Internal Search: Why Your Website Needs It
Imagine: you’re looking for something specific, open a new website and… what do you do next? That’s right: you’re looking for the search box. The longer it takes to find it, the more impatient you become. Finally, you give up. Nobody has time for a site map. And that is the story of why having a good internal search is essential.
What is an internal search?
We all know what Google is: a search engine (well, originally) that crawls all over the web, indexing every single web page. Internal search is similar but limited only to a particular website. It, too, indexes every single page all the time, allowing you, the user, to find whatever it is you’re seeking.
What makes it important?
According to Forrester, about 40% of all users look for a search box the second they’ve loaded a website. That stat alone should tell you why you need to provide them with a way of searching your website. Having internal search improves UX, sheds light on possible usability issues and helps with conversion.
Most users don’t really care about your unique design and structure: they know what they want and need to find it now. Only internal search allows them to use a website that way; the bigger it is, the more critical it is. Sure, a landing page or a 4-page website can do without it, but an eCommerce or a bigger information site depends on this functionality.
Search is important, but even more important is having the one that actually works. Users become frustrated when they get non-relevant results, and that can harm your revenue. So before you launch, make sure everything works. Goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyways.
All the options
But how to implement a feature that’s so sophisticated? Even though search engines have been a thing for decades, internal search often disappoints — ask Reddit users, who have been angry about it for as long as the site has existed.
There are a few options. Smaller websites can opt to use open-source tools. Some brave souls can try to develop a search engine themselves, but such a task is rarely justified. — at least when it comes to smaller or even medium-sized sites. Giants like Amazon and Microsoft can’t afford to use third-party solutions, but it’s not a problem for many others.
Nowadays, there are lots of ready-made options like Elasticsearch. And when we say lots, we mean it: the task of choosing one is not easy.
Most of the developers prefer open-source solutions like Solr. They act as a middle road: it’s not something you have to create yourself, but it still requires some serious coding. But it’s the cheapest way to get what you want in a reasonable timeframe.
If you’re running an eCommerce business, you can use Shopify’s own search engine, which does well in most scenarios. HubSpot also offers one — it’s easy to set up and use. WordPress has plugins for that — Relevanssi is one of the most popular ones. There are commercial solutions, too, like Swiftype, which starts at $79 per month.
And, well, we couldn’t forget Google, right? The big daddy of search engines offers its own set of tools for internal search, and it does as good a job as you might expect.
As you can see, the options are numerous, and the choice depends on what kind of website you are building. Each tool is suitable for a different scenario. It’s up to you to decide.