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Improve Magento Sales With Better Search Results

Posted by | October 23, 2009 Magento Blog | 45 Comments

While attending the Best eCommerce Tests webinar recently hosted by Anne Holland at whichtestwon.com, she referenced a Marketing Sherpa study about the behaviors of on-site searchers.  A few key takeaways from those studies:

  • Searching has become the predominant method for users to find products on websites.  While navigation tools and site architecture are almost equally important, more and more, consumers are using your on-site search to find what they are looking for quickly.
  • Searchers are almost twice as likely to convert as non-searchers in a given visit.
  • More often than not, a vertical listing format on the search results page converts better than a grid layout.

Suffice it to say, the search results page on an eCommerce site is something that is of high importance and something that deserves your attention.  Specifically, I want to cover how you can improve the performance of your site search within Magento Commerce – although the tactics can be applied to any eCommerce platform with similar capabilities – but Magento has some fundamental, out of box features to help  you improve your search results.

Improving Magento Search Results

One of the great features that Magento Commerce offers above and beyond other eCommerce platforms in the small to mid market space, is the ability to actually modify and control your search results page.  While, admittedly, these features do not compare with the advanced business intelligence and merchandising features of many enterprise eCommerce platforms (although it looks like Magento is moving in that direction especially with the enterprise product), they do nonetheless provide any online retailer some relatively advanced capabilities that allow you to control your destiny when it comes to the quality of your search results page.  Here are some tips on how to improve your search results page in Magento to improve the conversion rates of your visitors performing site searches:

  • Setup your products with best practices to begin with.  Too many times I see merchants trying to take shortcuts when it comes to product data.  They have 100 different models of virtually the same product so they plop everything in Excel and use that dreaded “fill down” feature for meta data.  Take your time with your data, and be specific with each product and provide as much detail and information as possible.
  • Configure your attributes to match the user behaviors of finding products on your site.  Carefully analyzing which attributes are available via quick search, which attributes show in the layered navigation of the search results page, and even the sorting order of those attributes on the search results page (more important filters towards the top) you can craft your search results page with user friendliness in mind in a few simple steps.
    magento_attribute_properties
  • Leverage Magento reporting to know and understand what your users are searching for, and what results they are seeing.  Identify high volume search terms, commonly misspelled terms, or any search terms that are not coming up with the correct amount of results
    magento_search_results_screenshot
  • Look at your Google Analytics data.  That’s right, under the content tab, filter out content for any pages containing the text “catalogsearch” (any search results page in Magento, whether via quick search or advanced search has “catalogsearch” in the URL).  This data should resemble the search reports you run out of Magento in terms of hits (at least relatively speaking), but the additional detail this provides is in the data nuggets that will help you identify the performance of individual search terms.  Identify search terms with high bounce rates, high exit rates, or lower $ indices and improve those pages (see bullet point below).
    click image for full size view

    click image for full size view

  • Probably the most important step in this process – modify your search results to make improvements.  This is where Magento actually shines, in the ability for you to control what is actually shown to users when performing these searches (going forward).  Let’s face it, automated logic to determine search results doesn’t always come up with the best results – just ask Google!  The functionality in Magento actually empowers you, as an administrator, the capabilities to alter the logic, and improve it.
    magento-edit-search-phraseI’d start at your highest volume search terms first, working your way down, but go through the searches and analyze the results

    • Is your site returning the best possible products for that search term?
    • Are there other products that should be appearing?
    • Is there enough volume for that term to justify creating a custom landing page for a specific search phrase?
    Take action, add the necessary synonyms to include related products, adjust your product data so that products show up in the necessary searches, or even redirect a search phrase a specific landing page, category page, or even a specific product page (if applicable).  The end goal here being is that just like you spend time properly categorizing your products, you should also spend the appropriate time in configuring your site search so that the best possible results appear, thus improving conversions and sales.

Extra Credit: Configure Google Analytics to Track Magento Site Search

Many people don’t even realize that Google Analytics can be configured to track and report additional data on the performance of your Magento site search, you just need to tell Google Analytics the querystring Magento uses (q) for search parameters.

google-analytics-site-search-magento

How Well Does Your Magento Search Results Perform?

