Site Search vs Navigation: Which is Better for Conversions?

Posted by Billy Gray on

Site Search vs Navigation: Which is Better for Conversions?

Quote for the day: “If you don’t create your own value for success, then someone else will do it for you.”

Internal site search and navigation are indispensable parts of any website. Knowing how to use them to your advantage can explode your conversion rate.

But which one should you be focussing most of your energy on? Clearly, you shouldn’t ignore either, but then, nothing in this life is completely balanced.

Site search vs navigation is a debate that’s been ongoing since websites were first a thing. Both have their utilities. People need to be able to easily move around on your website, and they need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly.

But what is the difference between navigation and searching?

We’re going to have a look at search vs navigation to see which one is most important when designing your eCommerce store. We’ll also cover how you can optimize both functions to boost your overall conversion rate.

First, let’s clear up some definitions so we know exactly what we’re talking about.

Site search will always be a necessary feature for an eCommerce website. Knowing the difference between navigation and searching is key to optimizing both. 

What exactly is internal site search? 

Internal site search is simply the process of making search queries to find products or pages on a website. In other words, the search bar. Simple, yes, but there’s a bit more to it than meets the eye, especially when it comes to optimizing your site search function to boost conversions. We’ll dig deeper into this later. 

What is website navigation? 

Website navigation is the infrastructure that allows users to get around your website, including your menus, sub-menus, footer section, and so on. With this navigation definition in mind, it should be obvious that this isn’t something you want to skip over.

Great navigation will take users around your site in a logical way while also making sure they’re more likely to make a purchase. 

search vs navigation boost commerce

Search vs navigation: Which is better? 

Most websites will use a search bar and menu navigation. That being said, the two functions aren’t equal and are used largely for different purposes.

So who uses search and navigation, and what are they using them for? Let’s have a closer look at the difference between navigation and searching.

Site search is a function generally used by people in the late stage of the sales funnel. These are people who know exactly what they want - often the specific product name. Men are statistically more likely to use the search bar.

Navigation lends itself to browsing and is more commonly used overall. People tend to use website navigation to get more information about the products a brand is selling. Women are statistically more likely than men to use navigation. 

Search vs navigation: Key statistics

Knowing the key statistics around search and navigation will help you to realize their unique value when designing your eCommerce website. 

Site search statistics

Site search is often left in the dark by eCommerce websites. But the data shows that optimizing your internal site search can have a huge impact on conversions.

  • In studies, only 15% of website visitors used the site search function. 
  • But those people made up a staggering 45% of all revenue!

Why? Because they knew what they were looking for. They were ready to buy.

  • Up to 68% of users say they wouldn’t return to a website that has poor internal site search. 
  • Yet up to 84% of companies don’t even bother to optimize this function.

What does this tell you? Optimize your site search function and you’ll be ahead of the competition.

Navigation statistics

Navigation is used much more often than site search. This is actually fairly obvious seeing as most people don’t know exactly what they’re looking for when they visit a website. Websites that lack good navigation will suffer reduced conversions as a result.

  • Around half of new users will use website navigation to get to know a website. 
  • Around 37% of users will consider leaving a website if the navigation is poor.

Website navigation is essential to new visitors to your eCommerce store. Even the wording of your menu links can have a massive impact on your conversion rate.

  • The Formsmack website menu was designed with a ‘How it Works’ menu item. 
  • This was changed to ‘Why Use Us?’ and the tab got 50% more clicks and conversions site-wide increased by 8%.

Website navigation isn’t just something you design once and leave forever. It’s something you should monitor through Google Analytics to see how many people are spending how much time on each search tab.

You should be changing the wording in search tabs and monitoring any rise or fall in clicks and time spent on pages resulting from these changes. 

Search vs navigation: Not two sides of the same coin

Search and navigation aren’t two sides of the same thing. They’re unique from one another and both need to be utilized for maximum conversions.

Now we’re going to look at how you can improve your website’s search function using third-part tools and analytics, as well as how you can tweak your site’s internal navigation to land more conversions.

Read on to boost your conversion rate using simple and proven search and navigation techniques. 

How to optimize site search and navigation for more conversions

You probably searched the wrong term to end up on this article. It’s not about site search vs navigation. It’s about using both to make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for while discovering new products they’re likely to buy along the way.

Here’s a common scenario: a merchant designs their eCommerce store and makes the main navigation menu. Then they throw a search bar up in the top left corner of the site. It’s probably the eCommerce platform’s default search bar. Then they forget all about it.

Don’t be that merchant.

Remember that your search and navigation are essential functions of a high-converting online store. 

