Search engine: Optimizing the search functions on a website

Does your website have a search engine, but no one is using it?

Do your users complain about the difficulty in finding relevant content on your site?

They tell you instead to use Google to find information on your site?

Obviously, the ergonomics, the technical capacities, and the functionalities of your search engine are at fault … In this article, we will see what are the main features to plan to improve the satisfaction of your users and increase your conversion rate if you are on a website.

A search engine, that finds! … relevant content semantic search engines, generally speaking, the main ambition of a search engine is to reduce “noise” as much as possible. Documentary noise interferes with research activity and delays obtaining the desired document (s).

This “documentary noise” is traditionally considered to be the consequence of two causes: The user himself does not formulate his request well (or does not know how to formulate it well) The system has poor indexing: any “keywords” or “criteria” entered do not return the corresponding content

These two factors are not always easy to improve: not all Internet users can be trained to use a search engine, and improving the index is often a considerable amount of work. Search and download the hyper-comprehensive white paper to boost your E-commerce conversions thanks to a powerful search engine! Also, with a view to schematization, current search engines try to compensate for any lack of wording by Internet users and the poor quality of the index.

While the tools to help Internet users formulate their queries, index optimization issues are more difficult. On this subject, the semantic web and the structuring of your data are among the levers for improving your data. May we already see at first all the elements necessary for the optimization of Internet users’ requests:

Features to optimize your search engine

We list below in a non-exhaustive way the key features to better manage your search engine. Also, don’t forget that search engine ergonomics are key: in this article, we give you 9 tips for optimizing your search engine ergonomics.

Managing a faceted search engine

It was the e-commerce search engines (and libraries) that first popularized this feature. From a single keyword, the tool proposes, in the list of search results, to refine the search with different criteria. Depending on the capabilities of the engine, these criteria will always be the same, whatever the requests or the engine will be able to propose itself the most relevant criteria with regard to the entered keyword.

For example, you are on a generalist online sales site: if you are looking for shoes, the facets offer you to filter by size, but if you are looking for box springs, the facets offer you to filter by box spring size.

The proposal of alternative keywords

Google often suggests that you try your search with a different keyword. In the case of Google, these are basically suggestions when you’ve made a typo or spelling mistake. However, this function is particularly interesting if the keyword used is polysemous or non-technical. It is thus possible to extend this concept of suggestion to:

Alternative keyword proposals from the same lexical and/or semantic universe,

Alternative keyword proposals based on a statistical analysis of terms frequently found in the searched keyword environment. Example: You are looking for the keyword “ride”, in the index, the keyword “ride” associated with “bicycle ride”, the resulting interface will therefore suggest “bicycle ride”.

A suggestion of search terms or “auto-completion”

When you type the first letters of your query, the engine suggests terms starting with the first letters entered. In the case of Google Suggest, the operation of this suggestion is particular, since these suggestions are statistical. These are the terms most frequently entered by the Internet user which are proposed to you here.

For example, Google condemned several times for suggesting terms that are harmful to people’s reputations. The operation of these search suggestions may also be based on other principles:

  • most relevant terms based on a statistical/semantic / lexical analysis
  • intentionally overweighted terms

Highlighting search terms in search results with contextualization. To facilitate the choice of a search result, the return of the searched keyword in its context provides additional elements for assessing the relevance of the content to the Internet user. This contextualization also involves the display of metadata relating to the content: date of publication, type of content, author, etc.

Sorting functions: by date, alphabetically, by relevance, etc. Be careful, in the case of sorting by relevance, it is often a catch-all not understood by Internet users. Sorting by relevance should only be proposed if this relevance has already been considered and optimized (by weighting, statistics, etc. – see the second part of this post)

Other search assistance features

Other tools, not necessarily specific to search engines, and of the order of ergonomic consideration, also change the perception of search results:

Should we display pagination or not? Is it relevant to display an “infinite scroll”?

Do we offer the user to register alerts and monitoring tools?

Which side do we put the facets on? Right or left as usual

How do you render facets in a Responsive Web Mobile environment?

The choice of the technical solution for your search engine is key to determining all the possible and conceivable functionalities.

Finally, a final remark about the question of advanced search engines: they got criticism for a long time for their glaring lack of ergonomics and the ineffectiveness of the results offered. It is now necessary to temper this approach with three considerations:

The facets can already constitute elements of advanced research,

Certain business behaviors (eg: search for plane tickets, search for rentals, etc.) always require advanced search tools as a first approach,

The generalization of rich and dynamic interfaces now makes handling complex forms more efficient and simple

Many features are essential for your users to be able to correctly use your search engine and be satisfied with it. This efficiency would not be complete without an efficient structuring of your data and basic content.