When you first put together your site, you probably spent a great deal of time organizing your site in terms of architecture, and navigation. Maybe you even went through a card sorting exercise to help you in those efforts.  But ask yourself this – how long have you spent optimizing your search results in Magento?  For most, the answer is none – beyond the original setup of product data and attributes. Magento empowers you to actually control your search results, and given the importance of these results as noted by many studies and researchers, you should be spending more time optimizing these results than you do organizing your categories.  Let’s not forget, this is not intended to be a one-time fix, you should continually set aside time, to evaluate these results with the goal of continuous improvement and growth of sales generated from searchers on your site.

If you’re looking for someone to help you with Magento search results, check out our Magento services or contact us with the button on the right.

About Kevin Eichelberger

Kevin Eichelberger is the founder and CEO of Blue Acorn, a premium eCommerce agency helping retailers and brands achieve growth through a data-driven approach. Founded in 2008, Blue Acorn is the byproduct of Kevin’s great passion and knowledge of all things eCommerce. Kevin’s data-driven approach has culminated in a strong, growing business that’s success is closely tied to the success of its clients. When he’s not immersing himself in eCommerce, Kevin works toward expanding Charleston’s tech community by serving as a board member for the Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation, and is also a mentor and advisor to several startups. A business-savvy technologist, you can find Kevin evangelizing about data, optimization and eCommerce.

45 Comments

  • Ellie says:

    This is so helpful, thank you. However, I am having a general problem that I’m not sure how to fix. When I enter a search term in Magento it is finding the term even in the related products, so it isn’t pulling necessarily what my customers would need. Where do I fix this? Thanks

  • Simon says:

    This has been quite useful, nice to see more information on magento.

  • Sylvain says:

    It’s a good post and provide usefull information. Have you got deeper experience to coding optimized search result? For example, a more intelligent relevant display of the product list?
    Thanks
    Sylvain

  • CT says:

    Hey Kevin,

    Have you guys looked at augmenting Magento search with any 3rd party programs (such as Sphinx)? Although Magento allows for tweaking of already searched terms, I’ve found the overall search to be a bit lacking. Having searches fail for “Widgets” versus “Widget”, no high level synonym support, and not being able to do any deeper looking than the product level information (looking at the products categories being a major one) are really returning bad results. We use (and like) Magento alot but need to find a better way to get the searches right the first time, not after the fact.

  • Michael Hart says:

    Very interesting stats on the trend towards more people using site search than browsing. I definitely thought this was the case, but older stats didn’t support it. Thanks for providing the detailed google analytics tips. It will be great to be able to drill into analytics and tie in sales related data to those site searches.

  • kevin says:

    You can found altalavista plugin for magento in http://www.agencesolution.com/creation-de-sites-ecommerce-a-la-reunion.html
    french website agency for magento

    have fun

  • Erriko says:

    Hi, I need some help about quick search. I have some problem searching titles with numbers, for example: if I search for “spiderman 500” I’ll find spiderman and derivates of number 500 (516,529 etc…) BUT the exact title I searched for is after a lot of pages. This is a very bad behaviour for me because I’m opening a comics online store… 🙁
    I tried to set search as FULLTEXT, remove some useless attribute (I left only name and description) and putting a plugin that can set a “weight” to searched attributes, setting the heighest weight to name…
    What can i do to get rid of this trouble?
    Thank you in advance for any help…

  • chris says:

    How can I control the sort order I was really hoping to do is control exactly what comes up when someone searches. Everything from what comes up, but more importantly what order it comes up in. It would be pretty powerful for me to have a product I picked come up first for a particular search. Any thoughts on how I can change the order?

    thanks

  • Scalesmart says:

    Hi thanks for this information.

    How would you approach a store that sells industrial equipment with a lot of part numbers? I’m finding that i get a lot of searches for particular product SKUs that we do stock but don’t show up in the results.

    I suspect a mod to the search code and a hidden section showing SKU tags?

    Thoughts?

  • Kevin says:

    A couple of comments I’ve heard have been in regards to searching for SKUs and Magento not returning the proper results. This may be in part due to your setup – let me explain. Most people that have configurable products set the config. product to be visible in catalog and search, while the simple products that make up that config. product are set to visibility none. In these scenarios, searches for the configurable product SKU should work (assuming you also have the SKU attribute to be searchable) but the simple product would not. In theory, setting your simple products to be visible via search only should resolve that issue, although I’ve found that not to be the case in several environments. We are currently looking more into this issue, but make sure you have the other configurations properly setup.

