How many times have you visited a site, only to become frustrated with the navigation system, trawling from page to page in an effort to find what you need? These days, we expect to find exactly what we’re looking for in a couple of mouse clicks, and our attention spans are shortening in line with enhanced search functions and improved site navigation. If we can’t locate exactly what we need almost instantly, we’re short enough on time and demanding enough with our expectations to leave a site in order to find what we are looking for elsewhere.
InternetWorldStats.com statistics suggest that there are over 190 million sites online, so the chances are that you have hundreds of competitors focusing upon your industry, prepared to scoop up your customers if they decide to look elsewhere for what they need. This means that it is more important than ever before to ensure that you have a great search facility on your business site, so that people can find what they need and stick around. The longer your customers stay browsing your site, the greater the likelihood that you’ll receive repeat visits, and brand loyalty will encourage them to part with their money as you become a trusted source of information.
If you haven’t already implemented a sound search strategy for your site, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate your blog with the eyes of your customers. What do they predominantly come to your business to find? Can they find it? Web “best practice” advocates that no information should take more than two or three clicks to reach; does this apply to your site, or do people have to hunt around aimlessly in an attempt to find something useful? Take some time to consider your site with a fresh viewpoint, working out how it functions from your customer’s perspective. If it’s not really giving them what they need quickly, it’s time to revamp the site and make it more accessible and easily navigable.
Blogs that make customers have to think too hard are not good websites. Your customers need to be able to browse your site effortlessly, without having to battle an invasive or obtrusive layout that detracts from their visitor experience. The following tips provide an overview of search best practice for your site:
• Every page on your site needs to have at least basic navigation aids.
• Your navigation needs to indicate the current page that your visitors are on.
• Each link needs to be clearly marked as to where it leads.
• Each link should be unique and, if it is repeated, make this clear to the customer.
• Link categories need to relate to products and services, rather than your business information.
Including a comprehensive sitemap is great practice as it allows your visitors to easily locate a single page that has everything they need to access the pages they’re looking for.
The majority of WordPress themes already have an integral search bar as part of the basic setup, but if your blog doesn’t already have one, you can put a search widget into your side bar pretty easily. If you know PHP, just key in the following:
<?php get_search_form(); ?>
Although this works, the functionality is fairly limited, and there are a number of things you can do to enhance it to make things easier for your customers.
The Search Everything plugin works to improve your default search by also searching tags, categories, pages, comments, and much more that the default WordPress search doesn’t. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t require anything else other than just activating it, and then choosing what you would like to be included in the search.
You could also try the Search Meter plugin. This records what people are searching for, and can provide invaluable insights into the topics people are trying to find on your site, allowing you to appropriately tailor your site content.
The Google Custom Search also adds additional functionality to your blog. You can add it in manually (www.google.com/cse/) or via a plugin. The Google plugin doesn’t override the WordPress search, but you can replace it easily enough to make the Google application the primary tool. This allows you to use the power of Google to make your site searchable and also allows you to monetize the search results page by adding your Adsense ID to the adverts that Google automatically includes.
Finally, consider adding the Lijit search plugin to your site; it takes over the default WordPress search box, so requires no additional coding. It allows you to monetize search results and adds great features such as image thumbnails in your search results, and searching of your social networks. This means that you can bring back relevant tweets, YouTube videos, photos from Flickr and more.