Evolution of Search and Why We Should Care

IMC 2010 Session Recap: Evolution of Search and Why We Should Care!
Presented by: Maryam Mahdavi

*image from A List Apart
*image from AListApart.com

Maryam has a strong background in computer science and this is her first talk at a Marketing Conference.

She asks the audience what does search mean to you?

  • Google… or Bing or other search engines on how to use for marketing
  • Search is a bay of users and potential customers
  • They are looking for products, how can we leverage that to get them to our site

But search has gone beyond that… Facebook, Twitter (real-time search).

But today she wants to talk about site search–whether an online store or media type website.
Main enterprise search solution is Endeca (http://www.endeca.com/).

How much do we care about site search?

Most popular is Keyword search. The user has some intention and they have to translate that intention into a keyword. You can help the user by providing a keyword completion techniques or spell check corrections, but at the end it is the responsibility of the user to translate what they want to get from the site.

This process is in a “black box”, cause we don’t know what the user intends to get from the site we get get the keywords. You have more context with the site search because you know it is in relation to your site. Where if you searched in Google, the keywords are not necessarily related to your website.

Ex. the keyword “Tiger” on a tire site might be a kind of tiger. But on Google might be the animal or the tire… etc etc.

Know come up with ways on how to decipher the intention. This is the challenge. In the beginning it was just keyword search, but with evolution more context has been added.

Other challenges come from taking the keywords and understanding our customers better. Should we rearrange structure so the users can find this information quicker? Are products hard to find? Are products more popular then we thought? Keywords are obviously also import to understand for SEO and Adwords.

Methods of deciphering and learning incrementally about the user depend on their demographic. For example if your visitors are kids, then they have a different way of communicating then middle-aged people.

Site Search KPIs:

  • % of successful searches
  • Conversion ratio
  • Session duration for all sessions that include searches
  • What site visitors visited after they used the on-site search

Keyword search is a direct way of searching. The other (less popular) form of search is navigational search.

Keyword search pros: fast retrieval, no need to know taxonomy.
Navigational Search: the ability to browse.

Faceted Search combines both paradigms. Works with keyword search or without, allows the users to dive down into a range of related information. It introduces relevant specs. It guides the process of searching and browsing.

Pros: Give you an overview of information and increases the chance of searching. You give them a head start to help them to come up with a keyword to search. It pushes user engagement. If the user already has a keyword in mind they can still just search right away.

The more you keep the user engaged the more you can get from them, and the more you can learn from them. And hopefully they can stay long enough so you can give them what they are looking for and they buy it! It also elicits direct explicit customer preferences. Are they looking for cheap products?

Faceted search is also extremely SEO friendly.

Because you have your own unique site with your own unique visitors, the most important thing you can do is testing.

Video Case Study:

Video provided by IIMA and IMC