4 Advantages of Using an On-Site Search Engine: Expert Insights

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By Staff Editor
Kirsty Macdougall - Editor for Fast Simon
Edited by Kirsty Macdougall
Olivia Kashti - Writer and Fact-Checker for Fast Simon
Fact-check by Olivia Kashti

Updated February 26, 2024.

a person holding a magnifying glass over a tablet

A seamless and intuitive shopping experience is critical for success in the fast-paced world of eCommerce. An site search engine is a powerful tool that can dramatically improve the user experience. In fact, online shoppers are 2–3 times more likely to convert if they use a site's search feature.

Below, we discuss the main advantages on-site search engines can offer online stores. We also share expert advice on how to maximize these benefits by incorporating key search features and avoiding common mistakes.

Meet the Expert

Ashlee Colliver is an eCommerce and digital growth specialist. She is the Executive Director of Client Services at Shero Commerce, a global agency that helps develop brands from design and launch to marketing and optimization.

Understanding On-Site Search Engines

An on-site search engine is a functionality within an eCommerce website that allows users to search for specific products or content directly on the site.

Like Google Search, an on-site search engine enables users to find what they're looking for quickly and efficiently without needing to navigate through various menus and categories.

» Head to our complete guide on site search engines for more information

4 Ways an On-Site Search Engine Can Benefit Your Store

four benefits of on-site search engines infographic

These are the four primary advantages of using an on-site search engine:

1. Enhanced User Experience

By providing an on-site search engine, eCommerce stores can cater to the needs of users who prefer search over navigation menus. Research shows that almost 50% of online shoppers use search over traditional navigation methods.

For example, it's far more efficient for a user to type "ankle boot" into the search bar than to click on "shoes" as the main category, scroll down to "boots," and only then find "ankle boots" as a sub-subcategory.

By catering to user preferences, merchants offer a more intuitive and user-friendly experience. Moreover, not offering on-site search means removing a preferred feature half of your customers use.

2. Higher Conversion Rates

When users search for a specific product, it indicates a higher purchase intent than users simply browsing or casually navigating through the store. These shoppers have a particular item in mind and are actively seeking it out, which suggests they are closer to making a buying decision.

By presenting users with relevant search results, merchants can capitalize on this intent and increase their chances of converting visitors into customers.

An excellent example is the apparel and accessory retailer Steve Madden. After partnering with Fast Simon, their conversion rate from search has doubled. This can be attributed to their streamlined custom site search. The misspelling below made no impact on the search results. Furthermore, they offer intuitive search filters to help narrow down the 298 results the search engine yielded.

A screenshot of Steve Madden store's search results

3. More Efficient Product Discovery

On-site search helps shoppers find products even when they're unsure about the category or subcategory. This functionality streamlines the product discovery process, allowing users to get straight to the items they're looking for.

By reducing the time and effort needed to find products, merchants can enhance user satisfaction and increase the likelihood of successful purchases.

4. Improved Personalization

On-site search engines can offer various levels of personalization. It can range from generalized personalization based on user location to individual personalization based on past browsing history and purchases. This enables merchants to tailor search results to match customers' preferences. This improves their overall shopping experience and leads to increased conversions.

Amazon is a prime example of a platform that effectively provides personalized search results. They draw on data points like purchase and browsing history, click behavior, reviews, and ratings. Their individualized product recommendations in search results generate an impressive 35% of their total sales.

How to Take Full Advantage of an On-Site Search Engine

To maximize the benefits of an on-site search engine, eCommerce businesses should consider the following key features and best practices.

a diagram of how to take full advantage of an on - site search engine

1. Key Features and Capabilities of an On-Site Search Engine

Providing relevant search results should be merchants' top priority. This can be achieved by ensuring your site search engine has these key features:

By using natural language processing, search engines can understand synonyms, misspellings, and variations in user queries, leading to more relevant search results. This is particularly useful for online stores where shoppers may use different terms than the product names or descriptions provided by the store.

Search Filters

Search filters are indispensable when dealing with a large variety of products. By offering and optimizing eCommerce filters, merchants can help users refine their search results based on specific attributes such as size, color, or price range. Filters allow users to find products more efficiently, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

For example, Satya Jewelry, an online jewelry retailer, partnered with Fast Simon to create advanced custom search filters to suit their brand and their customers' needs.

A screenshot showing Satya Jewelry's custom search filters


Auto-complete and auto-suggest features give users real-time suggestions as they type in the search bar. This improves search efficiency and can increase sales by 24%, highlighting the importance of this feature in search optimization.

Mobile Optimization

With approximately 63% of eCommerce purchases made via smartphones, optimizing on-site search for mobile is crucial. Mobile-friendly experiences, such as concise search results, intuitive filters, and auto suggestions, ensure users can efficiently find products without excessive scrolling or navigation.

» Learn about more key features of effective product search engines

Pro tip:

Leverage existing technologies like AI and machine learning algorithms to learn user behavior and provide personalized searches.

Capitalize on emerging technologies like ChatGPT and voice commerce to guide consumers through the funnel and make the search process more user-friendly.

2. Common Mistakes to Avoid

These are some common mistakes merchants make when implementing on-site search engines:

Concealing the search box for aesthetic purposes can confuse users and lead to frustration. Ensuring the search box is easily visible, particularly for older demographics, improves the search experience.

Leaving the Search Box Blank

Leaving the search box blank might create uncertainty for some shoppers, resulting in less effective search queries. Entice them to perform a search by providing a starting phrase or example.

For instance, the printing products wholesaler, Toner Buzz, displays the search bar prominently and provides a prompt to encourage and assist shoppers in their product searches.

A screenshot highlighting Toner Buzz's search bar on their home page

» Check out our comprehensive guide on the Shopify search bar

Displaying "No Results" Pages

Avoid presenting users with a dead end if their search query doesn't yield results. Instead, offer similar, related, or popular products that may be of interest. This increases the chances of keeping them engaged and driving conversions.

Neglecting testing and optimization

Many merchants treat their search engine as a "set it and forget it" feature. However, delivering relevant results and meeting customers' evolving needs means investing in:

  • A/B testing
  • data-tracking and analysis
  • optimization

» Here's how to take full advantage of Magento Search and BigCommerce Search for your eCommerce store

Fuel Conversions and Drive Success With On-Site Search Engines

On-site search engines are invaluable tools for eCommerce stores, offering enhanced user experience, improved conversion rates, and efficient product discovery.

By implementing key features, avoiding common pitfalls, and leveraging emerging technologies, businesses can maximize the benefits of on-site search. This is essential for staying ahead in the competitive eCommerce landscape.

» Learn how you can optimize your site search with Fast Simon