Small business & global logistics advice from DHL

E-commerce advice · 5 min read

Optimize the search box for your e-commerce business

Want to know how you can optimize the search box for your e-commerce business? Here is a list of the top 10 ways to increase search optimization:

1. A box is a box, right?

It’s easy to think that. In fact, the size, color, positioning, design and wording of your search box can all make a difference to the way it’s used.

It should be big enough to accommodate the answers to most queries on your site, so that users can see different products that might start with the same letters. Position the box in a prominent place towards the top of the page, and consider giving the border a different color to make it stand out. Putting text inside the box, such as ‘Enter Keyword’ or ‘What are you looking for?’ will make its purpose clear, but make sure the text disappears automatically when people start typing.

2. Favor search over navigation on mobile

Experts have different opinions as to whether search or navigation is more popular on desktops. But on mobiles and tablets, search is the clear winner. This is simply down to space: it’s much easier to enter text into a box than to negotiate your way around complex drop-down menus.

Sign up to the Discover newsletter

3. Use filters

This vital feature enables your customers to quickly narrow down their searches. Depending on the nature of your stock, filters could include:

  • Price range
  • Size
  • Brand
  • Type
  • Color 
  • Average customer rating

4. Use autocomplete for site search 

Sometimes called autosuggest or type-ahead, this is another must-have feature to improve your customers’ search experience. 

As users type, suitable products are suggested. Smart versions of autocomplete will analyze previous search data to suggest the most likely products first.

As many people are unsure of how certain words are spelled, you should ensure your autocomplete system can determine what people actually mean. Insisting that the customer learns to spell ‘sandals’ correctly is not an option, so you should plan for variations such as sandels, sandles, sandalls, sanderls … you get the picture.

5. Use autocomplete for merchandising

The merchandising aspect of the search box is often overlooked. ‘Searchandising’ – not our word – is a way of optimizing search results based not just on the search term but on other factors, such as matching results to a customer’s profile and location, semantic analysis, and more. Read more about searchandising here.

6. Make ‘No Results’ work for you

If there are no results for a customer’s search, that shouldn’t signal the end of their visit. Instead of a cold ‘No Results’ message, use the opportunity to suggest Best Sellers or Deals of the Week, or even serve up results that are best related to their search term.

In addition, learn from what people are expecting to find on your website to see whether it’s something you could consider stocking.

7. Make it easy for people to search (almost) whenever they want

If people have a positive experience with your search box, they’re more likely to use it again during the same visit. So make sure the search box is on every page. The only exception might be the checkout page, where you want people to stay focused on their purchase.

8. Speed is everything

As of January 2018, Amazon had 562 million products for sale. It takes just a nanosecond to find any one of them, so to compete, your search feature has to be just as quick.

9. Provide a quick view option

A quick view function lets users see a thumbnail image of the product page, giving them the chance to ‘add to basket’ without having to load the page. 

10. Find out what people are looking for on your site

Most search engines keep a list of search terms that people are using. Google’s free Keyword Planner allows you to search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical statistics, and see how a list of keywords might perform. From looking at the list of search terms you can see what users want. Based on that information, you can source new products, direct them to other products, or improve your search mechanism.

Similar stories