March 30, 2022

Seven Essentials for Search Success on Content Sites

Information lives to be found and human beings are naturally curious. We are constantly looking for answers and we want them fast. Satisfying that curiosity has never been easier now that we have all of the world’s information right at our fingertips. Whether it’s a PDF, a news article, images, videos, details about a webinar, or an event listing, people are looking for information and sites that are heavy on content need to deliver.

Who needs good on-site search?

Unless you’re a large eCommerce company, it can be easy to overlook the importance of site search. While the focus is typically targeted towards websites selling a large volume of products, everyone can benefit from an effective third-party search engine – especially sites with a heavy amount of content and traffic. When planning your search strategy, ask yourself the following questions: How much content do I have? It’s a no-brainer, sites with a lot of content will likely need a more advanced onsite search engine, but the definition of content can be wide-reaching. How many videos do you have? Blogs? PDFs? Event listings? If you have a lot of content, especially across different categories, a good on-site search can fill in those navigational gaps and help users find exactly what they’re looking for. If your site doesn’t have a lot of content now, consider how it may look in the future. Plan for growth today and continue to evaluate your site search as content increases.

Do I want control over search results?

Some on-site search engines give you the ability to optimize search results and artificially boost content. With this feature, you can get more traffic to the content you’re boosting and maintain relevancy across search results. When planning your search strategy, you should also balance the amount of effort it will take to control those results. Most on-site search engines require advanced coding skills, while some are easily accessible to your business users and non-technical staff members.

Do I want to deliver a better user experience?

Let’s face it, Google has set the bar high with search and users are expecting a similar experience on the other sites they visit. Large search engines have turned into ‘answer engines’ and studies show that oftentimes, users don’t know what a ‘good’ search query is. Many queries on search engines include common, natural language and users are used to getting what they need fast and on the first try. On-site search tools that can deliver results fast and accurately can help your site exponentially. Search by the Numbers The use of on-site search is quickly increasing.

Here are a few statistics on the current state of search:

  • 53% of visitors will abandon a site as a result of a poor site search experience
  • 3 out of 4 searchers never go past the first page of results
  • Up to 30% of visitors will use the search tool when it’s offered to them
  • 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience

Essentials for on-site search on content sites

On-site search can ultimately improve usability and navigation for your users but how do you know what solution is right for you? Below are 7 essential features that content sites should look for when considering an on-site search tool.

Federated Search

If your site contains content from multiple sources, databases, or platforms, a federated search tool may be a good option. Federated search is an information retrieval technology that allows the simultaneous search of multiple searchable resources. This sort of feature is integral on Association sites. Whether the information users are seeking lives on a platform dedicated to eCommerce, classes/events, news, educational resources, blog posts, or anything else, federated search empowers your site visitors to search for information in the aggregate by gaining access to all available data sources that your website has to offer on a given topic. By offering search across all your data sources, you can essentially turn your website into a content hub and give your users the resources they need, all in one place.

Boost and Bury

Having more control over search results is a great asset in a site’s content strategy. On-site search features like ‘boost and bury’ give marketers the ability to amplify or demote certain content items in search results depending on conditional rules. These rules can be based on publish date, author, source, etc. For example, a website that uploads news articles frequently may want functionality that buries older articles and highlights the most recent ones. With this added control, marketers and content creators can guide their user’s search experience and deliver content that is both relevant and fresh.


Pinning can be another great tool, especially for businesses and organizations that frequently deploy timely pieces of content. With pinning, marketers can highlight a single content item within search results, landing pages, or top-level navigation. Added functionality allows staff to specify the length of time an item is pinned and create additional rules based on who is viewing the content as well. For example, if an organization has a special gala or landmark event they were looking to increase ticket sales for, item pinning can come in handy.

Visibility Rules

Most of the features highlighted so far focus on search that applies to all users. However, there are ways to get a lot more personalized with your on-site search tool. You likely have many different types of users who visit your site. Features like Visitor Targeting can allow you to display search results based on specific user attributes. These attributes can include location, time of day, or even where the user previously navigated from. Custom criteria, like a certain log-in credential, for example, can also be used when creating visitor targets.

Relevancy powered by Machine Learning

One of the foundations of good search is great relevancy, but relevancy can mean different things depending on who you’re talking to. Search tools that capture information from prior search activity and use machine learning to continually refine those results, can help deliver more relevant results for visitors. Sites that are heavy with technical content, in particular, can benefit from this more sophisticated way to deliver accurate search results. In addition, tools like Relevancy Tuning can allow staff to group common synonyms together and set up rules to override specific terms in a visitors’ search query when the same results for different terms are relevant. Reporting Content sites can learn a great deal by studying search trends and patterns.

Search tools that allow an in-depth look at metrics like the top 250 keywords, conversion summary, searches with poor results, pagination activity, and other information give web administrators the ability to see how effectively visitors are finding what they are looking for. Studying search data is often underutilized, but for content websites, it can be a powerful tool in continuing to refine the ability for visitors to take full advantage of all the information resources available.

Everyone deserves a good search

Your website is an incredibly valuable resource for your users. Ensure that your site can deliver the most accurate and intuitive experience for them. Take these tips when planning out your search strategy and choose the solution that works best for you and your goals.

About HawkSearch

HawkSearch is an intelligent search and recommendations platform that powers success for any size business across all industries. Our goal is to equip organizations with innovative tools to deliver accurate and customizable search experiences that enable users to find the relevant results for their needs in context, no matter the device, platform, or language. With 1500+ implementations completed, HawkSearch is utilized for delivering engaging and personalized search functionality through our innovative features, which enable marketers, merchandisers, and developers to accomplish their goals.