Regardless of the fact that almost every pre-build website has internal search functionality, many website owners neglect the importance of the internal search.
A lot of my clients, for example, don’t track internal search queries or don’t take time to redesign the search box or to test different designs.
At the same time, if a website doesn’t have an internal search feature, webmasters can use different methods for adding a site search engine to a website. You could for example:
- Install your own Search Engine script and customize the results page the way you want it
- Use a third-party hosted Search Engine service
- Use a popular search engine (like Google or Bing) as your site’s search engine
No matter how you’ve decided to implement an internal search to your website, there are few important things to consider before you do that:
How much content does your website have?
If you have a lot of website content, then you will probably need a more sophisticated search engine for the internal search on your site. For example, you may have noticed that big e-commerce shops always have an option to perform a search only in a specific category or will sort the search results in different categories and sub-categories.
Or even if you don’t have a lot of content now, your website could grow in the future. So, don’t forget to think in perspective when installing an internal search box on your website.
How much traffic will the search engine receive?
If your site has a lot of traffic and a simple navigation structure, you should probably expect that the search engine also receives a lot of traffic. In this case, you could consider moving the search traffic off to a server, that’s separate from your own site, or using a third-party search engine.
How often should the search results be refreshed?
In order to serve accurate search results, the search engine needs to crawl and index your website content. But how often should it do that? Hourly, daily, weekly? Or you want to serve real-time results?
This is an important question that may define the search engine option you choose and how fresh your search results will be.
Of course, the answer to this question depends on how often you publish content. If you’re a news website and you white about hot topics on a daily basis, you will need to synchronize the crawler settings with real-time content updates.
How personalized should be the search results pages?
By “personalized” I mean tailor-made to your website.
It’s easy to implement and use Google as your site’s search engine, but you don’t have any control over the design of the search results pages it will serve. If you’re not considering this as an issue then you can proceed and use Google.
Some third-party hosted Search Engine services also don’t give a lot of control and personalization of the SERPs.
My advice is to first see and test the result pages before you implement a search engine.
How much control do you want over the search results?
Should all the website content be accessible by the search bot or the site search should be limited to specific categories and pages only?
Is there a specific type of page that should be put forward in the search results? For example, an e-commerce website may want to put more weight on product pages in the search results.
These are all different settings that you should make sure that your search engine has supported.
Should you track your internal search terms?
This is a rhetorical question.
Yes, you should!
You should definitely track the search terms that your users are looking at. They represent a unique source of keyword ideas and recommendations for your business and content optimizations.
I’ve included this question in the article only because I see many websites that don’t use this cool feature called Google Analytics’ internal site search.
The Google Analytics internal site search report allows you to see every keyword people search for on your site, the page on which they performed the search, and even more…
In one of my next articles, I will explain how to set up Google Analytics’ internal site search and analyze the report results.
So having said all of this, I hope that’s clear that internal site search shouldn’t be taken easily and that this post is helpful to figure out the best solution to fit your needs.