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In Part 1, we discussed leveraging site-search data about the terms your customers use on your site and the items they click on most in your search engine optimization (SEO) and paid-search efforts, email marketing, and other promotional campaigns.

In Part 2, we'll talk about how to put your site search to work in even more ways to improve the return on your site-search investment and create a richer search experience for your customers. Thanks to Web 2.0 technologies and social media, it's easy to add content that showcases your products and helps build your brand.

Something as simple as adding color refinements to your search results can help you to better market your products. We all know that product images in search help site visitors find what they need. Likewise, showing a palette of the available colors for those products—and allowing shoppers to filter by those colors—can be another way to encourage people to buy, particularly for shoppers who think visually.

Most shoppers like to see the various colors available, if that's relevant to the products they are searching for. When you highlight the various colors within the site search, shoppers have even more options to choose from.

Candy retailer Jelly Belly ( uses that feature. When online shoppers search for a specific jellybean flavor, they can elect to filter results by color. That option is helpful for people who may be looking for a certain color to match a theme for a wedding or baby shower, for example.

Naturally, search results with color options can get cluttered if your products offer many color choices. You often don't need to have separate photos of a product in each color. It's easier, and just as useful, if you include one image of the product, along with swatches of all the color choices.

Dover Saddlery (, an online retailer of equestrian-supplies, takes that approach, displaying available colors for each item below each site-search result.

Another type of engaging content to add to your search results is your blog. If you're taking the time to blog about your company and its products and services, you'll get more mileage out of your hard work if you make that content available in your site search.

Ideally, your blog content contains useful, interesting posts that relate to your shoppers' needs and questions—so driving traffic to your blog will help sell your products and won't distract online visitors from the task at hand.

To make blog posts easily searchable, show the content in a separate section of the search results—for instance, on the left, or below the standard search results. You can also allow visitors to refine their search so that they see only blog posts or only products, or both.

Another idea is to offer a search box on your blog specifically for blog posts. (If you create this option, consider showing products in your blog search—perhaps along one side of the results—just to keep products in the picture.)

Online shoppers are also showing a growing interest in hearing what their fellow shoppers have to say about a product. If you're allowing customers to post reviews and ratings on your e-commerce pages, you'll add value by making that content available in your site-search results. You can also use ratings to refine search results, giving the products with better ratings more prominence.

Customer ratings and reviews add additional text to your product pages, which is useful for SEO. And, naturally, having extra text means that shoppers can find the products they want using a broader range of search terms.

Moreover, you can make it easier for shoppers to generate relevant search results by letting them search by "social tags." For instance, you can allow shoppers to tag your products based on categories such as suitability for different age groups or appropriateness for various events, like weddings.

People place a lot of faith in what others say about a product, so if you can bring compelling testimonials into search you stand a greater chance of convincing shoppers to make a purchase.

Video is another powerful tool for showcasing your products, so make sure online visitors know that it's available.

You could, for example, highlight your videos in your site search: (, an online retailer of automotive trailer supplies, places a small TV-set icon in its search results to indicate that a product video is available. In addition, shoppers can filter their search results so that they see only products with videos.

The examples in this article are a small selection of the kinds of content that you can add to your site search, making the search process more engaging and productive for your site visitors. As you add more Web 2.0 and social-media content to your online business, you'll no doubt think of other ways to bring that content into the search experience.

Continue reading "Put Your Site Search to Work, Part 2: Add Rich Content to the Search Experience" ... Read the full article

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Shaun Ryan is CEO of SLI Systems, a provider of hosted search solutions. He can be reached via