Sunday, March 30, 2008

The death of site search?

It's been a long held belief that you need to make search a prominent feature on your web sites. For me, I've also been in more conversations about "enhancing" local search than I can count. Most recently, about providing faceted search within a site.

What I don't understand is why we spend any time on this topic at all. In the aforementioned conversation, the site in question has had 85,000 unique visitors over the last month. Of that, 49 people have conducted a search on the site. This is a whopping .05% of the site visitors. A closer look also shows that the majority of those searches were done by internal people, and not the primary audience that the site is intended to serve.

On this blog I've noticed the same thing. Now, I know that a blog is different, and that the overwhelming majority of the readers see it through syndication feeds. That said, of the 1900 unique visitors, I have had 19 people use the local search function. That's 1%, still not enough use to spend any energy thinking about how to improve the experience.

I'm wondering if the use of local search is so low that perhaps we're giving it way too much prominence on our sites? My tag cloud is used way more. It is a search of sorts with the words already picked for the visitors. Is it time for search to be relegated to a spot further down the page or removed all together? What are you seeing on your sites? What about your own behavior?

9 comments:

John said...

I prefer a good and accurate sitemap over search. The main reason I would search a site is because I can't find the page/link from the home page. If a site has a good sitemap, it's usually a lot faster and quicker to go there to find the page I really want.

The only place I really use search for on a regular basis is newspaper web sites, looking for an old article or an article about a specific topic.

Bud said...

How many of your visitors come from search? I think site search can give you insight into what is visible in your site and how you can make more visible what you want to be more visible.

k1v1n said...

On the first site mentioned the percentage coming from search is 70% (and rising). On this blog it is 26%.

Kevin

Peg said...

I use internal search a lot, Kevin, for various reasons. Chief among them: I've written or edited hundreds (probably thousands) of articles, fact sheets, blog posts, information bulletins, etc., on dozens of different topics for our site over the years.

I especially use search when I want to view a list of all the articles/blog posts, etc. involving a particular theme or special keyword.

Right now, I'm developing a little Google Site (tutorial on Webwriting); I find Google's robust internal search feature invaluable for helping me organize and orient the hard-copy workshop handouts I've dumped in there willy-nilly to rewrite and reorganize for the Web.

Word clouds, sitemaps and other forms of site orientation, while useful for some purposes, wouldn't work for my internal site-search needs. Your phrase with the words already picked for the visitors pretty much sums up why.

k1v1n said...

I did notice that I am the largest user of my own site search. I use it all the time when writing about something I've discussed previously, and I want to include a link. (Which I could have done on this particular topic as well. :))

But, I don't need to have the search box on the page to serve my own uses. Google makes it quite easy to do a search within any site we choose. I just wonder how many people know how to do that?

Sue Waters said...

I think the best aspect of Liijit is the fact you now have statistics on how people are using search. Unfortunately very few are using it. I'm thinking I need to redesign my search again. While I like the statistic Liijit provides - I think the original Edublogs search is better. I think I will move it back to the top. Then move up my tag clouds and categories. What is interesting when I check my stats is how many people are accessing my pages so looks like I need to do some fixing up on my pages as they are looking scruffy.

Sue Waters
Mobile Technology in TAFE

k1v1n said...

Sue,

I definitely like the lijit stats. I also really, really like the pmetrics stats. I can see so much I almost feel dirty.... :)

Did I ever mention the real reason I like lijit so much? When I was at Defrag the nice woman working their booth sang while she resolved my problem. Singing support... doesn't get much better than that!

Kevin

kalenj said...

ya for a long time i've thought site searches were fairly pointless. i think 60% of my site search usage across all sites in my entire internet usage have been for searching my own blog for past entries :)

Sue Waters said...

Singing support you crack me up :). pmetrics surely you can't run that on your blogspot blog?

Sue Waters
Mobile Technology in TAFE