It’s been a transformative year for the world of site search. With the digital landscape shifting heavily to online and virtual practices, nearly every industry has had to pivot and focus efforts towards digitalization.
Throughout this transformation, one of the most effective methods of marketing to people has been through websites. Whether it be a government institution giving policy updates, a grocery delivery service providing essential goods or an insurance provider hoping to grow their member base, site search has been a critical part of the online experience.
We don’t foresee the need for quality site search changing anytime soon. In fact, we see it becoming increasingly important across all industries. As optimized site search becomes more widely adopted, the capabilities of search will need to become more sophisticated. For 2021, we see these capabilities being heavily-focused on providing an enhanced user experience to all site visitors.
Read on for the top site search trends to watch for in 2021 and exactly how they can help improve your site performance.
Trend #1: Accessibility
Accessibility refers to how usable your website is for any given visitor. Whether a site visitor has a disability or impairment, or whether they are on a desktop computer or mobile phone, it’s imperative for websites to be accessible.
In 2021 it will be crucial for your site’s search to be accessible. Not only for the sake of inclusion and usability, but also from a regulatory standpoint. Whether to stay compliant or meet legal requirements, site search accessibility will become just one of the many boxes to check when building a website this year.
Due to the importance of accessibility, at Cludo we strive to be ADA, Section 508 & WCAG 2.0 compliant and have designed all of our search templates to be accessible with assistive tools including text highlights, reading tools, and more.
Trend #2: Better AI
In order to provide search results that are intelligent, relevant and constantly improving, your site search needs to be powered by machine learning. Machine learning integrates artificial intelligence in order to analyze user behavior and offer predictions as to what they are looking for.
In 2021, site search will not only be expected to run on machine learning, but will have better AI than ever before. With features like intelligent autocomplete and search-as-you-type, your visitors will be able to find what they need efficiently while receiving results customized to their searches.
Through improved artificial intelligence, your visitors will be served diverse search results, increasing the likelihood of interaction within these results. This AI gives you the ability to promote content before a visitor even starts searching, making it easier to find what they need with fewer clicks. Through advanced technology like machine learning, you can design a user journey that will keep site visitors coming back.
Trend #3: Chatbots
With the surge of companies automating processes while still needing to provide a great user experience, we expect to see an increase in websites with chatbots in 2021.
Whether they pop up immediately upon entering your site, or are an additional way to serve content beyond the search bar, chatbots are a great way to meet visitor needs without them having to work directly with an employee. So not only do chatbots have the potential to save time and money, they can increase engagement and direct site visitors where you want them to go.
Trend #4: Search Customization
As websites become more intuitive and personalized to your users, your site search will need to do the same. The content is there, but your users don’t want to spend all day looking for it. They want to feel as if the search experience is tailored to them, which is where search customization will come in.
There are many factors that go into providing a customized search including: past search behavior, location, and user intent. By analyzing these three factors, your search can predict what a user may be searching for and provide results based on those criteria – ultimately providing an experience that is customized to the user and encourages them to click.
In order to keep users engaged and on your website, search customization in 2021 is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity.
Trend #5: User Intent Optimization
When we talk about user intent, we are referring to your site visitor’s end goal. Are they looking for a certain product to buy? Do they want to find the branch location nearest them? Do they need more information on when their graduation ceremony is?
Whatever the case may be, site visitors will use an array of search terms to ultimately find the same thing. For example, one visitor might search for “jobs” while another searches “employment” – which leads you to believe both of them are seeking your Careers page. Another example could be visitors shopping for autumn clothing, one might search for a “leather coat” while another visitor searches for a “leather jacket” – both queries showing a similar end goal of leather outerwear. Both of these examples are great illustrations of similar user intent with differing queries.
In 2021, watch for machine-learning-powered site search that is able to group all of your search queries and distill them into common themes, or what we like to call Intents. By optimizing user intent, you will save time parsing through extensive search queries to find common objectives. Additionally, finding trends within user intent helps to make more informed decisions on exactly what content to create and prioritize on your website.
Enhancing the Search Experience
Looking at these trends, there is one common objective throughout, and that is to provide an excellent search experience for your visitors.
Site search has become so much more than a bar at the top of your website. In 2021, site search is an opportunity to take your visitors on a journey that is accessible to their needs, customized to their search behavior and optimized to provide intelligent, relevant results.