Site search vs. Google search – which is better?
Many website owners feel that these are the same. They may include Google’s on-site search solution, without realizing there are big differences between the two. Those differences can impact the user experience. And they can have a big impact on user engagement, user retention, and the bottom line.
In this article, we’ll explain the differences between in-site search solutions and Google’s on-site search box.
Site Search vs. Google Search
According to the marketing research firm Econsultancy, up to 30% of site visitors will use the site search box. That means that 30% of your visitors could be demonstrating purchase intent. As we’ll see below, this information has big implications for the user experience and the bottom line.
But is there a real difference when it comes to site search vs. Google search?
Google search operates just like the search engine does when adding the “sitename” operator to a query. Therefore, Google’s in-site search will use the same algorithm and dataset when delivering results.
There are several problems with this:
- Website owners have no control over the search algorithm.
- The search algorithm itself may change, which can impact the results that users receive.
- Website owners can’t prioritize content, products, pages, and so forth.
Although Google’s on-site search tool works, it doesn’t offer the same benefits as an in-site search solution:
- In-site search tools give you control over the search algorithm.
- You can prioritize whatever content you wish in the results.
- Since you can customize the search experience, analytics are even more powerful and can have an even bigger impact on your bottom line.
In-site search can even be monetized. Site search solutions such as SiteFuel and SearchFuel, both offered by CodeFuel, allow website owners to earn revenue with every search.
The first solution, SiteFuel, delivers results inside a visually appealing search grid. Revenue comes from recommended content and ads, which add more value to the user since they are tailored to search queries.
The in-site search solution SearchFuel works similarly, with a traditional search experience. Website owners can easily embed the box into their website, then earn a search revenue share with every query.
Why Site Search Is So Important
Today, in-site searches are becoming more common than ever. In fact, the larger the site, the bigger the role that site search plays in the user experience. Many times, in-site search is itself a go-to navigation tool.
In large websites, the search box is the first go-to navigation method people use to find what they’re looking for. On ecommerce sites, for instance, many customers would rather type in a specific product than delve through countless menus.
Other sites also make heavy use of search boxes:
- Knowledge bases
- Support websites
- Content-rich websites and blogs
- Media outlets
The more content you have – whether it comes in the form of products or articles – the more you need an in-site search solution that works.
Here are the major benefits you get when you implement the right in-site search solution:
- In-site searches indicate search intent. This allows ecommerce sites to find out what products are popular and which aren’t.
- Searchers are buyers. A study from Econsultancy suggested that visitors who use search can be as much as 50% more likely to buy than those who don’t…all the more reason to have a custom on-site search tool.
- Search data offers insight into customer needs. The right data will tell you what customers want from your business and your website. With this information in hand, you can turn around and offer it to them.
- Searches tell you about site usability. Search is critical to your site. But if users are searching at the expense of other navigation tools, you may need to make some changes to your information architecture.
- The search algorithm and search results can be optimized. When you can promote your own content, products, or services, you can influence customers. This is ideal for any website owner or business.
- The right search solution increases engagement and retention. The right search tool improves the user experience – the wrong one can increase bounce rates. The longer that users stay on your site to view content, the more they are engaged and the greater the chance they have of becoming long-term customers.
- A better user experience means a better profit margin. Ultimately, search solutions will have a direct impact on your bottom line. The better the search tool, the better the impact on the user experience and the profit margin.
Every search optimization tool is different. Some are geared towards analytics and some are designed to put money in your pocket.
Regardless of which search tool you choose, it’s important to recognize the benefits of site search vs. Google search. From increased user engagement to increased profit margins, site search offers many benefits that you just can’t get from Google’s tool.
What is site search?
Whether you’re a content publisher, an ecommerce site, or whether you simply have a large website, you need to what it is, how to use it, and why it matters.
What Is Site Search?
Everyone knows what Google is. It’s a search engine that crawls the web, retrieves web content, and delivers the results in a list.
Web search is very similar to site search.
Site search is a search engine that focuses entirely on a single website. These site search tools are common, and can be found on many sites throughout the web. The next time you visit your favorite media outlet or shopping site, keep your eye out for a search box or a magnifying glass.
On some sites, search is more prominent than on others. Ecommerce sites, for example, use search as a primary navigation tool. It makes sense for shoppers to use a search tool rather than attempt to wade through countless menus and submenus to find products.
Why Site Search Matters
As site size grows, so does the necessity for site search. So content publishers, wikis, and large websites can also benefit from site search tools.
Site search, therefore, forms a critical part of the website user interface. Usability relies on it. The better the search, the better the user experience.
When users can’t find what they’re looking for, however, bounce rate increases, engagement decreases, and the bottom line is affected. Whether you’re selling products or whether content is your revenue engine, you need to have a site search solution that helps your users.
Who Should Use Site Search
For some sites, site search may be too powerful or irrelevant.
These are the sites that will make the most from a site search solution:
- Content-Rich Websites – Media outlets, big blogs, and other content-heavy websites should have a site search component on board. There is still plenty of room for other navigation tools, such as related content widgets and menus. But site search plays a huge role in the site’s usability.
