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3 Crucial Ways to Improve Your Search Results Page

by Jason Unger, Founder

Photo by Skitterphoto via Pexels

When your website users don’t know how to find what they’re looking for, what do they do?

They search.

No one has the time to figure out the way that you’ve organized your content, and given that they’re always one click away from leaving your website, the natural inclination is to use your site search feature to find what they need.

So if your website search sucks, you have a problem.

We’ve talked before about making WordPress search usable; for each of these tips, we’re including how to make these changes using Relevanssi, one of our recommended WordPress plugins.

Here are 3 crucial ways to improve your Search Results page.

1) Highlight the Search Terms in the Results

Possibly the only thing more annoying than not finding any results is finding results that aren’t appropriate or don’t answer your actual question.

On your Search Results page, include a snippet of the content where the search terms are actually found so that your user can determine if it’s a relevant result or if they’re looking at a false positive.

If possible, highlight the search terms by using a background color (yellow or otherwise) so your user only has to scan to see how relevant the results are.

How to implement: In Relevanssi, click to the “Excerpts and highlights” tab. Check the box to “Create custom search result snippets” and, under “Search hit highlighting,” select Highlight type -> Background Color. Choose the background color you want, and save.

2) Show a “Did You Mean?” Alternate Search

People use Search because they can’t find what we’re looking for any other way; sometimes, that means they’re expecting your website to use different language or terms than you actually are using.

And sometimes, it’s just a typo or a different spelling that trips everything up.

Obviously, if they’re searching for something that doesn’t exist, they’ll get no results. If you can give them an alternate option, you will help them tremendously.

Adding a “Did You Mean?” option to your Search Results page can point people in the right direction to find what they’re looking for. The “Did You Mean?” option is usually based off of previous searches, so it gets smarter over time as more people search for similar terms.

How to implement: In Relevanssi, you’ll need to add a function to your Search Results page; either relevanssi_premium_didyoumean() for the Premium version or relevanssi_simple_didyoumean() for the Free version. Full details about implementation are here.

3) Include All Relevant Information with Each Result

When someone uses your website Search, they’re expecting to get a lot of information; they anticipate (hopefully) seeing multiple results, each with titles, excerpts, links to read more, etc.

Help your users determine if each result is what they’re looking for by adding as much relevant information as possible. In addition to titles and excerpts, include additional information, such as:

  • Date posted
  • Post type (blog, resource, event, profile, etc.)
  • Thumbnail graphic
  • Author

Instinctively, we know that search isn’t perfect (though Google has gotten pretty close), so we as users expect to do a little bit of work to find the result we need. It’s better to include as much information as possible with each result to minimize the time users spend sifting through the wrong results.

How to implement: In your Search Results template, add in template tags for the post type, publish date, author, graphic, and more.

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About Jason Unger

Jason Unger is the Founder of Digital Ink. He built his first website on Geocities, and hasn't looked back since. Digital Ink tells stories for forward-thinking businesses, mission-driven organizations, and marketing and technology agencies in need of a creative and digital partner.

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