    As far as changing the sort order, the results are sorted based on a relevancy algorithm, that many has noted to be not entirely accurate. There have been some movement in the dev community as well as Magento themselves recognizing that this functionality needs improvement and planning for this improvement

  • I think Magento’s standard search could definately use some improvement. It may be worth for the time being using a google search on the site once it’s indexed fully.

  • Vana says:

    Hi,
    Great post. I was wondering is it possible to set up the quick search to search through product tags also?
    Thanks.

  • Tim says:

    Awesome post! We have a client moving from the Enterprise to the Community edition and their searches weren’t matching up.

  • Jake says:

    Great Article. As you mentioned from the sherpa guide, ideally we should should results as a list instead of a grid. I may be missing something but does that mean I have to make List by default in the system config and then each category to show as grid or is there a simpler way to accomplish this that I am missing?

  • JS says:

    We have been struggling for a while to understand how to get the most of our search queries. We are going to start working on the searchable attributes.

    Do you have any recommendations on buying an extension for a more intuitive advanced search module?

  • Kevin says:

    Hi JS – starting with searchable attributes is best, as well as following the suggestions outlined above. As for extensions, I have not seen anything to specifically address improving the quality of the search algorithm. Magento Enterprise has included an improved search engine, and we’ve made some slight modifications for clients on the search logic, but nothing extensive. Given the fact that Magento supposedly has this planned (according to the UserVoice detail) – I wouldn’t expect an extension coming anytime soon.

  • Mitch says:

    Great post. So many people over look the importance of the search function. People don’t want to browse these days. They want to go search for exactly what they want, and if it doesn’t come up.. guess what? They are leaving.

  • alana says:

    So I have been trying my best to modify my attributes to return more accurate results. I am having trouble with the “name” attribute however. I cannot assign it a priority in the attribute options because it is a text field. I would like the name to be the first priority in returned results. I find that I am getting bundled items with a search term showing up before the individual item with the search term in the name. Is there a good solution for getting it to prioritize the name attribute first?

  • Ben says:

    @alana:

    In order to do this you will want to override the normal search result collection in the model or possible the controller layer and add addAttributeToSort(‘name’, ‘ASC’).

    It seems that somehow catalog_product_entity.type_id = ‘bundle’ products are getting precedence, likely unintentionally.

    HTH!

    Ben
    Director, Development Services
    Blue Acorn

  • alana says:

    Ben,

    Where could I do this specifically? can you provide a path? Can i copy the changes to my code/local so I do not affect my core? Let me know! Thanks so much.

  • Kevin says:

    Alana, I would recommend discussing this customization with an experienced Magento developer. Changes to the code are not to be taken lightly, but you’re on the right track of making sure core is not modified. A Magento developer should be able to interpret what Ben has posted and understand where to make the necessary adjustment.

  • Paul says:

    What is the advantage/disadvantage of having the simple products of a configurable product set to “Not Visible Individually” vs “Search”??

    Why would you use one or the other?

    Thanks

    Paul

  • roco says:

    I would like to be able to run a search for an item with a

    sku: 123-456-789(9988)/2

    If I enter this exact sku in magento’s search box I get over 20,000 results? I assume that is because magento treats symbols like spaces?

    SO is there some way I could get Magento to ignore symbols and concatenate the other alphanumeric characters?

    i.e. a search for 12345678999882 would return only:

    sku: 123-456-789(9988)/2
    in search results

    and a search for 123-456-789(9988)/2 would also yield only:

    sku: 123-456-789(9988)/2
    in search results

    This is for a part number search. Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you. – roco

  • Marcin says:

    You can use Zend Search Lucene to improve search results and matches

  • Ian says:

    Hi There,

    We have an industrial spares parts shop and for us half the time customers are searching using a part number. We made the decision to create a redirect directly to the product page if a real part number was added. This has the benefit of treating the whole part number as a string even if it includes spaces, slashes, dashes etc.

    I’ve shared the SQL we use to set up these redirects automatically in our Magento database.

    PLEASE STUDY IT AND USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! MAKE A BACKUP FIRST!

    Notes:
    – Works on 1.4.2, not tried it on other versions
    – This will only work if you are using ‘Flat catalog’ for your products
    – Change the base url to your own site
    – I added a ‘UNIQUE’ index on the `query_text` column of the `catalogsearch_query` table. This prevents the SQL below generating duplicates when I re-run it after adding new products.

