The Best Place to Add a Search Box for E-Commerce Websites

Where’s your e-commerce website’s search box located? Does it matter? Why should it matter?

“Form follows function”, is a well known methodology in design. But, how often does it really get scrutinized and put into practice? rather, how many clients put much thought into it? After working on both client-side and agency-side, you’d be surprised by what I’ve seen. Let me just say, its one of those elements usually just thrown in without considering how it could impact conversions.

There’s more to just having a great looking website. In my experience, there’s one thing that matters the most; your customer’s experience. I could talk all day about designing the perfect website or landing page design, but today, I’m going to talk about one component that helps your visitors find what they’re looking for quickly, especially if a) they didn’t find it directly in Google and b) after finding your website, still need help finding what they’re looking for… your Search Box.

You Should Care

The location of your website’s search box is important. The search box is designed for one thing; provide users with an alternative method to find what they’re looking for with the hopes of it being more efficient. The search box has proven to be very powerful, just ask Google 🙂

For my research, I pulled web analytics data from 3 different e-commerce websites with one thing in common: their search box was designed in the same location; great because they have identical environments and will be easy to develop a conclusion. Have a look at the data (July 1, 2011 to September 30, 2011)

why-search-box-location-is-important-to-ecommerce-site-design

Site Visitors that used Site Search (%) Conversion Rate of Site Average (%) Conversion Rate of Visitors that used Site Search (%) Online Revenue % of Total from Site Search
Site 1 9.05% 0.31% 0.81% 41.10%
Site 2 4.13% 0.33% 2.22% 42.71%
Site 3 10.58% 0.14% 0.50% 32.28%

Data Analysis

In short, although only 7.92% (on average) used site search to find the products they were looking for, those visitors accounted for over 38% (on average) of the site’s total online revenue and the conversion rate of visitors that used site search is at least 161% higher than the site’s average conversion rate.

Here’s a scenario: If you walk into a store and and can’t find the product you’re looking for, how much more time would you spend there? Customers that know what they’re looking for and who can find it, are more likely to convert than customers that don’t know what they’re looking for and if even if they do, can’t find it.

Recommendations

Your e-commerce website’s search box is an important element of your design because it 1) can be more efficient to find products and 2) is proven to increase your website’s e-commerce conversion rate and be responsible for a large percentage of your online revenue. Read some of my Search Box Optimization tips below to make sure you’re getting the most from it:

Designing Your Search Box

  • Search Boxes should be located near the top of your site’s content. In my opinion, it should be located above your main menu if the menu spans the width of the content.
  • Put some effort into the design and ask yourself these questions: 1) is it big enough so its noticable? 2) Does it have a button beside it that says “Search”, “Find” or “Go”? Because it should.

Does Your Search Box Work?

One important factor to the success of your search box is how well it works or doesn’t work. These sites use Google Site Search Appliance and its connected to the Google Analytics account. Its a good idea to look through all the search terms that your visitors used to find products on your site and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do products come up when you perform a search? It doesn’t matter how good your search technology is. Even if you have a product on your site, if your visitor doesn’t know its there because they can’t find it, they’re leaving.
  • Are any search terms, “search here”? Commonly, people will add text into the search box to prompt their visitors to search for something. Unfortunately, sometimes these keywords appear in your search terms because the javascript function responsible for removing the intial text in the “on focus” function doesn’t work so well. So, if you do find your prompt text in your analytics, fix the code.

Search Box Location is Important, Now You Have Proof!

After reading this blog post I hope you understand the importance of the search box in an e-commerce website. I’m definitely not saying, make it the biggest thing on your site. All I’m saying is, make sure your search box and it’s location is an important part of your website’s design. If you have any questions or would like me to critique your website’s search box, write a comment below and drop the link.

Further Reading and References

  • Amazon.com
  • http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/2671-tips-on-site-search-box-design
  • http://googlemerchantblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/cyber-monday-reflection-importance-of-e.html
  • http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/349257-how-important-search-bar.html
  • https://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=212390481451&topic=13408

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2 comments

  • Naj Rellim /

    This is a most helpful article. Our ancient website uses a home-made search box that is poorly located and results in many search errors for our visitors. I wonder if you could tell me what the conversion rate was for your example Site II users who did not use the search box but instead used regular site navbar links? And also: would you know what the success rate of the Google Searchbox API is over regular javascript-type search boxes?
    Thanks again for an excellent article.

  • Thank you for your article. Based on your article’s tips, I am thinking about putting a search box either in the 1) Left hand side below the logo and in the blue column or 2) Banner/Image, right in the center where the faded image is now, between the gold 800 text and the white text establishments. Since there is a lot going on in the left columns of all my pages, I am favoring Number Two above and based on your article of putting it high on the page. I realize my site nears a facelift…I believe I need a search bar since it is around 60 pages now. Any feedback would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Pam

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