Ecommerce Site Search Best Practices for Online Retailers

Posted by Victoria Elizabeth 2 Sep 13

Having an effective ecommerce site search within your website is quite a core feature for users but unfortunately, it's also a neglected aspect of many ecommerce websites. Online shopping behaviour is always changing but lately, multi and omnichannel etailers have accelerated changes in how visitors are using websites to navigate and find products online. Turns out, between 11% and 15% of consumers begin shopping a web site by typing into the site search bar, and that number is steadily increasing

Amazon site search bar screen shot

New visitors to your website will look to the site search bar, such as the excellent example above from, for a number of reasons, whether they already know what product they want to find, or if they are having trouble browsing. They can also be doing a product comparison, bargain shopping, one-time shopping, or looking to go straight to a specific product page. All these different types of uses require a properly optimised site search feature to help visitors better navigate. 

Here are 4 tips to ensure your site search feature is working optimally and helping visitors get the information they need: 

1) Optimise, optimise, optimise

A good site search bar should be optimised to include all the search terms relevant for your site and direct visitors to appropriate landing or product-listing pages.You should include in your search terms any product names, codes and SKU numbers as you will not know what element of information visitors may have when searching for something.

2) Auto-complete

Implementing auto-complete into your search bar is a good strategy, as is being able to deal with misspellings. These little differences can make a visitor's life easier and they will appreciate the extra help in finding what they need. Their gratitude won't always be apparent, but your higher conversion rates will be.  

3) Avoid 'Page Not Found' / 'No Result'

By best practice standards, a site search should ideally never turn up a dead-end page saying 'No result'. Sure, you won't always be able to show the result they are searching for, but there are ways to soften the blow, such as suggesting alternative places to go. There’s no bigger online sin than a cul-de-sac. You would not accept a shop assistant telling you to ‘bog off’, so why should you accept an unfriendly message on a website? Put yourself in your visitors' shoes, and test your site search bar regularly to avoid this all-too-common problem.  

4) Visibility of search bar

The placement of your site search bar is also crucial to your visitors' experiences and the usability of your site. Your site search must be in a visible, prominent place on each page, ideally up above the main categories and near the top corner. This seems obvious, but you'd be surprised by how many sites get it wrong. Try to imagine visitors on your site, and anticipate where they may look to find a search bar - this will help you to improve the viewing experience. 

5) Rinse and repeat

You should also be testing and updating your site search over time as your products and seasonal offerings may change. Keeping track of your site search will increase the amount of people who found what they needed and made an instant purchase or happily gained the information they wanted on a product or service. And, most important, keep a regular track of what people are searching for, and what they are NOT finding a result for. That could give you a good clue to what you should be stocking, or what your visitors are looking for. 

Now that you have read these tips, you probably want to go ahead and implement them. Whether you choose to put these optimising features in place yourself or have an SEO expert do that for you, remember that a good site search is essential to optimising your conversion funnel and increasing the usability of your site. For more information on optimising your website, read these posts:

Best Product Page Features for Ecommerce

5 Tips to Improve your Landing Page Conversion Rate for Ecommerce 


Have any more helpful tips on best practices for ecommerce site search? Please let us know below! 




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