29 Apr 2021

Internal site search: help people find what they're looking for

It's easy to underestimate the importance of site search on your website, but it could make all the difference when it comes to user experience. When users successfully - and easily - find what they are looking for on a website it sparks satisfaction, and acts as a first step in building a relationship with them. With growing confidence in your services, this relationship can lead to a conversion further down the line. 

We've heard it all too often from new clients; their staff has given up on their internal site search altogether, and instead use Google to find resources on their own website. Sound familiar? In fact, this was a driving factor behind the decision to commission a new website, when I was working client-side. In this blog post, I share some of my learnings and suggestions around creating great site search for your website. 

Tags and filters

By tagging your content, e.g. to popular topics, document type or target audience, you can allow users to apply filters and refine their search results page. This way, they'll have full control over the cut of resources or events they're looking at. 

Tags and filters are popular types of search and your teams will normally have full transparency and control over the tags. However, it is key to follow a coherent approach to your resource tagging to ensure that your search remains tidy and structured over time - and that it doesn't grow out of proportion. 


Jonathan McLellan, Digital Consultant


Speak to our team to see how your tagging structure could be optimised

Autocomplete search

This feature provides common search suggestions while users type in a search box, based on the characters and words already entered. Suggestions appear in real time which can help to save time and make searches more efficient. 

With predictive search, suggestions should have a clear visual distinction from the query that a user typed in. It is also helpful to include additional information, e.g. resource type or a thumbnail image, in a dropdown list of suggestions. 

Fuzzy search a.k.a. 'Did you mean...?'

With fuzzy search, users automatically receive suggestions based on words that are similar to their initial search terms. If a user misspells "busines" within their search term, the search query could instead suggest to conduct a search using the close and correct term "business". Carrying out the related search right away can make sure that the user always sees a result, rather than displaying nothing at all. 

Given the rise of mobile, and people's busy lifestyles, it's easy to understand that people may not always correctly type their search terms, so this is a handy feature to have in your arsenal. It's also a valuable tool when it comes to suggesting related search terms, e.g. "careers" instead of "recruitment", to help users find what they're looking for. 

Understanding your site search

Setting up site search tracking within Google Analytics can be a quick win for your organisation. The data you're going to gather will provide a window into the kinds of things people are searching for on your site.

This can be gold dust in terms of identifying common phrases or terminology that people are struggling to find while browsing your website and so warrants consideration when reviewing your Information Architecture and content strategy.

Smarter search is a starting point

It's important to ensure your site search is up to scratch, as it offers a valuable way to find what they're looking for when they are short for time. However, don't rely on it as a replacement for a well throught-through Information Architecture, as both should complement each other.

People's website behaviours vary and users may not always think to use site search, but when they do it should be a valuable tool that aids their experience on your website,

Interested to hear more about site search?

We'd love to hear your ideas and discuss opportunities to optimise your site search.

Get in touch

Related topics