traffic. But when someone’s particularly looking for that through a site search, you want to drive them right to the new page. You don’t want to waste their time.
Here’s an example of the Google site search report. It’s very, very basic. I’m sure most of you have seen Google Analytics. Your goals would be at the top, your e-commerce. And as you go to the e-commerce tab, you’re able to start to kind of slice and dice, and look at terms, and really start to setup segments and other things.
Again, I would export this out and start to utilize Excel, which is a little bit more powerful, to be able to sort and examine this data.
So choosing your path. The first path is the Magento out-of-the-box. It’s a great site search engine for a kind of stock site search. There’s some functionality there that I’m going to show you how to configure.
The next is utilizing a third party. Are you going to want to look at one of the third-party searches such as Nextopia, SearchSpring, or SLI?
Are you going to look at a hosted sub-domain versus utilizing the API version of those third-party searches? So meaning, do you have to redirect them off to a page that’s search.yourdomain.com, or are you able to code in and make the searches appear as if they’re coming from your website? Both of those have challenges. On the hosted sub-domain side you lose some of the SEO value. You have some analytics issues that can occur if not done properly. And users are pushed off to a sub-domain.
Whereas with the API version, it’s a much cleaner installation, but you have the challenges of some custom programming or custom extension writing in order to make that fit and work within the structure of your existing e-commerce site.
You have universal search. How are you going to blend together your commerce, meaning your products? How are you going to blend in your content, maybe your blog, maybe FAQ pages, how-to pages? You spend a lot of time creating this content and putting it out there. You definitely want to engage with that and pull it in when you are presenting back search results.
And do you have some type of forum or community that you want to present results for as well? Again, you’re spending the time and effort to create this community. Why not have it come back in the search results when someone is looking for it?
You have filtered search—creating navigation elements on the left-hand side. Magento does a great job of doing this out-of-the-box. But you’re going to want to think about the way that you handle that with some attributes.
Spelling and synonyms. How do you want to handle misspelled words? How do you want to handle words that mean each other? That’s important to think about when you’re choosing a provider.
Autocomplete. You can get a nice autocomplete, and you’ve all probably seen that on many different e-commerce sites. When you start typing, the search term starts to automatically search the database and returns results. Sometimes it’s just the text links. Sometimes it’s those text links plus product thumbnails. I tend to like the product thumbnail option. I think it’s clean. I think it increases conversion rate. You need an extension to do that for Magento, but most of the other third-party services have some code that you can plug into your website to make that happen.
And then reporting. What kind of reporting features are you looking for? Do you need conversion data from your site search provider? Are you looking for searches that yielded no results? Everyone is a little bit different in terms of what they need to run their business. But reporting is a very important element of the overall strategy, because if you can’t report on it, you can’t determine your return on investment.
This is an example from a page that sells golf products. It’s just an interesting example of a search page. Number one, we’ve got the filtered search on the left-hand side here. But we also have kind of a secondary filtered search here in the middle. This is an interesting concept because when you remember what I talked about on the previous slide, where 43% of your visitors type a category name right in the box? Well that’s what I did here. I searched just for shoes and it came a search results page that was highly customized for the category “shoes”, and presents this quick jump by size, size and gender, or by brand. And then it presents the results down here at the bottom in a [xx 24:30], items per page, sorting by relevance, price low to high, or high to low. And it has this filtered nav at the top. But through testing and other ways they’ve determined that this is a great layout to utilize for this.
Let’s do another search on this same site. We’re doing a search for the brand FootJoy. The cool thing that it recognized…Your brand pages are just as powerful as category pages and should be thought about the same way. It recognized that they hit a brand, and that brand was FootJoy. And it’s presenting the results back that look different than the shoes page did.
So thinking about how people search on these different top-level categories and creating search landing pages that cater to each of those types of visitors is very important.
You’ll see here, again, making sure if you are utilizing Magento, turning on the filtered search so people have the ability to refine through that. All of this helps people find what they’re looking for.
Apple. There’s a lot of things that Apple does great, a lot of things that I think Apple does poorly from usability. But one of the things that I love is their search results page. They are blending content, commerce, support, and then they also have iTunes results underneath as well, too. So they’re business is a little bit different from yours. If you are a manufacturer, you may want to think about things this way versus pure site content or pure just products only. Again, making a search results page that meets your business needs.
