10 ways to optimize search bar for your e-commerce website

5 min read
facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
linkedin sharing button
Smart Share Buttons Icon Share
Man reading on a table with a glass of red wine

Want to know how you can optimize the search box for your e-commerce business? Here are DHL Express’ top tips to increase search optimization:

1. Search barSearch box? They’re all the same, 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. A bootstrap search box (or bootstrap search bar) can be just as effective as an expensively-designed solution, you just need to get it right.

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 search 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 – so consider your site’s search bar UI (user interface) from the get-go.

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 and Average customer rating.

4. Use autocomplete 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 to optimize 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. A search box with a suggestions dropdown menu can be a handy tool – and you can 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 April 2019, Amazon had nearly 120 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. The fewer clicks it takes your customers to purchase, the more likely they are to do so – so make sure there’s nothing that can get in their way.

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.