6 Ways to Improve Internal Site Search Optimization

Searching for products on your site should be seamless, not a frustrating maze. Optimize site search to remove roadblocks in the customer journey.

Joel Taylor - Editor for Fast Simon
By Joel Taylor
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Edited by Nelsy Mtsweni
Olivia Kashti - Writer and Fact-Checker for Fast Simon
Fact-check by Olivia Kashti

Published February 20, 2024.

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Looking for products on an e-commerce website should be effortless and user-friendly. Your customers want to be able to find what they're looking for quickly and easily. Nearly 90% agree that a good search function is essential when it comes to online shopping.

By improving their search functionality and product availability, retailers have the potential to tap into a $6 trillion global market

Here are six best practices to improve how you optimize your e-commerce search capabilities, and, in turn, see an uptick in conversions.

  1. Understand your customers' search behavior
  2. Refine search autocomplete and suggestions
  3. Prominently position the search box
  4. Optimize inventory management
  5. Mimic in-store experience
  6. Conduct A/B testing

We'll get into how you can implement each one below.

Meet the Expert

Arjel Vajvoda, Head of Product at Motomtech, leverages her extensive experience in customer support to craft user-focused SaaS products with innovative documentation solutions.

» Want to take search to the next level? Check out the best practices for eCommerce site search.

6 Ways to Improve Internal Site Search Optimization

six ways to improve internal site search optimization

1. Understand Your Customers' Search Behaviour

Before you start optimizing, you want to understand how your customers are using your current search functionality, This way, you can see what needs you can meet better and improve user experience.

Use Google Analytics or your eCommerce platform's analytics report to check out the search queries:

  • What terms customers are searching for
  • How customers refine initial searches
  • Which searches yield zero results

Then, you can look at overall user behavior:

  • Where do they enter search terms?
  • How do they interact with search results?
  • Do they find what they need or leave your site?

Use free tools like Microsoft Clarity and Hotjar for session recordings and heatmaps, which offer insight into your customers' actions.

» What are your customers searching for? Here are the key internal search metrics that'll reveal the answer.

2. Refine Search Autocomplete and Suggestions

Autocomplete suggests relevant terms as users type, eliminating the need to type the entire query. This speeds up the search process and reduces clicks.

Optimize autocomplete to show your site's most popular and relevant search terms. For example, if a user types “p-”, they might see “pink shoes” and “prom dresses” in the spring.

Highlight important items like best-sellers or current deals.

If users find what they need quickly, they're less likely to abandon your site in frustration.

What's more, these sugggestions can show related keywords your customers might not have considered.

Case study: Since using Fast Simon, Staghead Designs has experienced over twice as much revenue from Search and Autocomplete sessions compared to those without Search.

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» Want to show results your customers care about? Check out our best searchandising strategies to grow your eCommerce business.

Making your site’s search box bigger and more visible is one of the best practices for site search user experience. It makes a huge difference in helping shoppers find what they need. Most people look for the search box at the top of the page.

Think about big retailers like Amazon and Walmart. They put their search bar right at the top of the page, where it’s easy to see. Make sure your search box stands out and is big enough to notice.

Just this small change can get more people using the search feature. When the search box is clear and easy to see, more shoppers will use it to explore products.

Case study:

Direct Bed's optimization of the search box placement and design led to increased conversions and an improved overall customer experience. Customers were able to find products more easily after the changes, leading to positive feedback for the retailer and a reduction in complaints. The smoother shopping experience from the search box updates led to happier customers and higher conversion rates.

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4. Optimize Inventory Management

Smart merchandising and inventory tracking are key for managing your product range effectively. This lets retailers change search results dynamically.

Products that are discontinued, inactive, or out-of-stock should automatically be hidden from search results. This way, your shoppers only see items that are relevant and available.

Advanced inventory management really shines during sales or seasonal promotions, when some products might sell out fast.

By using smart merchandising features, like those from Fast Simon, you can automatically hide items that are no longer in stock or active. This ensures your shoppers only see items that are available and relevant to them."

Case study:

Black Forest Decor improved customer experience and performance by enhancing their internal site search capabilities, displaying the most relevant promotional products, and boosting customer satisfaction. Their optimized on-site search strengthened their reputation as a reliable business.

a bed room with a neatly made bed next to a fireplace

5. Mimic the In-Store Experience

Think about the experience shoppers have in physical stores. They often see related items or suggestions for additional purchases. We can do the same thing online.

When a shopper searches for a specific product, we can show them related or complementary items right next to their main search result.

Offering cross-sells and up-sells not only gives shoppers more options, but it can also improve their satisfaction and boost sales.

For example, if a shopper searches for a specific TV, we could also suggest related products like sound bars, streaming devices, and cables.

6. Conduct A/B Testing

eCommerce A/B testing is an invaluable process for optimizing on-site search features and performance.

Look at how each version affects important metrics like how often people use the search, how many items they add to their cart, and how many sales you make. Set up experiments where you compare two versions of a search element.

For example, try variations like:

  • The color, size, or placement of the search bar
  • The number of search suggestions shown
  • How results are sorted, like by price or ratings

Stick with what works. Keep running A/B tests to find the best ways to improve your site search and increase conversions.

» Here are more tips to improve the customer experience on your site.

Nail Advanced Search Optimization: Go Beyond the Basics

 Before you optimize your search, get to know how your customers look up products in your store. Once you understand their needs, you can tailor the shopping experience to meet them.

Consider using visual discovery. This lets customers upload images or take photos to find similar products.

Also, make the most of AI-powered search algorithms. They understand what your customers are looking for and deliver more relevant results. And don’t forget about natural language processing. It helps structure your content so customers can find what they need, fast and easy.

» Looking to improve sales? Enhance product discovery with visual search.