Customers navigate a website in one of two ways: they browse or they search. Given the prominence of search and the impact it has on revenue, search should be one of the key areas in your testing plan.
There are a number of elements that can be tested within on-site search, such as layout of results, number of default items shown, size of product images, add to cart right from search results, product badging, and more. All of these elements can be represented by five critical areas that provide a foundation for on-site search optimization:
Selection areas that allow users to re-arrange, sort, or change results are good primary areas to test. Testing these areas can result in some “quick wins” that prove the value of testing on-site search to internal stakeholders.
In the context of on-site search, metadata is aggregate information about the search results data. For example, have you seen a star-rating system that symbolizes all customer reviews, or an in-stock or out-of-stock badge on a site? Metadata shows information that can help a buyer make an immediate purchasing decision, without having to comb through vast amounts of product information. Try testing specific combinations of metadata to find out what converts and works best with your audience.
Many search results pages have a list of product refinement options available. For example, if you search for a digital camera, refinement options may allow you to narrow the search criteria for price, brand, lens focal length, storage card type, and more. One test idea is to alter the default state of refinement options that are shown, such as making them collapsed or expanded. In addition, depending on the number of refinement options, how they are sorted and in which order allows for additional testing opportunities.
Search results that enable visitors to share items with their own networks on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other relevant networks should be optimized. Look at internal web analytics to determine which networks are being shared most, and test removing or adding particular networks to determine what the effect is.
The functionality of your on-site search can produce some of the most meaningful testing results. Some examples of functionality of on-site search include corrections for common search result misspellings, different search results algorithms, rearranging search results, and more. For example, many on-site search vendor’s algorithms have different features and functionality and one may work better for your audience than another.
However, as search and vendor functionality differ, it’s worth testing each functional element to find the optimal combination.
On-site search tends to be overlooked, but fine tuning your on-site search can lead to huge lifts in you bottom line.