March 31, 2010, 12:00 AM

Inside Search

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Color refinements in search work best when they appear as color “swatches” rather than text links (e.g., red, blue, green). It creates a more visually appealing interface. You can see how this works at JellyBelly.com, which lets shoppers select the color of jelly bean that they want to search for.

Analytics

Advanced site search solutions provide integration with various analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, Omniture and Coremetrics. Within these analytics tools, retailers can compare the conversion rates for site search users versus non-site search users, and can also determine the average order size for each. Analytics help you understand where you need to focus your efforts to improve your site and your business.

Another option for measuring performance of site search is multivariate testing, which allows you to measure multiple changes in the layout and structure of site search results pages at once. This is an alternative to standard A/B testing, where you can only measure two page variations at a time.

Multivariate testing allows you to track in real time how certain changes to the layout, format and appearance of your site search results pages improve or weaken your conversion rate-for example, if you move the placement of the search box, try different font colors and sizes, or try different refinement options.

By making these site search features available on your site, you not only improve the user experience, you gain a distinct competitive advantage over your competitors. And in a challenging online retail environment, every market advantage counts.

Shaun Ryan is CEO of SLI Systems Inc., a provider of hosted search solutions. He can be reached at shaun.ryan@sli-systems.com.

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