Minor functionality with major opportunities: the search bar!

Janneke Spijkers
Search and you will find. This famous saying definitely applies to the online world. Our surfing behavior shows quite clearly that people are both curious and impatient at the same time. When we don’t find what we’re looking for quickly, we pull out, taking conversion off the table. The search bar holds the answer, as long as you have one that works properly. In this article, I’ll tell you about the power of a functional search bar and how to make the most of its potential!

The larger your website, the more important your search bar will be

Unfortunately, I see many online stores every day with ill-functioning search bars, if they even have one! This is a missed opportunity, because the search bar is part of the ordering process. You can assume that 30% of all your potential customers start their search in your online store with the search bar.

Research has shown that search bars are even more important for websites that have a large number of pages. The larger the website, the more difficult it becomes for visitors to find the right information. If you are the owner or online store manager of a large website, continue reading to find out which opportunities you might be missing out on.

Opportunity 1: The design and location on your website

The design and location of the search bar may be obvious aspects to consider, but that doesn’t make them less important. Finding the search bar can often be a quest in and of itself. That might be because its design isn’t striking enough, for example, because it isn’t the right size, or because it isn’t in the right place. This can be tricky, because you run the risk that your visitors won’t find what they’re looking for as easily as they can find the click to your competitor’s website. Make sure to apply the following principles when designing a search bar:

  • Don’t hide your search bar behind an icon, but use an open text field. Users want to be able to enter their search terms quickly.
  • Make the icon a simple ‘magnifying glass’ and ensure that there’s recognizable text, like the word ‘search’, inside the search bar. This makes sure that your visitors will recognize the search bar quickly.
  • Position the search bar where visitors expect it to be. A study carried out by A. Dawn Shaikh and Keisi Lenz shows that the top right is the most effective location for a search bar.
  • When you’ve positioned it in the top-right corner, make sure that it features on every single page (in the same place). Users will mainly use the search bar on pages where they can’t find the right content.

Opportunity 2: User friendliness

There’s nothing more annoying than a search bar that doesn’t work properly. If you have a functional, user-friendly search bar, you won’t just gain the trust of your visitors, but they’ll also be more inclined to take the time to find what they’re looking for. These points can be of help:

  • Did you know that not everyone is aware that you have to press the enter key to activate a search? To avoid this issue, use a send button to tell your visitors that they need to take an extra step to actually activate the search.
  • A commonly made mistake is making the text field in the search bar too small. When using a small text field, visitors will be more inclined to use short, inaccurate search terms. We recommend using a text field that is no shorter than 27 characters.
  • Auto-suggest tools are very powerful tools that help users put together a search query. These tools are very simple: Imagine that a visitor types the first three letters of a word. After the third letter, a list of suggestions will appear based on these three letters, which the visitor can click on. This will avoid badly formulated search queries.

Opportunity 3: Analyze data to increase your conversion!

In the previous section, I mentioned a number of ways to optimize your search bar, but another aspect that’s often overlooked is data analysis. No matter which search engine you use in your online store, You can always retrieve data (everything that’s typed into the search bar). Once you’ve configured Google Analytics correctly, you’ll see which search terms were used on your website. Analyzing internal search queries with Google Analytics will determine the intentions of your visitors.

This information lets you find out whether your visitors are searching for synonyms of product names, brand names, category names, contact details, new items, sales items or trends. By analyzing this data, you can provide more targeted search results to your visitors which leads to… you guessed it, conversion! So don’t wait and get started!

Let’s get to work!

I hope that I’ve been able to give you some insight into the great opportunities that lie behind this small piece of functionality. If you need help with the design, user-friendliness or data analysis of the search bar on your website, get in touch with us so that our specialists can help out! We’re happy to help you with any and all online issues.