August 1

Best Practices in Site Search for SEO and User Experience

Web Design


The search bar is one of the basic features for any website. You must provide visitors with a simple tool to find what they are looking for quickly. This is the main role of the search bar. But you can also use site search for SEO, for great UX and for a better understanding of your customers.

How Do Customers Use Site Search?

Experts who study user behaviour have identified two types of website users:

  • The browsers – users who go page by page reading all the content to develop an understanding of the site and the business running it
  • The searchers – users who know exactly what they want to find.

Improving site search for SEO will also give both categories of users a better browsing experience. The browsers may want clarification for something they’re reading, so they may resort to the search bar. As for the searchers, they will immediately look for this feature to type in what they need.

Key Purposes for Site Search for SEO and Visitor Browsing Journey

The search bar on your site has not one, but several functions. It is important to know them if you are to implement the best practices in site search for SEO correctly. You don’t do this because we tell you to – you do it because you understand that it is necessary.

Thus, a properly developed and implemented site search bar must:

  • Offer relevant results to the user’s query
  • Improve the user’s browsing experience
  • Encourage the user to spend more time on your website
  • Increase the conversion rate.

How You Can Use Site Search for SEO

Until now, we showed you how the search bar helps your site visitors. However, it also helps your company. Each search bar contains an analytics feature that collects every search query typed by users.

How exactly does this help you? In many and very relevant way:

  • Discovering new keywords to rank for
  • Understanding user intent
  • Identifying a mismatch between what users search for and the content of your site
  • Matching ineffective searches with actual content on your site and replacing inadequate keywords.

Implement These Best Practices for Site Search for SEO and UX

Now, it is time to explain what you need to check for and implement if necessary in the look and functionalities of your site search bar:

1. Use a Highly Visible Placement on the Page

Here’s the first and most important best practice for site search: make sure that visitor can easily find it. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here; you just have to follow the result of years of behaviour monitoring. They indicate that most people expect to see a search bar in the upper part of a web page, either in the centre or two the left side.

For mobile users, the search box must always appear prominently at the top of the screen.

2. Use the Right Wording and Icon

On the same topic of not reinventing the wheel, there is no need to be super creative or original with the icon or text written on the search button. Users like the comfort of predictability. They know what a search bar is supposed to look like. And this is what they want.

So, simply add a magnifier logo and the word “Search”. Some sites use various stylised logos or the wording “Go”, but these only confuse some users. They are not aware that they are supposed to use that feature as a search box and they leave the site.

3. Put Placeholder Text in the Search Box

Alright, everyone should know how to use a search box, right? But you should always err on the side of convenience and simplicity for users. It always pays to go beyond the basic prerequisites when it comes to site search for SEO and great UX.

Always add a little placeholder text inside the box, showing visitors what to do. Some sites have adopted a creative approach, using phrases like ‘What are you looking for?”. But you can never go wrong with the very clear and simple “type your search query here”.

Also, as soon as the user tapped on the search box or placed the mouse cursor to start typing, the placeholder text should disappear to avoid confusion.

3.  Program the Site Search for Strong Error Tolerance

Do you know that more than one third of top e-commerce websites do not return an answer if the user makes a typo? This is frustrating for people who are in a hurry to find a product or service.

Thus, your site search must have a high tolerance to:

  • Most frequent types of typos (balck instead of black)
  • Phonetic misspellings (ifone instead of iPhone)
  • Alternate spellings (aluminium and aluminum).

4. Use Care in Testing and Implementing Auto-Complete

The auto-complete feature is supposed to help users find the desired item without typing the entire word or phrase. But, in many situations, there is a gap between a great idea and execution.

A research conducted by the Baymard Institute – a specialized institution conducting large-scale studies on online user experience – found that 27% of all major ecommerce sites have significant usability problems in their auto-complete function. One of the key issues is the failure to keep the list of suggestions manageable.

Thus, auto-complete suggestions in site search for SEO and UX should be limited to 10 items. You must always keep in mind that a list viewed on a large desktop monitor may appear great, while on the mobile phone it may cover the entire screen or, worse, flow behind the virtual keyboard.

5. Offer Search Filters

Search filters are extremely useful for large e-commerce sites. If you carry a large selection of products, a visitor may have to scroll endlessly or click Next until they get a finger cramp to find what they need. Guess what – no one will waste time in this manner. They can simply look for a better organised site.

These search filters not only benefit site search for SEO, but also for understanding your customers’ needs. When you notice that certain products appear frequently in filtered search results, you can make sure that you replenish your stocks in a timely manner.

6. Offer Solutions. Not a Zero Results Page

We all experienced the frustration when we searched for something on a site and we got the answer:” No results found”. That is not very helpful, is it? And customers may well leave your site, believing that you don’t have what they are looking for.

Here’s the solution: using the same strong tolerance to error, plus a smart search algorithm, make suggestions similar to what the user typed in. You may be surprised how many people found a product whose name they used to misspell through this helpful list of alternate suggestions.

7. Size Your Search Bar Correctly

Google lets people type in a long query. But you probably don’t have to replicate this advanced function on your site. However, rely on the rule of the thumb that a 27-character search bar is sufficient for most in-site searches. According to Nielsen Norman Group (another top level user experience research institute) this is sufficient for 90% of all search queries performed online.

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