Good site search is deceptively simple. If it works well, you shouldn’t be thinking about it. If it’s clunky and unintuitive, it’s all you’re thinking about.

There are several ways that bad site search can cost your brand, but what’s more important is how it is remedied. Through a combination of strategies that focus on ease, personalization, and scalability, good site search can be the key to unlocking amazing connected experiences for customers, painless maintenance for team members, and an overall brand impression that leaves people happy instead of head-scratching.

Whether your brand’s site search needs a dust-off or a complete overhaul, here are three key capabilities that any great site search solution should have.

Easy-To-Tune, No-Code Relevancy

Anyone who is owning site search is going to (and should) be obsessed with the quality of the search results. They want to know “how well do results guide our users,” and, if the answer is not good enough, “how easy is it to tune the system for improvement?”

As legacy search apps age, the quality of their search results deteriorates. Concurrently, the amount of data sources, formats, and documentation increases. Manually tuning a whole system to these shifts can consume time, energy, and resources that most teams don’t have. Not everyone has a search expert on their team, and maintaining clunky old systems becomes tedious and costly.

Advances in machine learning can understand the context of the data and documents on your site and streamline things so a user can easily find what they are looking for. This capability leapfrogs right over the drudgery of manually futzing with rules and ranking algorithms. Instead, “push button AI” can get users high quality search results consistently while automatically improving their relevancy over time. The AI can be on the lookout for trending queries, frequent searches, and recommended content algorithms that are specifically built for the site search use case–with manual tweaking still available when necessary.

An Immersive, Delightful User Experience

The experience around the search results is just as important as the quality of the results themselves. The most relevant, high-quality search results won’t matter if the app fails to engage the user meaningfully. Think beyond “looking pretty.” The experience has to be usable and useful. A search experience that offers easy, engaging, and intuitive ways for users to ask and interact will be the difference between a winning and losing implementation.

The baseline immersive capabilities that most website users expect include:

  • Typeahead: A key part of providing a responsive, engaging feeling that should be in every search app. Also known as autocomplete, typeahead shows a user suggested queries or search results as soon as they start typing.
  • Spell correction: A spelling error should not be the difference between someone finding something or not. The days of massive dictionary files and scrolling through endless rules to fine-tune query results are over. This technology just gets it, even if the user makes a typo.
  • Facet management: This lets you easily add the filters and checkboxes a user needs to sort their search by type, date, format, or other attributes–sans code.
  • Synonym detection: This technology monitors users behavior to recommend new synonyms over time to further improve the relevancy of search results.
  • Pro-active content discovery: Using insights captured by user behavior can show users what they might be looking for before they even start typing. You can create a richer user experience that powers recommendations based on popular, trending, and related content and queries. This extends the power of content beyond the search bar.

Speed, Scalability, and Cost

Everything above can work excellently, but it all hinges on speed and flexibility. Speed is what gives site search that sense of seamlessness that is demolished when things aren’t fast. In today’s landscape, users expect that seamless speed everywhere they go on the internet.

This is why newer search apps have moved to a cloud-native architecture offering swift responses to search queries. Moving to the cloud also enables apps to scale up to meet demand at peak traffic times, and then settle back down to the normal ebb and flow. Cloud architecture also provides a certain peace of mind as it relates to resilience: all the usual DevOps tasks like backups, disaster recovery, latency, and more are sorted out and taken care of. Going back to ease of use, configuration and setup are usually inconsequential as there is nothing to install or download.

It’s not just the users of your website that have a need for speed. Your team and the admin side highly benefit from being able to access what they need quickly. All of that adds up to lower cost. Speed and scalability save companies money, plain and simple.

These capabilities are table stakes for modern site search. Download our site search buyer’s guide for even more insights on what makes a great search experience. And if your brand is ready to blow away its customers with personalized, meaningful digital experiences, get in touch with us today.

About Andy Wibbels

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