Jul 152012

Ramon Ray & the Smallbiztechnology.com Team

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In the early days of the internet, the public relied on portals. Sites like Yahoo and CitySearch provided great “storefronts” from which every web session began. Google changed all of that, training users that if they wanted to find something, all they had to do was insert a few words and they’d be sent directly to it.

All of this easy searching has left web users expecting quick results. Think of your website as one of those 1-800 phone numbers, where customers are forced to listen to a long string of choices before being directed to another string of choices. Eventually, the customer inevitably hits “0? in the hopes of telling an operator what he or she needs.

A search engine is your site’s “0? function. Many visitors come to your site looking for specific information. If that information is not immediately clear on your home page, a large, inviting search box on your page may very well be that visitor’s second choice. But don’t take our word for it. Let the research speak for itself. Here are just a few reasons you should add search capabilities to your business’s website:

  • Convert visitors into business. Research firm MarketingSherpa released results of a study that found that visitors who used site search were three times more likely to convert than those who didn’t. Their research also showed 43% of site visitors went directly to the search box when visiting a website.
  • Gather data on visitors. By using the right tool, site search can provide valuable insight into your visitors. You can use these search terms to determine what information your visitors are seeking, which can help redirect your future marketing efforts.
  • Increase retention. Research shows the average visitor spends eight seconds on a site before clicking away. A search engine allows them to get where they are going quickly, increasing the chance they’ll find what they’re looking for before they leave.

SLI Systems offers a comprehensive search solution that will not only add a search engine to your website, but provide analytics to help you determine the searching habits of your visitors. Not only that, but the data it collects influences the results future visitors see.

“Other search engines, free or included as part of a bigger software package, typically offer limited customization capabilities – unless you hire an army of experts, which most small businesses can’t afford – so companies have no control over how results are ranked, how the search pages are formatted, and what refinements to offer site visitors to help them narrow down results,” SLI Systems spokesperson Andrea Cousens says. She adds that SLI Systems’ search engine also allows integration with user reviews, social media content, video, and location-based information–things other search engines don’t offer.

While SLI Systems caters to small businesses, larger clients include HarryandDavid.com and JellyBelly.com. SLI Systems client Century Novelty reports a 700-800% ROI each month and U.S. Toy has noticed a 300% higher conversion rate for search pages, with a 400% higher per-visit order for site search pages.

Whether you go with an intensive search engine or not, your website should definitely include one. Try a few searches to make sure your site’s search works the way you intended before permanently committing to it.

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