Using On-Site Search as a Conversion Multiplier #Semrushchat Recap

Maria Kalyadina

Apr 30, 201822 min read
Using On-Site Search as a Conversion Multiplier

What do your users search for in your website search bar? On-site search is a clear indicator of user intent and can be a conversion multiplier for your website if done right. In last week’s #SEMrushchat, we discussed the best ways to use onsite search as a conversion multiplier with JP Sherman, the Manager of Search and Findability at RedHat. JP, along with our other chat participants, had valuable insights to share. In case you missed it, here is what we discussed:

Q1. How can a website utilize on-site search to multiply their conversions through insights or enhancing other marketing channels?

There are a lot of answers to this question, and it cannot be ignored. According to an Econsultancy report, nearly 84% of companies do not actively optimize or measure their on-site search. Here are some ways websites can utilize on-site search to multiply their conversions through insights or other marketing channels:

Set Up a Conversion Funnel

The first step would be to set up a conversion funnel that can track conversions from onsite search, especially for transactional websites. The number of conversions will give you a baseline for further optimization.

Use Cookies for Retargeting

Every user who performs an on-site search is already engaged with your business. They believe you have something to offer them and that is the perfect opportunity for you to nurture them to conversion. Use website cookies to track their search and run focused retargeting campaigns for them.

Pay Attention to Informational Content

Not all website visitors will want to convert (or, buy from you). Sometimes, they are just searching for more information. Remember to provide info-rich content, too, which can be a critical edge over the competition.

Predict Customer Requirements

Use seasonal trends, regular queries, and past search data to predict what your visitors will be interested in next season.

Even if the insights are not seasonal, it gives you a good idea of what the leads really expect from you. This data can help you evolve your business or your website to meet those requirements.

Understand Your Audience Better

Site search is essentially your audience telling you what they are looking for, what they expect from you, and whether your business/website has successfully met their expectation.

In short, it is the perfect data that can help you to know your target audience better. It will definitely help you to further optimize your site and content.

Improve the UX and UI of Your Site

Onsite search data gives you insight as to what information your visitors are looking for and how you can provide it to them. You can use it to explore alternate ways to deliver the same information to them and check if it affects site performance.

Also, if you realize that your audience is searching for information that you think is very apparent on your site, then it is time to present it in a much more obvious and simpler fashion.

Similarly, you can also test your website design (particularly that of the search bar) by placing more emphasis on it while designing.

Create Content That Provides Value

When you use search data to understand your audience better, you will eventually find out what kind of content they most value. Thus, you can improve the content you have and ensure that you deliver exactly what your customers are looking for.

Tweak Your Internal Search Engine

Another way to use your search data is to fine-tune your internal search engine. You can add synonyms to search queries or build test cases for certain kinds of search so that the user gets the maximum value from your site.


Find Out What (content) Is Not Working

Once you implement on-site search and the analytics that go with it, you can use it to understand why some of your content or a search query is failing. If, out of a number of results, some are repeatedly ignored, can those results be tweaked? Similarly, if you get a lot of failed/zero search result query, can you identify the root cause? Both these insights will help you structure your content more around what the audience is looking for and thus boost engagement.

Improve Customer Experience

Make your website easily navigable and help your users find what they are looking for faster. Such a reduction in user-friction will improve their experience and easier to access the information they are looking for.

Gain More Customer Insight

The users who engage with your site through the search bar provide the most valuable information. They are most likely to convert, have already established a base level of trust with your business, and have come to you with their search query, instead of asking Google. Clearly, they are further down the conversion funnel, and their search behavior can give you insights on which types of content or value to prioritize.

Refine your SEO

The keyword data from an internal user search engine is valuable in telling you what your users are searching for. You can use that data to create content around it and, in turn, improve your rankings on Google. At the very least, your target audience can directly visit the page they want from Google – thus improving your visits to that particular page.

Shorten Conversion Paths

For e-commerce clients, the benefits can be immediate, for example, they can encourage quicker conversions by placing related products to the search query. Plus, this addition, with say, banner ads highlighting popular products, can encourage your visitors to convert faster.

For non-eCommerce businesses, this can simply make it easier for your users to navigate the site with related content, which in turn, encourages more engagement or conversion.


Personalization of search results on your site can help you to improve cross-selling, targeting, and better customer experience. Sophisticated systems like chatbots and personalized guides can make a huge difference in the e-commerce industry. Likewise, including alternative service channels or voice search can also help improve your conversions.

To begin personalization, start with these methods:

Use Previous User Behavior for Targeted Suggestions

If you have profile log information, you can harvest it to serve users’ suggestions based on their previous search or buying behavior. The content can be prioritized to suit their unique pattern and can also be customized with a ‘recommended’ list of suggestions. To take it the extra mile, the wording can even be changed per the user’s search request or location, i.e., using the term soda vs. pop or Coke.

In case you have no search data for that specific user (first-time users), then you can use similar search behavior pattern to show targeted results.

A quick heads up, if your profile data is inaccurate or lacking information, this method can backfire. Wrong suggestions and personalization can also turn your visitors off and give them the impressions that you don’t understand them.

Have Related FAQs for Every Search

Giving a list of questions (FAQs) at the end of every search can aid the user in getting more information about their topic of interest. If these questions are based on the site query data and combined with search patterns of users, it can be highly personalized and extremely useful.