- Ecommerce Sites – Ecommerce sites stand to lose a lot if visitors bounce. Frustration at poor usability is a chief cause for low user retention and high bounce rates. The right site search can pay for itself in dividends by improving retention, increasing conversions, and elevating customer satisfaction.
- Knowledgebases – A knowledgebase or a help site cuts support staff costs and improves customer relations. For these sites, search tools are often the primary means of navigation, so it’s critical to have one on board. An offsite provider, such as Google, isn’t a good choice, since it may not even index much – if any – of the site’s articles.
- Forums – Forums are also go-to information sources for many visitors. Many members enjoy browsing and interacting with forum members. But if visitors are searching for specific information, they need to use a search tool. Forums and other sites that are updated regularly, such as classifieds, need internal search engines, since external search engines will often index small portions of these sites.
Regardless of your business, the right search solution can improve your users’ experience and put money in your pocket.
However, not all site search solutions are created equal…
What to Look for in a Site Search Solution
There are a variety of in-site search providers on the market.
What should you look for when shopping around?
On the surface, you may think that all on-site search is created equal. Since Google provides its own in-site search solution, many opt with the world’s largest tech engine. But Google’s in-site search tool doesn’t offer all same benefits offered by other site search providers.
Here’s what to look for when shopping for site search providers:
- Analytics – Analytics and search data tell you what your users are searching for. More importantly, it offers insight into their intent. On ecommerce sites, it tells you what they’re shopping for. On content sites, it tells you what content they want. This helps you better meet their needs and improve your site design.
- Customization – With the right search solution, you can customize your search tool as needed. You can prioritize content, serve ads, change the algorithm, and alter the design. The more you can control, the more you can tailor the search box to meet your customers’ needs.
- Design – Design is becoming more important than ever. Today, online content needs to be visually rich and concise. The more eye-catching it is, the better.
- Functionality – In other words, you need a search engine that works. Older site search solutions may not work well or may deliver irrelevant content, which is a sure way to decrease engagement and increase bounce rates.
- Monetization – Monetization may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of site search. But if you want to make more money – as every business does – you should investigate site search solutions that are monetized, such as SiteFuel and SearchFuel.
The most unusual web monetization techniques are sometimes the best. And with the ever-growing size of the web, every website owner needs to stay on top of their game if they want to stay ahead.
There are several reasons:
Only a few people use these techniques, so you will stand out from the crowd.
Many people think of them as “unusual” because they are actually innovative.
Innovative techniques are typically cutting edge, which means visitors won’t be jaded (think banner ads)
So are you ready to make more money from your website with the most innovative – and perhaps some “unusual” – techniques?
1. Monetize On-Site Search
Everyone’s familiar with using advertising or affiliate marketing as a monetization strategy, but what about search boxes? “Search monetization” may not be a very common term in popular how-to blogs, but it’s just as valid when it comes to earning cash.
To integrate search monetization into a site, sign up for a trusted provider’s product, such as CodeFuel’s SearchFuel. Then, simply copy and paste the code into your site. Every time people use your site’s search box, you’ll earn money.
Here are some advantages to this strategy:
This technique is non-intrusive. People hate obnoxious, irrelevant ads. Search monetization generates revenue without using ads at all. Instead, you’re adding value to the end user’s experience.
It’s constant cash. You’ll keep earning money as long as you have visitors to your site who use the search box.
2. Share Your Revenue
Revenue sharing refers to sharing the profits you make…but also the workload it takes to run the site. For instance, if you decide to bring on several bloggers to help you create the site’s content, then you can use a revenue sharing program to split the profits.
At first glance, this doesn’t sound like a great way to make more money. But when traffic is a problem, then creating a revenue sharing program can help you solve it.
The best way to turn your site into a revenue-sharing site is to build a community-run website. As mentioned above, if you build a community-supported website right, then you actually don’t have to do any of the work. Just set it, forget it, and let other people create the content for you. They will help grow the traffic and the revenues, and you’ll just take your cut when the check comes in.
3. Use Relevant, Specialized Advertising Networks
Advertising networks aren’t all cut from the same cloth. Big networks such as those operated by Google or Facebook can be useful in certain circumstances, but when you’ve got a niche blog or site, why not go with a niche network?
In other words, choose an advertising network that caters to the crowd that visits your site. Specialized advertising networks choose their customers and partners carefully. This means higher quality ad inventory, higher quality traffic, and a higher return on your ad spend.
One example of such a specialized advertising network is CodeFuel’s DisplayFuel, a premium ad network that delivers relevant ads to a targeted customer base. This network serves the software industry, and allows software developers to promote their products through a variety of media channels, including websites and apps.
4. Partner with Reliable Industry Leaders
In the same way that specialized advertising networks offer quality traffic and ad inventories, you should partner with proven industry leaders if you want results.
