Although the phrase “knowledge is power” was likely coined by Sir Francis Bacon way back in 1597, it has been repeated in the writings of many throughout history and continues to resonate today—especially at Google.
Since the search giant’s inception in 1999, the people behind it have been gaining knowledge about humanity, usually without even asking. By spending billions on developing a search engine, Google has become the arena where we share our hopes, fears, curiosity, and desires more than we do with each other. With this user input, Google has built an empire of services—Google Maps, Google News, self-driving cars, YouTube, Shopping, AI, Gmail, Google Docs, and more—that evolves daily to satisfy the needs and wants of literally billions of people.
But this blog post isn’t about Google, which is by no means the only treasure trove of information.
The inevitable rise of internal search engines
Internal search engines are important tools for users who have difficulty navigating a site’s IA (information architecture), whether they’re looking for older content or tracking down content that has no obvious path. According to Forrester research, up to 43% of users will attempt to find products or content using the site search. Unfortunately, unlike Google, most internal search engines tend to be hastily set up, not sufficiently tested, and subsequently underutilized. As a result, site search engine results are not helpful, which can result in users either avoiding them entirely, using Google to navigate the site instead, or switching to a Google alternative. This is a major missed opportunity.
While SEOs spend most of their time focusing on analyzing user data from the major search engines like Google and Bing, they should also use these skills on sites’ internal search engines. If set up correctly, the internal search engine can provide a wealth of information about the customers and users on any given website, such as:
- Customer language (terminology used)
- Customer needs, pain points, frustrations (FAQs)
- Navigational issues (frequently searched content that should be easier to find)
- Site content gaps (users seeking content that doesn’t exist yet)
- Do users find the results useful?
- Which topics are most frequently inquired about?
This data should be pulled and analyzed on a yearly basis to monitor trends, user behavior, and changing needs—this user data will help drive site changes and support business decisions.
In addition to these gems, SEOs can test the search engine and work with developers to adjust the search engine algorithm in order to make the results more user-friendly and accurate, help reduce user frustration, and drive more traffic internally.
How to set up your internal site search for success
- Set up an easily accessible internal search engine on your website
- Have your analytics team set up tracking (in Google Analytics, for example)
- Allow time for users to interact with the search engine
- Have your SEOs and content strategists review and analyze the data
- Listen to your experts’ recommendations for search engine improvements, including algorithm changes to surface better results
- Implement improvements
- Measure results
- Repeat annually
Though making strides to improve your internal search engine may not result in building a Google-like empire, adopting the search giant’s philosophy to improve user experience when using the search engine will reveal how your users want to interact with your website and business. That’s all the information you need to build a better website and drive more conversions.
Not sure where to start? Schedule a friendly chat with our SEO experts and begin to unlock the considerable potential of your internal search engine.