Internal Search for webshops: An essential asset
Internal search is a valuable asset for any informational website containing over 20 pages. That value is probably double or more for webshops. The easier a visitor gets to the desired product, the more likely he or she will buy it. Following my post on internal search for informational websites, I’d like to elaborate a bit more on internal search for webshops in this post.
Internal search for webshops
There is a reason the larger webshops add so much focus on their internal search: you will buy their stuff if you can easily find the product you are looking for. It’s as simple as that. Here are some examples:
Amazon – www.amazon.com
Asos – www.asos.com
Toast – www.toa.st/eu/
That last one shows that even a minimalistic website can add focus to that internal search option. A design where the minimalistic approach has gone a bit too far for me is this one:
Yen Jewelry – www.yenjewellery.com
There is no focus. I have included the filter at the bottom of that screenshot on purpose, by the way. There is less focus on the internal search option, but an alternative is provided with the given filter options. In a larger product collection or on a large internal search result page, a filter is really important. I use it all the time, no matter what kind of webshop. Sizes, colors, material. All these filters will help me find that one desired product. And as a webshop visitor, you utilize these filters, without it feeling as an extra step, right? Shopping is a different process than finding information. It’s really convenient that this webshop provides these filters. I’m always happy with filters in webshops. More on filters later on in this post.
Internal search result pages for webshops
There are two kinds of internal search result pages in webshops:
- Actual internal search result pages, found by adding a search query to the search option on a website, and
- your product category pages, that can be found by clicking a link to that category.
Both basically look the same, right? The main difference is that the category pages are presented after clicking a link, most probably in the menu, and the search result pages are presented after an actual search query. In both the ASOS and Toast example above, the main categories are Men and Women. The search query is predefined.
For both pages, the same characteristics apply as for informational pages:
- Highlight the search keyword
- Add text snippets containing the keyword
- Rank results by relevance
- Make sure internal search results are not indexed by Google
There is one extra characteristic I’d like to add here. No matter what the product is you are selling, make sure a product image is shown in your internal search results. This makes searching a lot easier. For instance, with books (and even eBooks), I’d rather pick the one with a nice cover than the boring alternative. Make sure there is an image available. Again, we’d be happy to check this and much more for you in our site reviews.
One more addition to this, and this is just me thinking out loud. If a visitor clicks a search result in your webshop, and lands on your product page, prevent the need to click back to the internal search results. That can be easily done by adding a related products section to the product page.
Filter options after an internal search
I already mentioned the importance of providing filter options for your internal search for webshops. The main reason is that on most larger webshops, the visitor is still left in the dark when doing that initial internal search. The number of results is overwhelming. The easier it is to narrow this down, the happier you will make your potential customer.
In this section, I’d like to go over a number of best practices. First, I’d like to mention the filter options in the mother of all webshops: Amazon.com. Here’s a screenshot:
Of course this is all in one large sidebar on the left hand side of your Amazon page. I did an internal search for ‘business’ by the way. What I think is especially nice in these filter options, is the option to filter on Average Customer Review. It emphasizes the Amazon community and in the very general search I did, this is a welcome filter option.
Zalando.de is one of the larger European online clothing shops. Always on the lookout for new, cheap t-shirts, I found these filter options:
Note that the global filter on the left has already disabled the filter options that don’t apply to this search, which is nice, and that it gives me the opportunity to filter for sale items only (I’m a cheapskate when it comes to t-shirts).
The most important filter options are right above the search results: Brand, Color, Price, Size, etcetera with a select option in the dropdown:
One could argue whether that brand list should instead be a long list right below the global search options. Zalando has most probably tested this a lot, and so should you. Test, or ask, what your visitors prefer.
The third and last case that I’d like to mention in this post is LEGO.com:
Ow, what a teaser. “Coming Soon: 5″. And why can I filter retired products? So I can go on eBay and buy these for a lot more than the initial price:
So that “hard to find” statement might not be entirely accurate, but I can see this pushing experience and price LEGO does a very nice job on these filter options, by the way. Especially the Age and Pieces options come in handy for most visitors, I imagine. Note that where Amazon starts with the Rating filter, LEGO concludes the list of filters with that option. Perhaps Amazon users are looking for a type of book rather than a specific book, where LEGO.com users are looking for that one box to complete there collections. But that’s just me guessing.
You can see how filter options help you get to the desired product a lot faster than just entering more search terms in an internal search field in a webshop.
Where a search option on an informational site is very much like your basic Google search, the internal search for webshops is a bit more complicated. You really want to add a second step to that: filter options. Together these make for a very good user experience, as long as your filter options are logical and are tailored to your target audience.
If you know of any webshops that did an outstanding job on internal search, the result pages and filter options, I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!
This post first appeared as Internal Search for webshops: An essential asset on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!