So configuring your search. If you’re using a third-party provider you are going to need to create a data feed, and you need to make sure that you have all the proper elements within that feed. Many of the providers can pick up your Google base feed and get started with that, or another shopping feed or something. But most times there isn’t enough there to really provide great results. So you want to think about things like the attributes that you include in that feed.
Let’s say, for example, you have products that are red and blue. But let’s say you also have colors like ruby red and sky blue. Well you don’t want to have filtered navigators under color for red, blue, ruby red, sky blue. That’s four slots when you could only need two, because, to be honest, most people that are looking for blue, different shades of blue are going to be fine. So you may want to create a super color attribute that rolls things up for search that’s just red and blue, and any shade or red or any shade of blue roll up for that, and that’s the attribute that you use on your search results page.
So what are the other things that you want? Size, weight, usage, season. All of those are things that you may want in terms of attributes to help people buy.
Your search box. How big is it going to be on the site? How prominent is it? I would say that you don’t want the…if you are going to have a quality site search box, you don’t want it postage stamp size. You want to make sure you have enough room for people to type queries into that box and hit the submit button. That’s a problem that most people have. They have these little postage stamp size search boxes and people just don’t feel that they can type enough information into that.
You want to think about what type of autocomplete you want to utilize. You want to think about “did you mean…?” and spelling. How are you going to handle misspelled words? Do you want to automatically redirect those people if you have common misspellings for your words? I would create what’s called a redirect where you automatically send people to the correct page without the search engine having to determine the “did you mean…?”
Let’s go ahead and keep it simple. We really have to make it simple to get the visitor to the next step. But how are you going to handle those spelling issues?
Synonyms—are the unidirectional or bidirectional? Meaning, is it a one direction synonym or is it a multiple direction synonym? If someone is looking for a pilot’s hat and a bomber hat, they may be the same product, so you want to make sure that you’re linking people to the right spot. So, how are you going to handle these synonyms? I would say most catalogues have a couple of handfuls of synonyms that can be entered into the system.
How are you going to handle things like direct hits? If someone is looking for a sizing chart and you have a sizing page, let’s go ahead and make things like that a direct hit or a redirect.
How are you going to boost the results? We did an A/B test with a client where we presented a new page design with filtered results that had double the conversion rate of the previous page that did not have the filtered results. The interesting aspect of that was that that page that had double the conversion rate had half the average order value. And so, from a revenue standpoint the test results were even.
Looking at that, we made a determination that the retailer wasn’t boosting the top filtered results to the top, and so the visitors weren’t finding them close enough. So you have search terms, how can you boost the most popular products up to the top?
Some people like to determine a mix. They want to boost some products, they want to have their newest products, and then they want to have the rest of their catalogue. There’s a lot of different ways to configure that with many of these site search engines.
And then lastly, your no results page. How are you going to handle people that are looking for something but didn’t find it? That’s a big part of that leaky bucket that you want to fix.
This is the Magento Enterprise site search report/edit page. Very, very close to Community and other editions. You’ll see here it shows you the query. It shows you the story that appears on the number of results and the number of uses. You can have a synonym and a redirect. And if you’re utilizing suggested terms, you can say yes or no.
So that’s about the extent of the configuration that you can put in there. The great thing is you can go in and you can kind of refine this to kind of, if you have multiple stores, you can kind of sort by that.
If we go into edit one of those terms, again, you can go in and edit and enter synonyms right here on this line. Or if you want to redirect them to a specific URL, you can send this here.
We had a client that sold gift cards but people were looking for gift certificates. So instead of making that a synonym, we just went ahead and redirected that to the right page along the way. So you can set that up and edit those here. There’s not really an easy way to import these in in bulk, but it could be done with some customization. So if you have a large catalogue and a lot of search terms, you can kinda get stuck at various intervals along the way.
Here’s an example of the out-of-the-box Magento no results page. I think I typed in “I want to buy” just something into the box so that it didn’t come up with any results. But you can see this isn’t very friendly and this doesn’t give people what they’re looking for. They’re looking to find something that you’re selling.
So it’s the little things that count. It’s the little things that increase your conversion rate when you’re trying to go up incrementally.
