9 Basic Principles of Effective On-Site Search That Can Help You Increase Your Website Conversion

On-site search is a very important part of any ecommerce store, as search users convert 2-3 times more than non search users. Plus more than 40% of website visitors visiting ecommerce stores use it to find the products.

We will discuss the 9 basic principles of effective on-site search that can help you increase your website conversion.

Basic 1: Search Box Prominence
It seems obvious but there are plenty of stores where trying to find a search box is a tedious task especially at the lower end of the market where these stores are designed without proper preparation including wire framing and proper knowledge.

Basic 2: Search Box Text
In some cases a search box sometimes competes with other elements on a page like for example newsletter sign up form. So adding extra text like “product search” in the box could help.

Basic 3: High-Quality Thumbnails in Search Results
This goes without saying and the majority of well know stores are providing very good thumbnails. However, in some industries like skiing for example, some websites do a really terrible job.

Basic 4: Auto Suggestion and Spell Correction
I found this personally very helpful when I receive automatically suggested products as I am typing.


Basic 5: Fuzzy Matching
Ability to return searches that aren’t 100% correct.

Basic 6: Grid vs. List View
List view – good for websites selling electronics, ink cartridges etc where visitors require more information before they click to learn more about the product.

Grid view – is visually more orientated, where visitors select products by their look e.g. shoes, apparel, jewelry, watches, toys, flowers.

I recommend you to read grid vs. list view post, where both views are compared, and their effectiveness.

Basic 7: Quick View
It allows visitors to preview the product without leaving the search page. Many well known apparel and electronics stores offer it. My view is you need to use A/B testing to tell if “quick view” increases your conversion rates or not.
I rather like this feature because I think it looks more professional, however I don’t use it often as personally I prefer to see the whole product. What I like is that most well known stores are using this “quick view” feature, thus it lifts the perception of the brand/website if used on less well known websites.

Basic 8: Search Refinements
After not providing relevant search results this is definitely a killer of website conversion. After studying several well known websites I found search refinement to be the worst on Target.com. Target.com has got a great looking website but their search refinement is terrible. I’ll give you 2 examples:

Example 1: Search keyword “digital camera”:
If you are looking to buy camera with certain mega-pixels, then at target.com you won’t be able to do so.

Example 2: Search keyword “laptop”:
Try to refine laptop by a screen size. This feature doesn’t even exist! I think enough said about how conversion rate of your website is also closely linked to good search refinement on your site.

Should you have search refinement in the left navigation vs. on top or on both, as in the example below? Luckily the answer in this case is very simple. Do A/B testing and you will find out.



Basic 9: Reviews and Rating Displayed in Search Result

Definitely must have if you have reviews and ratings on your website.


For this article I used as a source webinar recording from practicalecommerce.com.In this webinar presented by Nextopia you will learn the best practices for on-site search to increase your search visitors conversions.

Jan Petrovic
I have 9 Years of Tremendous Experience as web analyst and Senior Conversion Specialist. I have worked on optimisation project for the second-largest store retailer in the USA (the company is also a component of the S&P 500 Index), as well as for a well-known USA fashion retailer with over 380 stores nationwide. Over the course of my career I have achieved many INSANE improvements on our client’s websites, sometimes by applying best practices, another time from findings I made during conversion audits and sometimes thinking out of the box. For one of them I have even received an award in 2012 from WhichTestOne, where after testing different emails and parts of email message we increased revenue by 303.08%. What might also interest you is the fact that my average conversion improvement is 19% and my success rate is 70%. Basically, I’m VERY GOOD at what I do thanks to my Can Do Attitude to find solutions to given problems & Experience in this field.
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