"Content drives site search and search engine marketing. Organizing our web content in a way that is useful to visitors lets them navigate more fluidly through our site and view more pages." - Molly Love Rogers, president and CEO of Vertical Web Media, publisher of Internet Retailer
The site search box is often the first stop for consumers on any e-commerce site, as it is the most direct path to finding the content or products they want. Results to visitors' search queries need to be highly relevant. Nothing frustrates consumers more or prompts them to move to another web site faster than inaccurate or poorly ranked search results.
Good site search, on the other hand, keeps visitors actively engaged on the site longer and converting at higher rates than visitors who don't enter search queries. For retailers looking to invest in technology that will enhance the customer experience and increase online sales, site search makes as much of a difference as site design and shopping carts.
Founded in 1999, Internet Retailer provides comprehensive information on the e-commerce revolution that continues to redefine retailing and how consumers shop.
As the portal to e-commerce intelligence, InternetRetailer.com is home to more than 50,000 articles about the latest e-commerce trends and insights. The site catalogs content from Internet Retailer's monthly magazine, two web sites, three e-newsletters, daily news reports and 12 research publications. All the company's content is focused on specific aspects of the e-commerce industry, such as mobile, marketing and B2B. It is also organized by geographic markets.
In 2014, InternetRetailer.com is projected to have 2.9 million search page views, up from 885,000 in 2006. More than 205,000 unique visitors use the site each month.
With e-commerce professionals turning to InternetRetailer.com for information to help them expand their businesses, it's imperative to have a site search engine that quickly and easily directs readers to the content they want.
"Our entire business is content, and if we do not display the content our readers want, they will find their information somewhere else," says Molly Love Rogers, president and CEO of Vertical Web Media LLC, publisher of Internet Retailer and InternetRetailer.com. "This challenge applies not only to publishers, but online retailers as well."
Prior to 2006, Internet Retailer ranked its search results based on the content's date of publication. This process was problematic, as it left visitors plowing through reams of search results to find the information they sought. For example, a search query for the 'Top 500,' Internet Retailer's ranking of the 500 largest e-retailers, a visitor would see magazine articles, press releases, data, and product pages to purchase—all about the Top 500—starting with the item with the most recent publication date. In many cases, the information the visitor sought was buried deep in the search results.
What Internet Retailer needed was a search engine that ranks search results based on relevancy to the search query, so that the content readers really want appears first.
"We just displayed every piece of relevant content in order by date," recalls Rogers. "As we added more and different types of content, such as newsletters and blogs, we realized we needed a search engine that was intuitive enough to serve up the right content on the first try."
A key criterion in Internet Retailer's plans to take its site search engine to the next level was finding a search optimization firm that shared its vision that simple, effective site search is imperative in e-commerce, regardless of whether a consumer visits a content-driven site or shops an e-commerce site.
Enter SLI Systems (sli-systems.com). This leading site search vendor developed a long-term plan for Internet Retailer to improve its site search. SLI's learning-based technology includes algorithms that are continually modified and updated to deliver increasingly relevant search results. The company has been the most chosen provider of SaaS-based site search solutions to IR Top 500 companies over the past decade. SLI's technology, experience and well-trained customer success team made it the right fit for Internet Retailer.
In addition to its plan to improve the relevancy of Internet Retailer's site search results, SLI also aimed to make the Internet Retailer content more visible to mainstream search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Since the continually changing search terms entered by readers of InternetRetailer.com are similar to those entered into search engines, having SLI create landing pages for those terms helps InternetRetailer.com content achieve higher rankings in organic search results, increase visibility of content on the web and attract new readers.
The building block for this strategy is SLI's Site Champion solution, which uses SLI's Learning Search technology to track the search terms used by consumers, as well as information about the items and content they click on. Site Champion uses the data from Learning Search to automatically create search engine-optimized landing pages for the long tail terms it identifies. Since incorporating Site Champion in 2006, Internet Retailer has added new SLI products and features annually, including SLI Autocomplete, SLI Mobile and related search suggestions.
"SLI's products help our readers find what they are looking for easily and shows them additional, related content," Rogers says. "That's a tremendous benefit to our readers, who display the same behavioral characteristics as online shoppers when it comes to site search."
Since Internet Retailer began working with SLI, "page views have increased three-fold to 2.9 million per year, a sign that visitors to the site are relying heavily on site search to find the content they are looking for," Rogers says.
"Over the past eight years of having Internet Retailer as a client, it has been a pleasure to provide the solutions that allow its readers to easily find the content they want to read," said Shaun Ryan, CEO of SLI Systems. "As Internet Retailer continues to grow, we're proud to be part of its success story."
Going forward, Internet Retailer plans to work with SLI to develop new site search features specific to the IR Top 500 Guide, as well as content-driven banner ads that are relevant to search queries.
"The e-commerce industry moves fast and so do readers' and shoppers' expectations, so it's important to stay ahead of the trends and provide a fantastic news and learning web site for our dedicated global e-commerce readership," Rogers says.