This is an example of a proper Magento no results page. You’ll see here at the top of the page in the number one slot we’ve got the popular search terms. Many of the search providers offer you a search term cloud, which is kinda cool looking. I wouldn’t necessarily use a cloud on a lot of pages on your website. But on your 404 page or your no results page I would definitely think about utilizing that.
On this page we put in some of the most popular search terms. As I mention the 404 page, you may want to think about making your no results page and your 404 page very, very similar in terms of look and feel. The visitor is both at the same spot and you don’t want them to be at a dead-end. You want them to be able to kinda keep moving through the process.
The second slot on that page: perform another search or call for assistance. Yeah, the search box is clearly shown at the top of the page in the header, but, again, we want to put it right in front of people when they’re searching.
They can enter a new search. It’s kinda covered up a little bit, but we’ve included the search term in that box so they can start to refine that if they’d like to. Or you can call and we’ll help you find what you’re looking for.
And then the last spot on the page is showing bestsellers, buyer’s guides. I would show 3-9 bestsellers. If you have particular buyer’s guides, you may want to integrate that up into the top area. Again, how are you going to help the visitor get back on track? These little things are the things that most people don’t think about when they’re implementing a new website or they’re implementing site search.
So let’s get into some SEO challenges and opportunities that come from having a more robust site search or a site search in general.
So looking at your hosted sub-domain, if you’re using a search.yourdomain.com, that can cause some issues and problems with your analytics if it’s not programmed the right way. You’re also driving people offsite. You’re losing the SEO value of having them all within your domain.
So, that’s when you’re looking at the: “Am I going to go hosted or am I going to go with the API?” That’s where the API solutions make a much cleaner end result for the visitor. Maybe a little bit tougher upfront to set up, but a much cleaner result at the end of the day.
Filtered navigation. When you start to have lots of query strings, lots of filtered navigation, you almost create an endless loop. We like to call that a spider trap. We have tools to spider websites. If you don’t set this filtered navigation up the right way, it can just look like an endless amount of pages that are available on your website, all of which dilute the great content and great things that you’re doing already. So thinking about these spider traps or at least being aware of them is a key strategy.
That kinda ties into the canonical or duplicate content issues. In doing SEO for Magento, there’s some tools that we use, because Magento can show one product page as five different URL’s if not done the right way. So making sure you are utilizing the canonical tag within your site is important.
If you don’t know what the canonical tag is, it’s a meta tag. Yeah, I know, meta tag, but this is one that’s of great use that is recognized by all the major search engines, where you are able to actually list what page is kind of the master page. Even if it appears with different URL’s, you’re telling the search engines that this page lives here and this is its master URL.
Having a proper robots.txt. Some of these issues can be fixed by editing your robots.txt file. Magento out-of-the box comes with a very, very basic robots.txt file that basically says “Allow all”, meaning every page, every directory, and every URL on your site is OK to put in their search indexes. We don’t necessarily believe in that and we think that you should go in and…We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what should go in the index and what shouldn’t from a Magento standpoint since it is such a complex beast in terms of code, URL’s, and just from a software standpoint.
Some of the opportunities are that these filtered pages make great pay-per-click landing pages. If you are on a platform that doesn’t have filtered navigation available, implementing one of these third-party site searches can be like a great Band-Aid that allows you to kinda segment the pages and create awesomely focused pay-per-click landing pages.
We have a large regional retailer that is converting to Magento Enterprise. And prior to starting that, they had some challenges. They had a leaky bucket that we wanted to fix, and so we were able to implement a third-party search engine into kind of a thumpy platform that allowed us to really go out and create some finely filtered pay-per-click landing pages and quadruple the ROI that they were getting, instead of sending folks to kind of very, very bland category pages that aren’t as sculpted for what the visitor was looking for.
So kind of getting back to the steps to optimization. We talked about analytics. We talked about choosing your path. We talked about design. And we talked about configuration. All of this needs to be repeated on an ongoing process. You need to be reviewing your search analytics at least on a monthly basis, at least on a quarterly basis, depending upon how much bandwidth you have. But if you just go in and you spend a little bit of time every week, in a couple of months you could have a huge amount of synonyms, a huge amount of direct hits, and know a lot, and that’s how you’re going to take it from 6.5% to 10% in terms of conversion rate.
We’ve got one more question today. I’m going to tee Mack up here.
