Optimizing a site for the top 4 percent of search queries will improve site search results for half of all searchers, according to a study by the Patricia Seybold Group using anonymous data from WebSideStory's clients.
According to the April 2006 data, just 4 percent of all unique search queries made up more than half of all site searches. For e-commerce sites, the number of unique queries fell to just 2 percent.
"Marketers should be thinking about site search with the '80/20 rule' in mind, and pay attention to the areas where they'll get the most bang for their buck," Steve Kusmer, senior VP and general manager of WebSideStory's search and content solutions division, told ClickZ. "They should address site search tuning by looking at the top keywords first."
By making changes to their site to improve results for those top few hundred search terms, marketers will be closing the loop on more leads driven to the site with other marketing efforts, Kusmer said. At the other end of the spectrum, nearly 12 percent of all site searches return zero results, which also represents a missed opportunity for marketers, he said.
"Marketers spend lots of money on SEM because it's an easy way to create demand. Often when they drive people to their site, they don't pay enough attention to the experience waiting for them there when they arrive," Kusmer said. "If you're doing SEM and SEO, you should be putting an equal effort into site search optimization."
Once visitors arrive at a site, few applications are more effective at converting customers and improving the overall visitor experience than site search, according to Susan Aldrich, senior VP and senior consultant at the Patricia Seybold Group and author of the report.
"The site search box itself is a tremendous gift to you from your customers: they are telling you exactly what they want, in their own words," writes Aldrich, who provides a five-step plan for site search improvement in her report.
The importance of guiding site search users is magnified because those searchers are 2.7 times as likely to convert than the average site visitor, according to Kusmer. That is in part due to the nature of site search users, who are in effect pre-qualifying themselves as users interested in finding something very specific on a site. A well directed user experience created by good site search results also leads to increased conversions, he added.
The researchers collected data was from 34 million search phrases on more than 40 Web sites in the WebSideStory Index, using either WebSideStory Search or HBX Analytics. E-commerce, lead-generation, and media sites were equally represented in the study.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.
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