If your company has a website it had better be optimized for search, meaning when a customer is looking for something he or she can easily find it. If not, prospects will fall off, customers will be frustrated and ultimately, you'll lose business. That's according to Matt Riley, CEO of Swiftype, a company that powers billions of searches each month across hundreds of thousands of sites and apps. Clients range from major corporations and brands such as Qualcomm and Dr. Pepper to startups like Twitch, CloudFlare and Survey Monkey. Here are five reasons he says people may not be searching your website.

1. They can't find the search box.

Its placement and size is something Swiftype constantly talks to clients about. While many sites put it off in the top right corner, best-in-class websites such as Amazon, eBay or Walmart typically put their search boxes front and center. And big, too. Riley suggests no smaller than 350 pixels and typically much larger--up to 1,000 pixels. "Depending on the placement and the size of the textbox you can get up to 40 percent of users searching as their first action," he says. "And a lot of statistics show that people who are searching typically convert at higher rates than your average user who doesn't search."

2. Your search box can't handle typos or isn't intuitive enough to know what a searcher really means.

You know how Google will ask you if you really meant something else instead of what you actually typed into the search engine? Your website should be able to be just as smart. Or, what if a person inputs "i-phone" instead of "iPhone," or "highheels" instead of "high heels?" Can the search function on your website figure a searcher's intent even though they're using the wrong terminology? "When a website isn't resilient to those types of matches you end up with I think the worst user experience in a search--the dreaded 'no response' page," he says.  "If the search engine isn't good enough to do the in-between matching that users have come to expect from the really good search engines, like Google, they get frustrated really quickly."

3. Your search engine doesn't crawl through all your content.

If your website's search engine only looks through your product catalog you're not going to be helping people trying to find a return policy, the contact information for your PR department or help in the event they type "how do I change my password?" Again, the last thing anybody wants to see is "no results."

"You should have multiple types of structured and unstructured data in your index for access to the same search box," he says. Also, use some kind of analytics tool to determine the most common things that people are searching for on your website. Google Analytics works fine, Riley says, but Swiftype has more advanced analytics, as well.

4. Your auto-complete dropdown isn't robust enough.

When people search on your website they want to find their result as quickly as possible. Having your search box recommend content that you're looking for in a drop-down while you're typing saves you the trouble of having to hit enter. So, instead of offering customers a drop-down menu of terms they can use to launch a search, give them drop-down options that bring them to an actual page.

5. Your search isn't fast enough.

Google has nailed this by locating its servers all around the world so that someone searching in London doesn't have to be pulling data all the way from Silicon Valley. "The simple network latency is as low as it can possibly be," he says. "And that's something that's difficult for most websites to produce themselves, so... search providers oftentimes will allow you to have at least your search experience distributed around the world, [whereas] your website itself may still be on just a single server in one specific place."

Published on: Oct 27, 2015