Mack: We obviously asked this question at the beginning, but now, based on a lot of the elements we talked about today, we’d love to get a sense from the audience as to how satisfied you are with your current site search. So we’ll go ahead and get some voting going on that.
Also, we’re about to begin our Q&A, so if you have a question, feel free to submit it in. We’ve already got a few great questions in but would love to see some more. So feel free to go ahead and do that as well after we get the poll going here.
With that, Ethan, how we looking on results?
Ethan: Right now we’ve got about 62% of the audience has voted. And with that we’ve got about 47% not satisfied, 41% moderately satisfied, and 12% very satisfied. So, hoping that we could provide a couple of tips here that could help you.
I think we’re going to open up to some Q&A at this point.
Mack: Yeah. So, Ethan, one of the first questions we had was: How do you leverage some of the other Magento Enterprise features with site search? I know that you’ve spoken about, it seems on here, your feelings on the actual Magento search, but how can you leverage some of the other features as you look at e-commerce site search?
Ethan: I would really look at how…Magento is a very, very powerful platform. If you are using the out-of-the-box solution or a third party, many of them allow you to plug in things like banners, segmenting your visitors. How do you kinda create segmentation for people that look for things? Some of this may require some customization. But how are you going to start to divide your traffic based upon what they’re looking for. If you have people that start to look for very brand specific elements, you may want to create segments toward that, if they are gender specific.
It’s keeping track of all this also from an SEO standpoint. How are people coming in on those landing pages and how are they interacting with those pages? The search results pages are great ways to utilize multivariate testing in Google Website Optimizer within Magento or in other products to test these pages and see which ones perform best for you.
Mack: The next question we have is around some of the canonical setting in Magento: Is there any other way to help reduce or eliminate duplicate content in Magento?
Ethan: Wow. There is. Magento has a lot going on. It’s a very complex platform but very powerful. There’s some extensions that we utilize in that to set those canonical tags. It would be looking at the way that you handle the catalogue, the way that you put products in the categories.
With some of these extensions, it gives you the ability to fine-tune the overall URL’s, whether you want shorter URL’s or longer URL’s based upon that. It’s kind of a much, much deeper conversation that we could probably talk about for an entire webinar. But I would look around for someone that’s got some expertise in that. There’s a couple of great extensions that are paid that provide a lot of bang for the buck in that area.
Mack: The next question we had is: What do you think of the Google Commerce search?
Ethan: Am I on the spot for this one? Google Commerce Search is very interesting. There was a lot of buzz around it in the marketplace when it came out. I would say that I don’t know that I love it personally. We’ve attempted a lot of different searches over the years, some of which were even with Google’s search appliance and customization with that. I think there’s probably some better suited, more flexible e-commerce search platforms out there like Nextopia or SearchSpring that can really help you and are much, much easier to get up and get going and have much better support and all of those things.
I probably shouldn’t say that on a webinar, but many of us have tried to contact AdWords support or other things. How does that same support lend itself to things like site search?
Mack: The next question we had was: How often do you recommend people to be checking and optimizing the search? You talked about it was this ongoing process. Someone wants to know how often should they be checking it and making changes?
Ethan: I would say that you should be reviewing your sites searches as often as you can. The case study showed that 30% of the site sales were coming from people that interacted with the site search. How important is that to you? I would say that should be just as important or more important than things like your pay-per-click ROI, and it should be a part of the key performance indicators that you look at, or KPI’s that you look at, with your website on a monthly basis.
So I would be reviewing it at least every 30 days and spend a few hours a month. If you are not engaged with someone to help you optimize that, I would spend a few hours a month doing that and trying to understand it.
Mack: The next question we got was: Does Community Edition come with the same site search tool?
Ethan: Yes.
Mack: People want to know: What are those great extensions, Ethan?
Ethan: There’s a lot of great extensions that are SEO related. We’ve built some internal extensions that we utilize to interact with different site search engine API’s. So we’re able to go in and plug and play and get a lot of bang for our customer’s bucks when they’re implementing a new search engine. We also know to review the analytics to make sure that’s set up from that end.
From the analytics standpoint, there’s a great extension that’s called Fooman Google Analytics Plus that helps add some extra elements to your Google Analytics opportunities. There’s a couple of good SEO extensions out here, some of which are free. There’s a Yoast one that’s got some really interesting things around the canonical tags and such.
