Good day, all you SEOers out there! I’m glad you’re back, reading Search Engine Academy’s continuing series on Infrastructure Architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO). The two go together quite well, because IA and SEO are about finding your most relevant content as fast and as easily as possible.
We’re talking about the fourth major IA system – site search. I have covered IA site search in previous posts, so if the concept is new to you, please read those first then come on back to this one.
Today, let’s talk a little bit about presenting the search results your well-designed, very useful site search box function has served up.
There are multiple ways to present results, and you have choices to make. But here’s what you really need to think about: which content to highlight for the retrieved page or document, and how to list those results.
Displaying Content Components
Recall that with your SEO efforts, most SERPs show the title and description tag for the searcher. Well, for your internal search results, think about if your target audience wants to see more or less content describing the page.
It’s possible to let the searcher decide if she wants to see a description or just titles; this can be a search function option. But keep in mind that if your site search function spawns multiple pages, she’s going to act like she’s looking at just another search engine, so it’s unlikely she’ll go past page one. When designing your site search function, this is an important consideration to plan for.
The other thing to consider is the type of query that will yield results. What if she’s looking for names and phone numbers? Display the phone number first.
And be sure to design your site search to show the query term or keywords within the context of the displayed search results for each document. The searcher can quickly scan the document to decide if it’s really relevant to her search needs.
How Many Search Results Should Be Displayed
This depends upon a couple things. If you design your search engine to show lots of information for each fetched page, you’ll need to have a small retrieval set, as it’s called. If you are going sparse, you can let more results be in the set. Again, you’ll need to do some testing to see what works best for your target audience.
The other thing to keep in mind is that not everyone is on high speed internet service; some folks still have to use dial-up. It’s not their fault, so you might want think about keeping the search results simple, but have an advanced search function available, in case users with better internet access want more detailed results.
You can provide a nice touch to the search results displayed if you show the total number of documents, or pages retrieved for her query. Think about providing SERPs in groups of ten, much like most search engines.
OK, now that you’ve designed the retrieval and the content, what order is best? What kind of information your searcher requires, along with the kind of information they need, plus how they use the results will drive this part of the design.
There are two types to choose from: sorting and ranking. You can show results by date, alphabetically, relevance or popularity.
You may wish to consider using sorting for information that helps users make a decision or do an action. Price comparison of products is a good example of sorting.
Ranking can be used if information has to be analyzed or learned. Usually ranking is done from the most relevant to least important. But, relevance is relative, and what’s important to me might not mean jack to you.
There’s a lot to think about when designing and implementing a site search box. We’ll stop at this point today, and pick up next week on different types of ranking to think about, depending upon the type of content and information your site contains.
In the meantime, why not think about how you’d display search results for your site, and how much detail you’d provide in your SERPs?
Are you looking for in-depth SEO training? Join us for a Search Engine Academy SEO training course this summer. If you have a seasonal site that’s especially for Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas, believe it or not, but now is the time to begin optimizing for the holidays!
All the very best to you,