The success of content marketing efforts rests on delivering content to people who want it.
Content marketers deliver content to their prospects through email, social media, newsletters, links and many other means. However, the single largest lead source for B2B companies is still SEO. 14% of the inbound traffic comes when prospective visitors search using keywords and stumble on the website. Email marketing (13%) and social media (12%) comes next as the most popular ways visitors find your website.
What happens once visitors come to your website? Google reports that site search is the number one means of navigation for 90% of company websites, and that 82% of all site visitors actually use site search to find the information they need.
Convenience apart, having advanced site search functionality helps in the following ways:
- Site search helps to retain visitors who prefer to search using keywords as opposed to clicking on links in a website. Google estimates that 80 percent of visitors will abandon a site if search functionality is poor.
- Site search lists many pages and prompts users to view many more pages than they would have, had they not used the site search and simply browsed the website. Needless, to say, visitors stay on the site longer and this is a key factor in improved search engine listings. Ektron estimates that site search improves bounce rate by 97%, site views by 200% and visit duration by 350%.
- Having site search makes explicit the intent of the customer to the marketer. Clickstream data offers info on what people did on the site, but do not reveal why people came to the site. Mercado Software estimates that implementing advanced site search solutions increase conversion rates by 50-100%.
However, site search is not a magic wand that boosts conversions and sales automatically. According to Google, 85 % of site searches do not return what the user sought, and 22% return no results at all!
What do search engines and Google look for?
- The content has to be ideally in HTML text format. Search engine spiders ignore flash files, Java applets, and other non-text content. It is essential to supplement flash or Java plug-in content with text.
- Video and audio content requires accompanying transcript. Assigning “all attributes” in HTML to gif, jpg, or png images offers search engines a text description of the visual content.
- It is essential to supplement search boxes with navigation and direct crawlable links. Search engines need to see content to list pages in their keyword-based indices, and they need to see links to find the content. A crawlable link structure allows search engine spiders to browse the pathways of a website and find all pages on the website.
- The search option itself requires filters that allow narrowing search by attributes such as content type, author, time-frame, product, and other attributes.
- Speed is essential. Speed improves search engine rankings. A good search delivers results in milliseconds, offers automated query suggestions and has visual cues that help users recognize information quickly.
- The indexing service requires robust query language, so that site visitors may search for website content combining a rich collection of search criteria, including free text queries, boolean and proximity operators, wildcards, vector space queries, property value queries and more.
Marketers need to go all out on inbound strategies to ensure that they connect the right product to the right prospect. Though the first priority is to have a clear and well-laid out website, the importance of Site search should not be underestimated either. When a prospect comes to a website, a well-implemented site search functionality can help retain him and boost conversion.
Image Credit: Jeffrey Beall on Flickr