post-hero-img

What Does Search Relevance Mean?

Site search Tips and Practices

The Search box has become the 1st point of interaction on websites, and how it performs reflects your brand and business. Forrester Research found that 43% of visitors immediately navigate the search box. At the same time, searchers are 2-3x more likely to convert than non-searchers. If you don’t practice search relevance optimization on your website, you risk losing prospective customers forever. 

What is search relevance?

Search Relevance, According to Doug Turnbull, “is the practice of improving search results for users by satisfying their information needs in the context of a particular user experience, while balancing how ranking impacts our business’s needs.”

So what does that mean in plain speak? Let’s look at it this way when a user makes a search query, the search engine gets to work deciphering the user’s search intent and deciding which content to present as their results. Relevant site search refers to the quality of the results returned by the search engine.

The quality is determined by several factors, including the terms used in the search, the results’ popularity, location, past search and purchase history, and browsing behaviour.

Let’s look at an example. Say a Mexican food aficionado, feeling a bit peckish, decides to search a restaurant app for food delivery. The search engine immediately goes into action and lists out the top-rated Mexican restaurants within a 5-mile radius that delivers. This user is experiencing excellent search relevance. The search algorithms have tailored the results specifically to this user by analysing his behaviour, location and the popularity of the results.

Importance of Search Relevance

Users expect a lot from search applications. In a blink of an eye, users hope your search application understands what information they want based on a few hastily entered search terms. If the search results don’t seem immediately relevant, users quickly get frustrated and move on. Studies show that as many as 68% of users would not return to a site that provided a poor search experience.

The window for engaging site visitors is continually shrinking; gone are the days when users patiently comb through search results to find what they want. Ensuring that you practice search relevance optimization is no longer a luxury; it is essential.

Improving Search Relevance

So, how do you solve search relevance? How do you help users get relevant site search results?  Let’s look at some of the things you should consider and take into account. 

1. Know your Audience

As a business, you shouldn’t be wasting time trying to please everyone; instead, you should focus your efforts on pleasing your target audience. At first glance, this may seem like a no brainer. Still, one of the main reasons people get search relevance wrong is because they look at search from a general perspective instead of looking at it from the target audience’s perspective.

Next time you optimise your search engine, try not to take a one-size-fits-all approach; instead, start by looking at your customer and their motivations, wants needs, problems, and concerns. Relevance can only begin when you understand to whom you’re catering your content.

Pro tip – Use search analytics to gain insight into how your users use search. It can help you to discover how often your users search, what they search for, and whether they find it or not. This information can be used for search relevance optimisation and help you improve your Website UX.

2. Use Relevant Filters

Search filters are a means of helping users narrow down their search results, but this can happen only when they are relevant and align with the user’s search intent. Researchers at the Baymard Institute found that a whopping 34% of websites have a poor filtering experience and that they severely limit their users’ ability to browse products.

By providing relevant filters, you not only help active browsers narrow down their results to precisely what they want but also speed up your site’s conversion rates!

eBay is an excellent example of relevant filters helping speed up the buyer’s journey. Take a look at the example below – 

A user cannot get accurate and relevant search results without using filters when they don't have the specific keyword knowledge for the search query.
This page shows the search results for an iPhone. eBay promotes a few highly relevant filters above the product listing to help increase the overall success of the user finding what they want.

Results can be narrowed down from thousands to just a few relevant results by the user with filters.

We can narrow our search scope from 89,000+ to just ten of the most relevant results by refining the search via the suggested filters.

To level up your filter skills, make sure to read our blog post on Faceted Search.

Pro tip: Filters can do more than help your site’s active browsers; in fact, you can also use them to help guide passive browsers to discover content and products on your site that they may not have known about.

3. Leverage the power of Personalisation

74% of customers feel frustrated when a website’s content is not personalised. However, when the search becomes personalised, users start seeing more relevant site search results, leading to higher conversion rates, lower bounce rates, and improved brand reputation.

Personalisation happens when the search engine studies user-specific signals to provide a set of individualised search results and recommendations. 

User signals can be based on variables such as demographics, likes, dislikes, follows past behaviour, etc. The more data you have about your users, the more sophisticated your personalisation becomes.

Amazon is an excellent example of providing more relevant site search results via personalization.  

Personalization provides for a more targeted and relevant set of search results, based on users previous browsing history.

This is a search results page for coffee on Amazon. The search engine analysed the details from a previous purchase and made the correct inference that the user preferred ground coffee over instant or whole bean and liked flavoured coffees. The search engine personalised the results with that information, highlighting the previous purchase and promoting certain types of results to the top.  

For more actionable tips on personalization check out our blog post  “Why You Need Site Search Personalization”.

Pro tip –  Search auto-suggest is a great way to guide, educate and promote content and products through your website’s internal site search. It can also be personalized to offer results based on the current location of the visitor or based on their primary language. In addition, you can show relevant search terms and content based on past browsing history. You can read more on the subject by reading our blog post on autocomplete and autosuggest.

4. Boost Site Areas

 With boosting, you can give specific areas on your site more priority over others in-site search. For example, let’s say you run a camera website. By boosting, you can make sure when users search for entry-level DSLRs, they end up on products tagged as entry-level DSLRs and not led immediately to your blog post titled “a beginners guide to entry-level DSLRs”. 

Boost Site Areas to ensure specific products and pages get priority over others.

Pro tip:Your site search can have a significant impact on your users’ satisfaction with your brand and services, ensure you design your search experience for success.

5. Understanding the search query

Search engines are often faced with ambiguous and fuzzy queries from users who may not always be clear on what they are looking for. A search engine needs to make sense of the different words in a query to return relevant search results. 

Here are a few ways search engines can disambiguate information.

Typo Tolerance – Typo tolerance works by matching words close in spelling, letting users make typos and still find what they’re looking for. 

Synonyms – This ensures that different keywords with the same meaning lead to the same relevant search results.

Stemming – Stemming is the process of removing suffixes from words so that words with the same root match each other. Stemming is language-dependent.

Partial Match – Returns relevant search results for a partial search term, e.g. “auto” matching to “automatic”.

Automatic language detection – Reduces irrelevance by restricting search results to a specific language.

6. Clean up your Site 

Blog posts, product pages, e-commerce listings, contact pages — it all adds up over time, making it crucial to clean your site’s content regularly. Content cleanups may seem tedious, but it is essential for concise search indexing and providing the most relevant search results. 

Here are a few areas you could look into – 

– Duplicate or Overlapping Content

– Outdated Content

– Keywords That No Longer Work

– Unused categories

– Broken links

Now you understand the basics of search relevance. Still, it’s also important to realise that optimising search relevancy is an ongoing process involving meeting user needs and business requirements. It also requires providing personalised relevant search results, while adapting to a users’ shifting preferences. The effort you put into making your content search-relevant will be a significant step towards your business’s success.

Pro tip: Don’t fall behind, stay abreast of all web design and UX trends to make sure your users receive a better and more seamless digital experience.

Summing things up

What is Search relevance?

 -Search relevance is the measure of how closely and accurately the generated search results relate to the user’s search query. 

A High search relevance improves a customer’s user experience, and a low search relevance has the opposite effect.

Why is it essential –  

– It makes it easy for customers to find the content they need

– It provides a good user experience

– It creates a positive first impression

– It helps in converting and retaining customers

If you need assistance with search relevance or assistance with any other site search-related issue, reach out. Our team of search experts, we’ll be happy to help!

Contact our sales team to explore how to increase conversions, reduce helpdesk costs and make your customers happy.

New call-to-action

Was this helpful?

Share this: