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How to Improve Your Onsite Search Functionality

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Onsite searches can be highly valuable for improving your user experience, helping you understand user needs and behavior, and ultimately facilitating conversions on your site. While potential customers may be able to find your site easily, if they can’t find what they’re looking for on your site quickly, they may leave before they have a chance to interact with you.

Setting up an onsite search is relatively simple, and you might already have one prepared. However, perfecting your onsite search approach is a different, more intensive issue. Like with any marketing or user experience initiative, there is always room for improvement, and improving your onsite search function could significantly increase your onsite conversions.

Types of Onsite Searches

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The central premise is identical—to use an onsite search function to find something—but there are actually three different types of onsite search. Each one caters to a different type of user with a different intention, and you’ll have to change your search function to best suit its ideal type.


Destination-oriented searches are all about getting somewhere. It could be a returning user looking for a specific page, or a social follower looking for a recent post. In any case, this search function needs to display the most relevant result as quickly as possible.


Information-oriented searches don’t have a destination in mind. Instead, they’re focused on getting to a page that discusses a certain subject. These types of searches require a function that displays lots of results throughout your site, starting with the most relevant to the user’s query. Finding the “perfect” match isn’t the primary goal; finding multiple viable options is.


Product-oriented searches are exclusive to e-commerce platforms, and incidentally, e-commerce platforms have the most to gain from improving their onsite search functionality. These searches involve a customer searching for a specific product or service, and the type of search results you display in response could dictate whether or not the customer eventually purchases from you.

Where to Place Your Search Bar

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The placement of your search bar will dictate how many people use it, and how easy it is for them to find it. The ideal user will want to use your search bar, look for it, find it immediately, use it, and get to their intended destination. Any break in this cycle could compromise your ability to ultimately convert that user. To make sure your search bar can be found easily, place it somewhere in the upper-right hand corner of your site; this is where most users initially look. Also be sure that the search function shows up on every page of your site.

Predictive Search Functions

Predictive search features aid the functionality of your search bar considerably. If a user isn’t sure what he/she is searching for, or if he/she only knows a piece of the information necessary to perform a search, a predictive search populating function can fill in the rest of the puzzle. This can also be extremely useful in helping users with typos or misspellings. If a user returns no results for a mistyped query, he/she may leave, but if your search bar corrects the query, you can avoid the problem altogether.

Adding Filters

Filters are great for product-oriented searches, but you may not find it useful for other types of onsite search. Filters are essentially options that your users can toggle on and off when searching for a product. For example, if a user searches for “shirts,” pop-up filters can allow the user to refine that search based on shirt size, price range, gender, style, and color. The type of filters you include will vary based on your industry and the types of products that are most popular on your site.

Using Breadcrumbs to Simplify Navigation

This is especially useful for product-oriented searches, but any search that features pages or products in categories and subcategories can benefit from it. For example, if a user starts by searching for a category of products, then drills down into a subcategory, a breadcrumbs-style mini navigation at the top of the search results page can help the user get back to the beginning of the process easily. It can decrease bounce rates and recover possible sales when the user doesn’t immediately find what he/she is looking for.

Using Semantic Search

Semantic search is a sophisticated search function that analyzes the intent behind a user query rather than analyzing the keywords they input at face value. This is becoming increasingly important as fewer people rely on keyword-based searches and more users rely on full phrases. If you can develop a semantic search functionality into your onsite search function, you’ll be able to give more accurate, relevant results for long-tail user queries.

Reviewing Your Success in Analytics

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Once you’ve got your search functionality near-perfected, you can start reviewing the fruits of your labor. In Google Analytics, you can easily set up monitoring for your onsite search history. Once that’s in place, you can review onsite search trends including popular user queries, bounce rates post-search, and how many people ended up converting after finding what they were looking for. You can use this data to further enhance your search features.

Your onsite search function is more important than you might have realized, especially if you’re running an e-commerce platform. Make whatever improvements you can, whenever you can, and keep a close eye on your data to determine what changes you’ll need to make in the future.

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Kathrina Tiangco

Kathrina is AudienceBloom's project manager. She works closely with our writers, editors, and publishers to make sure client work is completed on time.

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