Customize Search According to Location

Geography can alter language, dialect, and trends. To make your search more user-friendly, you can use the region’s ‘dialect’ or jargon. An easy way to achieve this is to create a list of synonyms that creates an association on your search platform, making it region specific. It can help the user relate to the product more and help convert faster.Likewise, you can show ‘popular searches’, in that region to assist the user in finding what he wants faster.

Use Segmentation and Filters

To improve the relevance of the data you show your audience, segment and filter your data based on various parameters. If you are an e-commerce company, the simplest way to do it would be according to gender or pricing.

Allow the User More Control Over Navigation

Use drop-down menus, categories, and brand names to give the user more control over what they are searching for. Every user can also have their very own search results page – based on their previous activity, with quick search options that are customized to their behavior.


Q4. Designing the UI/UX of the search experience is critical, what are some ways you can improve the search experience through design?

The UI/UX of your search has to ultimately deliver a positive experience to the user, by letting them find what they are looking for as quickly as possible. It has to be fast, precise, and should also offer suggestions.

While your search data can help you tweak your search query, here are some things you can do and certain design elements you can try to achieve that:

Test the Design

Introduce a panel testing for a beta audience to see how well-received it is and make sure the search bar is placed in a spot that is easy to find. If necessary, get a good eye-tracking software or a heat map to see where the user’s focus is first. Content-wise, test and re-test your queries to ensure that there are minimal no results, which can be frustrating and lead to a poor UX.A quick way to do that is to first build the information system and then the design.

Be Bold Enough to Execute and Kill Ideas If They Don’t Work

Remember, every time a user employs the site search, it means that they did not find what they were looking for in the first place. That means that the user journey you had mapped just went out the window. You will have to come up with another one to see how you can answer this query.

While an idea you came up with sounds awesome on paper, it may not give you the right results. The trick lies in balancing features, ideas vs. discovery. If your idea doesn’t help the customer in any way, such as improving the speed of search, then kill it!

Make It Easy to Navigate

The search bar should be easy to find on every page of your site. If the user has to wade through a number of links and pages to get back to where they started, that means your site’s UX is not good.

A great example is Google’s Search Engine. Not only is the search bar obvious and well designed but the results are also segmented into categories, such as images, maps, and videos, which makes it easier for the user to find what they are looking for. So, take a page out of their book and build assistive technologies, use keyword matches (like Google again), and design accurate search snippets. All this will definitely aid the user find what he is looking for a lot quicker.

Design It For the User – According To the Site

Sometimes, going the Google or Bing way may not work for your business. Instead of just having ten links and categorizing the search query, you can simply have great images of your products with detailed descriptions. If it is an e-commerce site, it could encourage conversions.

This does not mean cluttering up the search results page, it is simply ensuring that the user finds what they want quicker, without confusing the search results page. In turn, more content can be offered to the user as FAQs.

Mobile Optimization

Don’t forget your mobile users. Make sure that you optimize your site for mobile users as well and ensure that the search function works well on both mobile and desktop, especially since Google is all about mobile-first.

Direct CTAs to Open In a New tab

Enabling proper navigation can sometimes be helped along if all the CTAs open on new tabs without fail. This ensures that the user is never lost and can quickly come back to the home page if necessary.


Q5. Owning your own onsite search means you can boost content to the top, what are some benefits & risks of artificially boosting content?

Artificially boosting content is like a short-cut to getting attention to the content you deem important.

It can be tricky and can spell disaster for your business and have similar effects to keyword stuffing.

Here is a list of reasons why our chat participants think this won’t always be the best idea:

  • It could mean presenting the user with content they are not interested in. That could lead to a broken customer experience and end up frustrating the user.

  • If you have not boosted the right content, and you are failing to meet the searcher’s expectations. That could negatively impact your brand – both short and long-term.

  • You lose track of the content you boosted on your site and why which means that you have no concrete data to base your future campaigns on and have to re-invent the wheel.

On the other hand, it can also be advantageous:

  • You are in control of what the user is seeing.

  • You can decide what content or product or service you want to promote.

  • You can boost traffic to the pages or sites that you deem important – that can definitely impact your SEO.

So how can you get it right?

  • Pick the right keywords, the main categories, and the terms you want to rank them for. Boost only the content that fits these criteria.

  • Trust the customer’s on-site search data you have and match it with user intent. That way, you can ensure that whatever content you are boosting is relevant to the user as well.

  • Employ keyword meta-tags. Even if Google ignores them, your site search engine won’t, and, your content will be ranked better.

  • Use site search data and user behavior to tell you which content to push to the top. If you see that one particular search term is getting more traffic and if it makes sense to your business, you can push it to the top.

The bottom line is – what the users want and what you think the users want can be vastly different. Unless you make data-backed choices, that are frequently updated with customer feedback, everything you do will just be guessing.

If you have optimized your on-site search right, then your organic search results should rank your best content anyway.


That’s all for today! Make sure you join us this week on #SEMrushchat as we do a live-site audit of!

Author Photo
Maria is the Social Media Marketing Manager at Semrush and the host of the weekly #Semrushchat. You can always connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter! Join the #SemrushChat every Wednesday at 11 am ET/ 4 pm BST!