Great Internal Site Search Is all About Engagement

I was searching the corporate blog-post archives the other day in preparation for writing this blog post. From the SEO perspective, it’s one of my recommended best practices. I came across a two-year-old post that one of my colleagues had authored about SEO being transformed to be more of an effort in developing a customer-optimization strategy than a search-engine strategy. As I read it, a moment of clarity came over me in realizing that internal site search is where customer optimization lives within the SEO function. It is the opportunity to engage the customer directly in his/her journey to potential conversion. It is a first-party data-collection event and a chance to take the first step in making customer experience the new corporate brand. Those very words are resonating across the marketing world even as I write this. My colleague’s foresight was nothing short of brilliant.

Customized Site Search — Keystone of Your Visitor-Engagement Strategy

Visitors arrive at your website via many routes. The important thing to understand is that most of those routes were lead-generation efforts from early in their customer journey. The customer-engagement perk you get with internal site search is the ability to gauge intent and specificity of what the visitor is looking for. We are way beyond a generalized search and anonymous third-party data. You know how they got to your site in the first place, and now, you have intent and context in a dedicated environment for communication and engagement. There is no competition for their time and attention. It’s up to you to keep your visitor engaged and motivated to spend time with your brand. The more time they spend with you, the more first-party data you can track, analyze, and use to develop actionable insights.

The value and accuracy of this data are great for building new audience-segmentation insights. These insights are invaluable in creating useful lookalike audience segments using third-party audience data on your data-management platform (DMP). The quality of these lookalike audience segments will generally convert at a higher rate due to the specificity of the targeting information. The synergistic effect on SEO-generated web traffic could be significant.

First, It Takes a Site-Search Function That Delivers Results

If your internal search capability is going to be optimized to obtain first-party data, customer expectations will have to be met. The customer experience that you create must be worthy of being part of the new corporate brand. Bounce rates must be controlled. The time spent onsite must produce the results the customer wants with a minimum of looking around. The reason for maximizing time onsite has to be because the customer is engaged with content that returns value for their time not because they couldn’t find what they were looking for. Study your competitors that have excellent site-search capabilities. How do they choose the size, position, and text prompts in their site-search boxes?

What are your corporate stakeholders looking for in a great site-search tool? Do you know? Have you asked, or did you just turn on Google Site Search (GSS) and were done with it? Learn to simplify your search management, look for ready-made code to customize and create advanced functionality. Have you made a deal with your site- analytics team? Some product managers will want a targeted report on a recurring basis. Are you meeting internal corporate expectations?

Why the Focus on First-Party Data?

So, why the focus on site search and first-party data? Well, let’s start off by saying that the data a corporation owns, first-party data, is the most powerful data you have. It’s verified and authenticated. Site-search data is usually overshadowed by CRM (customer relationship management) data (first party also), but it shouldn’t be.

The real potential value is because Google is talking about increasing the ability to use first-party data in extending its impact on targeting customers in particular search-engine functions. Sure, Google has their reasons, but the important issue is what it means to your company.

Econsultancy has recently published a new report discussing first-party data. The report was sponsored by Signal. The Promise of First-Party Data provides the motivation for why capabilities, such as a strong site-search tool on your website, are important. The day of third-party data ruling the “big- data analytics” world are coming to an end. Customer Experience as the corporate brand is the driving motivational force behind it.

The primary findings of the Econsultancy/Signal report are compelling. “Better customer experiences demand better data. Brands have to understand individuals and audience patterns — channel interactions and their role the customer journey — what customers want and when they want it. In every case, first-party data from real customers is going to be the most useful.

The opportunity is unique because first-party data is defined, collected and owned by the brand itself. The data can be more accurate and timely than that from external sources and it’s useful for short-term action as well as long-term benchmarking.”

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The simple truth is, the impact of owned customer information is higher than other categories of data.

Internal site search delivers high-quality, company-owned and authenticated data. If you study the chart, 74 percent of your greatest insight into your customers will come from that data. The Customer Experience and your new corporate brand hangs in the balance.

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Which group of marketers do you belong in? It’s time to invest in an internal site search capability that delivers on the customer expectations.