U-C WEBS' founder Nardo KuitertBy Nardo Kuitert, U-C WEBS
[Published in The Wellington Advertiser, February 2012 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce]

Trying to find what you are looking for on a website can be rather difficult without the right tools some times. Even on sites that are well organized and have an intuitive information architecture. Why? Because we are all different.

I read somewhere that about 25% of people are search oriented. This means that they have a very strong preference to search for information, rather than browse for it. If you don’t offer these people an onsite search engine they may leave your site before reading any of its information!

Therefore, having a search tool on your website is a very good idea. But not just for those of us who are search oriented, by the way. A search tool can help anyone, especially when we cannot find what we are looking for fast enough. And that can happen very quickly, as Internet users are notoriously impatient. A site search engine can act as a safety net – something that keeps people on your site longer; possibly long enough to still get interested in your products and/or services. A Site Map is another one of those safety nets that I highly recommend you employ on your website. Without them people can get discouraged very quickly, which will lead to more people leaving your website prematurely.

Adding a search engine to your website is not difficult. Content Management Systems (CMS) like Joomla or WordPress come prepackaged with a search tool, and if that one is not good enough you can get lots of free alternatives to plug into your system/website. But even if you have a static HTML website you can add a search tool fairly easily. For one, Google offers a site search option that you can use for free. You might even make (a little) money with it if you link that site search tool to an AdSense account, which will give you a profit share in the Google AdWords ads that Google will show on your search results page. But you can also display ads-free search results.

And let’s not forget another great potential benefit of a site search engine: most search tools allow you to log the searches, so you can find out what people were searching for. This allows you to review the log and customize (optimize) your website for what people are actually searching for.

Adding a site search will help your visitor to find what they are looking for fast. It will increase the time spent on the web site, reduce your bounce rates and increase visitor satisfaction. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!

Nardo Kuitert is an Internet Consultant with Fergus Website Development and Optimization firm U-C WEBS (www.u-cwebs.com). U-C WEBS also offers Internet advertising opportunities on www.ferguspages.com. (link opens in a new window)

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