    Then I run this SQL in PhpMyAdmin:

    REPLACE `catalogsearch_query` (`query_text`, `redirect`, `store_id`, `display_in_terms`, `updated_at`)
    SELECT cp.sku, CONCAT(‘http://www.lsengineers.co.uk/catalog/product/view/id/’, CAST(cp.entity_id AS CHAR)), 1, 0, NOW() FROM `catalog_product_flat_1` AS cp

  • Ricky says:

    So this is my question, and I can’t find the answer anywhere!

    In an attempt to make my links google friendly I’m trying to figure out how to change the page title/meta data or URL for the search results.

    Lets use this as an example: http://rickysreptileenclosures.com/catalogsearch/result/index/?mode=list&q=clear+ad+showcase

    Where in my control panel can I change the data?

  • Kevin says:

    @Ricky – as per Google quality guidelines (http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769) you are advised to NOT make your search results page SEO friendly:

    “Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.”

    So the URL of your search result page should not be modified and in fact should be blocked altogether. Hope that helps!

  • Ricky says:

    Hello,

    So if someone is looking for ball python cages or ball pythons for sale on my site, I shouldn’t optimize the url so google sees that?

  • Peter says:

    Great tip.
    Did not knew this before. Helps me to improve all searchterm entered by my customers. Now i still need to find a way to improve Magento’s search results.

  • Graham says:

    Hi,

    I’m using Magento Community edition and have some problems with the search settings. The search works great on the SKU, seems to generally work very well with one word in the search box as well. Problem arises when more than one word is entered in the search box. Brings up pages of irrelevant products in which the searched for product may or may not be there.
    How can I improve the search ?

    Thanks

  • modra ideja says:

    Great info, tnx Kevin. I will have to improve on my search results.

  • Will says:

    magneto’s search fuc is very horrible,many times the buyers can not find they want.

  • bo-oz says:

    Thanks, great article! Just one question, my magento installation shows search terms twice (book & book/), the second time with a trailing front slash. I’ve tried to google this phenomenon, but couldn’t find anything. Any ideas?

  • […] seen better things than the default search function of Magento. Ok, you can try to improve the Magento search results, but still it just isn’t top […]

  • Alexander says:

    In fact, Magenta search is not perfect. Very often a user doesn’t find what he was looking for and leaves the store. Good decision is to integrate the Sphinx search engine. It greatly improves the quality and relevance of search results. Look at http://mirasvit.com/magento-extensions/magento-sphinx-search.html.

  • Ginger6 says:

    Great article, just been to the Internet Retailer Expo, and there was a huge emphasis on search/helping your customer find what they are looking for painlessly. I have been looking at improved search for my Magento store, and have been looking at the Sphinx Pro contribution, as well as a search contribution from Mageworx. Does anybody have any experience of either of them?

  • What a nice guide, I actually sit down once a week and perform the task of viewing the newest search terms and optimising them for the best user experience, as well as what sales targets require.

  • Kevin says:

    Search in Magento is far from perfect, really. Your guide is really helpful. Also there are lots of sollutions on the market to improve magento search, as for me i use search pro from amasty. recommend to try.

  • Nick says:

    Thanks for this guide. Magento’s native search isn’t the best, but we’ve used Sphinx Search in the past to upgrade the native functionality. But the tips on Google Analytics and optimizing search results are applicable to anyone using Magento, no matter what search engine they use on their store.

  • mendel says:

    Fulltext search would be optimal for me, but when I put synonyms for search words, it narrows the search to only show results that contain both the search word and the synonym. Any suggestions.

    • Kevin Eichelberger says:

      Mendel – in our experience implementing Solr search on Magento is going to provide much greater depth of capabilities and control over how the search functions – natively, Magento provides some features to improve the results as outlined in this article, but ultimately a more robust search engine is going to be the most effective approach at improving the accuracy of Magento’s search. Hope that helps!

  • Lloyd says:

    Magento search still lacks severely for related search results, and we’ve discussed this on github with relation to Magento 2. Integrating a third party fulltext search looks to be the only solution here. To improve or generate quality search results from Magento, sphinx or solr integration is where I’m heading, for now and in the near future because it looks as if search has taken a back seat in Magento 2 also.

  • Eddie says:

    Thank you for great article. i’m having some issue on search term on my website and its hard to figuring out. thinking install search module to fix it.

    Thank you,

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