Have you ever considered optimizing the usability of your site-search? If so, first consider why visitors would use the search box on your site. I can see two general reasons why they would use it:
There are three types of visitors when it comes to site search: search-dominant, browse-dominate and a blend of the two. Search-dominant users think they can get better results faster from searching the site. The fact that visitors have less time to look through all the potential websites to which Google points them and the ever-increasing amount of content in them supports why this type of visitor is becoming more prevalent all the time. The second visitor type is probably motivated to click and read though a site more than searching because they know where to find the content and think they can do so fast enough for their needs. Maybe they value the experience of exploring or perhaps they’re just ‘Feeling Lucky.’ The third type probably thinks they can find some content faster using a site-search and other content faster by browsing.
Sometimes, when new users come to your site, they’ll use the search feature, and in becoming familiar with the navigation on the pages to which your site-search directs them, they will become better at knowing where to find content on your site in the future. Therefore, returning users may use the site’s search feature less than new users. This probably means that your site’s overall usability and information architecture is effective.
My colleague, Joe, blogged about an increasing phenomenon in which users who have arrived on your site from search engines will then use your site’s search box, but will often search for terms so broad, it defies your understanding. He said that users may be using more precise (‘long-tail’) searches on Google to find your site and using broad search terms once on your site because they expect that it’s Google that needs the more precise search term. This makes sense because Google has billions of pages in its index and your site may only have 50 total pages.
In order to optimize the usability of your site-search, you have to get in the visitors’ heads. Sometime this is extremely difficult. This difficulty can be overcome, however, by reading usability reports and any psychological reports remotely related to this subject.
So, when you consider site-search optimization, realize that search engine traffic to your site (SEO), your own site-search and your site’s navigation are all inter-related. When you adjust one of these items, another one may be have to be adjusted in order to give your site the best usability possible.
Consider these suggestions: