April 13, 2011, 12:19 PM

Fathead scores with improved site search

Enhanced site search compensates for fewer navigation links.

Lead Photo

When sports fans arrive at the recently redesigned Fathead.com, a retailer of sports wall graphics, they’re hit with oversized images of professional athletes like basketball star Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls charging to the basket.

While the images may be aesthetically pleasing, they present a problem: the life-like images of wall graphics crowd out many of the home page navigation links that were prominent in the previous design.

The retailer did find a fix. A new site search feature that compensates for the lost links and makes shopping easier, says Michael Layne, director of Internet marketing.

“We wanted to wow people with our products and appeal to sports fans’ passions with huge images,” Layne says. “But we knew we were giving away some site navigability for that look because we were taking away a lot of our customers’ ability to click to navigate from the home page.”

To provide a good shopping experience along with the oversized images—the wall graphics themselves run over six-feet-tall, an attribute the new home page emphasizes—Layne says he realized early on in the design phase that Fathead, No. 280 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, would need a new site search function to compensate for having fewer home page product and category links.

The retailer, which also sells home furnishings like bar stools and pool tables decorated with sports logos, completed its web site redesign last year, using its own staff. But for its new site search feature, it went outside to Thanx Media Inc. for its hosted software-as-a-service version of Endeca Technologies Inc.’s site search and navigation application.

The new site search has produced multiple benefits, Layne says. For one thing, the retailer has been able to feature larger home page images and fewer home page navigation links without losing business due to visitors being unable to find products, as Layne had feared they might.

“We have a lot more people now using site search, and we’re up overall in business,” he says.

For another thing, the new hosted application has freed up Fathead staff to focus on better optimizing Fathead.com for natural search rankings.

The in-house site search application previously had required staff to constantly review and modify how it produced results for various terms, including frequent misspellings of athletes’ names.

“We’d see how many ways people could misspell Brett Favre,” Layne says, referring to the former quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and other National Football League teams.

In contrast, the new site search application is designed to automatically compensate for misspellings as well as offer comprehensive results that encourage shoppers to click further into the site.

“That lets us spend more time in search engine optimization building good content and good landing pages,” Layne says.

Fathead.com is now getting 35% of its traffic via natural search, up from 20% last year, Layne says. Attracting a higher proportion of visits through natural search, he adds, has allowed Fathead to move some of its traditional paid search marketing dollars to newer marketing channels like Facebook ads and retargeting campaigns. Retargeting uses online ads to reach past visitors to a web site with offers designed to bring them back.  

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