Companies such as CodeFuel, for instance, have a stellar track record of monetization and advertising leadership. They have been working with some of the world’s top software developers to create innovative advertising and monetization platforms that deliver top-dollar revenue to developers, publishers, and advertisers.
New technologies and new companies start up every week, but hype isn’t everything. Investment dollars flow freely in Silicon Valley, but when you investigate potential partners for your monetization needs, don’t just look at their capital – look at their portfolio, their partners, and their history.
5. Crowdfund It
If you lean towards the marketing and monetization end of the spectrum, then you’ll probably want to create a revenue sharing and explore advertising and affiliate marketing.
But if you’re a die-hard content creator, then perhaps you’ll want to explore crowdfunding options. These are monetization options for content creators such as writers, artists, or other creatives.
For example, Kickstarter is a well-known crowdfunding site, but certainly not the only one. Here are a few others:
Indiegogo – This site is similar to Kickstarter, but allows a wider range of projects.
Tilt – Tilt is focused on “fundraising,” and has a short-term deadline for all campaigns.
Patreon – Created by artists, for artists, Patreon allows content creators to earn money directly from their followers.
Bear in mind that none of these monetization methods are mutually exclusive. You can test out all of the above on your site…and, for best results, you probably should. The more you test and experience, the more income you’ll earn from your monetization efforts.
Thanks to the European Commission, Apple has changed the way it labels apps with in-app purchases.
Can Apps Be Free or Not?
In-app purchases for iOS apps are made with Apple’s new payment system, Apple Pay. Simply by providing Apple with a credit card or debit card, you can use Apple Pay as a secure payment method, not only for in-app purchases, but also for retailers and other service providers, such as Target and Uber.
When people have downloaded an app labelled “free,” this can make it all too easy for users – or their children – to make in-app purchases.
Now, however, when you visit the app store, all free-to-download apps no longer have a button labeled “free” next to them. Instead, Apple chose to use the word “get,” whether the apps contain in-app purchases or not. Apple is following in the footsteps of Google, who stopped labeling games “free” when they offer in-app purchases.
Both companies are responding to a request by the European Commission laid out earlier in 2014. The request required that app-makers abide by four essential guidelines:
- Games shouldn’t mislead users about costs associated with the app
- Games shouldn’t coerce children into asking parents to make in-app purchases
- Games should inform users about the purchase practices, and all purchases should be transparent and consensual
- App makers should provide an email address for users to file complaints
In response to the original request, Apple responded that it was already doing more than other companies to safeguard against any unwanted in-app purchases.
For instance, to prevent children from making unwanted in-app purchases, it has instituted a feature called Ask to Buy. Every time kids attempt to make an in-app purchase, a notification is sent directly to the parent’s iOS device. Before a purchase can be completed, the parent must grant permission.
According to the European Commission’s vice president Neelie Kroes, in-app purchases are a legitimate form of monetization, but “it’s essential for app-makers to understand and respect EU law” when they use this as a business model. In the EU, enforcement will be the responsibility of the specific countries.
Potential Impacts of “Free” vs. “Get” on Developers
Developers need to earn money for their work.
And when the marketplace is full of apps that are free to download, other monetization methods must be found. Charging for in-app purchases is one strategy, but, as the European Commission pointed out, it’s not exactly free for the end user.
Apple and Google have both reacted differently to the European Commission’s request for policy changes.
Apple’s more conservative stance – which can be seen in App Store labels and policies around pay-per-install ads – may fare better with its customers, families, and the EC. It may also make things easier on Apple’s back end when it comes to regulations, since Apple’s App Store has a somewhat involved app review process.
In Europe, Google’s initial response was simply to change “Top Free Apps” to “Top Apps.” While Google Play in the USA provides fine print informing users of in-app purchases, it is not shying away from the word “FREE” – in all capital letters. The top game in the Free category in Google Play games is Candy Crush, which has come under the spotlight as a game that uses subtle psychological tricks to coerce users into making in-app purchases.
So how will these changes impact app developers?
The policy changes of Apple could have less of an impact than those made by Google. Here’s why:
- In Google Play, the Top Free category ranks significantly higher than the Top Paid category. Moving all in-app purchase games to the Top Paid category will cut an enormous chunk out of the EU game developers’ profits. To prevent this, however, Google would need to restructure its category system, implement a solution similar to Apple’s, or both.
- For all apps that include in-app purchases, Apple has unilaterally changed “free” to “get.” This will have minimal impact on rankings and profits, which would be affected much more if Apple were to implement a regional change or only make label changes to apps with in-app purchases. Now, it is much less obvious which apps use which monetization strategy.
Because the internet is becoming mobile-first, and since most people spend their time in apps, we’re seeing a decline of search advertising and other web-based strategies. Instead, in-app advertising and display advertising are pushing sponsored search ads out of the way. These forms of advertising are monetization strategies that let developers make money, while still allowing apps to be truly free for the end user.
While Google and Apple will try to mitigate much of the damage done by the European Commission’s change request, it may drive even more developers to pursue in-app advertising. Any shifts in monetization strategies will be towards in-app advertising.