We (Collin and Mark) had a hypothesis: Site search and SEO were natural partners in a broader scheme to help customers find answers and products. But we needed evidence: How should these strategies intersect? What are the staffing, skilling, and technology opportunities to double-dip in these two areas? What are the benefits to unifying these two disciplines?
Three Weak Links Stitch SEO To Site Search
We interviewed a wide range of brands, vendors, and consultants to find answers to these questions.
The result? There is little overlap between these two separate strategies — largely because they live in different parts of the organization. SEO typically falls under the marketing organization, whereas site search lives in eCommerce, product, or IT roles. While we believe there are bridges being built to connect these worlds, today, for the most part, SEO and site search are strategically and tactically separate, with only three lightweight links.[i]
- Site search data can enrich keyword research. Marketers who have managed SEO for some time will remember — and yearn for — the days when Google told you how much traffic each keyword you ranked for was driving to your site. Since then, SEO managers have craved keyword data. And guess what? Site search can give you some of that much-needed insight. Almost every SEO expert we interviewed told us that site search data is the best ingredient to help shape SEO strategies. SEO agencies and SEO teams are starting to wise up by pulling SEO data into a common reporting tool with site search data to do their keyword research. Site search data is free, reliable, and can also showcase key content gaps.
- SEO blunders can help optimize your site search experience. If a searcher from Google comes onto your site and immediately has to use your search bar, you’ve failed to provide them with relevant content. This could be due to fragmented strategies for SEO and site search or a gap in your content (see above). As Brian McDowell of BloomReach told us, “Group by word cloud and create a ‘hub’ of interlinked content to help lift them both up in SEO results.” This could manifest by creating “thematic” site search result pages with additional “featured snippet” content to help the Google search lead directly to the content you’d serve on site search anyhow.
- A common goal: Help the customer find answers. All forms of search — paid search, SEO, site search — have one goal of getting the customer the content or answer they are seeking. But today, these strategies are often not aligned around that goal. And it may not even make sense for the three forms of search to be held to the same metric. The opportunity is to align the strategies to the need that they serve for the customer and have the teams work closer together. Data and insights from paid, organic, and site search could arm organizations with ideas for new self-service models or help optimize other consumer touchpoints like decreasing call volumes for the contact center, lowering cost of service, or improving customer satisfaction.
Outliers With A Site-Search-First Strategy Exist, But Few Are Following
Multiple times, from experts with a variety of backgrounds, we heard that “users who are performing a site search are more likely to convert, generate more revenue, and return again,” etc. One expert cited the upside as somewhere between 40% and 250% increased rate of conversion. With the linkage to conversion, it makes sense that when SEO is organizationally owned by eCommerce, it’s more likely to be tied together with site search. Mike Moran, senior strategist at SoloSegment, told us that the few organizations with the will to become a destination for answers will win twice. First, they will gain a trusted reputation for providing quality content, and second, they will stop paying Google and others for their traffic, which is increasingly the default as premium search engine results page (SERP) real estate makes way for paid placements.
So what does it mean? eCommerce and digital experience leaders (site search) can and should still partner with their digital marketing (SEO) colleagues; however, be ready to blaze a new path as you start to unify these practices, strategies, and technologies.