Some of the other paid extensions come from guys like Magworks or aheadWorks, and we’re constantly reviewing those extensions to determine which ones are the best for our clients. So like anything, those extensions are pieces of software that people are improving or not improving on a regular basis. And so, ones that we used to like, sometimes they fall out of favor if they don’t have the same type of product development as other extensions that surpass that.
Typically, for something like this, I’m a big fan of the guys over at Yoast. I think they’ve done a great job with some extensions for WordPress and for Magento. Outside of that, sometimes you get what you pay for in terms of free extensions. So I like some of the paid extensions for something like this better. They provide a little bit better support, or hopefully provide better support.
Mack: Cool. The last question we had come in here was: Any best practices around the actual frontend design of the search feature? I know we looked at that one no results page, but from a search results standpoint, any recommendations?
Ethan: I would say if you have content and commerce, figuring out a design to blend that is important. How do you put those together? This is an area where there’s no one size fits all. We have some boilerplate thoughts that we start with in terms of trying to meet the visitor’s expectations. But again, it’s definitely…I touched on some of the things, like reiterating the search query at the top of the page. That’s definitely important. Giving people multiple ways to slice and dice it, not just from a filtered nav standpoint, but also from a relevance or pricing standpoint to be able to sort. All of those elements very clearly labeled, I think, are what the best practices are.
Mack: I apologize. I had missed one from early on in the webinar that came in. This question is around product data. How often are you seeing that people’s site searches are underperforming because their product data isn’t holding up?
Ethan: All of the time. All of the time. I find this argument very interesting. We’re all busy, but merchandising your products is the key to selling online. And whether it’s product images or product descriptions, making sure that you have those right elements there are very important. Sometimes folks come to us and say, “Listen, we just have a catalogue. Here’s all the tech specs, we just don’t have the manpower to put all that in.”
Well there’s a lot of data entry servers t hat you could utilize. That may be an instance where if you are copying catalogue data and typing it into a spreadsheet, that could be something that you could outsource and find a low-cost service too.
But all of the time there’s issues with product data. That’s like our number one thing that needs to get fixed. So if you don’t have product descriptions, if you don’t have product specifications, if you don’t have your catalogue laid out in kind of a logical fashion, if you’ve got multiple products, if you’ve got products that are setup as multiple products instead of changing SKU based upon size or color, all of that is going to come into effect with search results.
So kind of what we like to say is “junk in, junk out”. And if you’re not putting good product data into that search engine, it’s not going to be smart enough to decipher it and present back out to meet the visitor’s expectations.
Mack: Cool. I want to wrap up the webinar today. Thanks again, Ethan. A couple quick exciting announcements. Next webinar for us is Wednesday, July 20th. We are partnering up with our friends and partners at Magento for this. We’re going to be talking about getting social with Magento. So, as you look at your Magento sites and how to leverage social media and social commerce to drive traffic, this is going to be the topic for that webinar. So, hoping you all come back out. Registration for that will be available in the next couple weeks. But again, Wednesday, July 20th: Getting Social with Magento.
In addition to that, as a reminder, as promised, when you registered for this webinar, coming out tomorrow we will have our whitepaper for all of our attendees today. This is Ethan’s whitepaper that he conducted with our online e-commerce marketing team around: Does your site search stink? It will hit on a lot of the points from today, as well as some more client examples, and really ways to get in there and optimize your own site search. So I encourage everybody to check that out. That will be coming to an inbox near you sometime tomorrow.
In addition to that, we will also release tomorrow to our attendees first our new online interactive e-commerce calculator. This will link to a new feature within the Groove Commerce site that we’d love for you to go on, try it out. It allows you to plug in a lot of interesting information about your business. It’s not coming to us. There’s nothing being submitted to Groove on this. A great tool to go out and use and really see, as Ethan and Bryan Eisenberg have both talked about, the leaky buckets for your e-commerce site. So looking at that and utilizing this tool will be very interesting for that. So I encourage you to go on, check that out, and examine both of those, the whitepaper and the calculator, and we’d love any feedback from you on both of those.
With that, I want to say thanks again to Ethan. Thanks again to all of you for joining us. If you have any questions around site search, feel free to reach out. We’d love to talk to you about it.
Ethan: Thank you everybody.

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