How to optimize your internal site search 

There’s one absolute key rule when it comes to site search: Never, ever show a user a ‘no results’ page. Your search bar should always show something, even if it’s just popular products in your store.

Let’s break down the simple dos and don'ts of internal site search: 

DO:

  • Place your search bar in an easy-to-see location 
  • Use live search to show results as the user types
  • Use site search to promote products similar to others your users have viewed
  • Show popular products if you don’t have any data on a user
  • Have typo tolerance in your search bar
  • Have a synonym bank for similar search terms 
  • Use analytics to see common search terms that yield no direct results 
  • Optimize your synonyms and site content to accommodate these search terms

DON’T:  

  • Leave users on a blank ‘no results’ page 
  • Make your search bar difficult to find 
  • Ignore site search analytics data 
  • Assume people will know the exact names of your products 

Use Boost Product Filter & Search to optimize your search function 

Boost Product Filter & Search allows you to integrate the aforementioned Do’s into your site’s search function. It also gives you advanced analytics data on search queries and conversions resulting from searches.

Boost also gives you the ability to merchandise products in your live search box. This means you can promote products you need to push in a place that people are much more likely to see them.

boost product filter search analytics search vs navigation

Boost Analytics lets you see how many clicks each product filter option gets. This gives you invaluable insight into what type of product, variant, and price range is most popular.   

Tips to use analytics to optimize your site search

Analytics is mesmerizing once you begin to fully understand what you can do with the data. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, as is Boost Analytics for measuring and optimizing your internal site search. Here are some tips to help you know what to do with all that information.

  1. Use the search terms that yield no results to know which new products to stock or which synonyms to add for existing products in your catalog.
  2. Move your search bar around and measure any rise or fall in searches.
  3. Change the products you merchandise in your search function and measure the engagement you get with each one. 

site search google analytics search vs navigation
An example of the Google Analytics site search terms results. Here you can see how many visitors make a search and what common terms are. 

How to optimize your eCommerce website navigation  

How to Optimize Your Conversion Rate with Navigation & Site Search apps on Shopify

Good navigation is key to offering a great user experience on your website. People are more likely to stick around if they can easily get to where they want to be - or where you want them to be.

Optimizing your website’s navigation requires more planning than optimizing site search. Your navigation spans across your entire site and isn’t just limited to the main menu.

You also have to consider the footer section, product filters in collection pages, sub-menus, and even when not to show any navigation to focus a user on one specific conversion goal.

Let’s look at the main menu first. 

How to optimize your site’s main menu 

Your site’s main menu is the frontline of internal navigation. It’s essential that your menu navigation items are relevant and allow users to get to where they want to be without any hassle.

It’s best not to include more than seven menu items. Research shows that the average person’s short-term memory can hold seven items, making this an ideal number to avoid overwhelming users. Here are some more tips:

  • Keep your menu horizontal at the top of the page or vertical down the left-hand side. 
  • List the most important items at the left (or top) of your menu.
  • Include a contact page in the menu
  • Keep it simple and direct 

Dropdown menus

Drop-down menus are great for large general stores with thousands of products, but they’re terrible for small or medium-sized product catalogs. This is because they can be complex and overwhelming when you only have a limited selection of products to list.

Keep dropdown menus for the larger websites. 

Optimize your footer section 

Merchants often forget to optimize the footer section on their websites. This is a mistake. The footer section can boost your conversion rate when used properly.

People tend to scroll down to the bottom of a webpage, then hit back or just leave the site altogether. The footer section can grab the user’s attention and bring them further into the sales funnel. Here are some ways to do that: 

  1. Include a navigation menu in the footer
  2. Link to popular product pages or collections, or even blog posts 
  3. Link to sale collections 

boost footer navigation search vs navigation
The Boost Commerce website has a simple and effective footer with essential navigation, a CTA to subscribe for a newsletter, and some social media links and social proof. 

You can also put essential information like your privacy policy, returns policy, and FAQ section in the footer. But don’t just use this as a section to dump all the boring stuff that no one wants to read. Make sure you’re making the best use of your website’s real estate. 

Optimize your collection pages for more conversions

The collection page can be quite generic - but it doesn’t have to be. Navigation plays a key role in boosting conversions on a collection page.

boost filter search vs navigation

Product filtering, in particular, can help users to find exactly what they’re looking for by removing irrelevant products from the results.

5 Best UI/UX Practices For Your Filter Design in Collection Page

The Boost Product Filter & Search app for Shopify lets users refine the collection page items with custom product filters. They can activate several filters at the same time, for example, size and color.

Product filtering helps users find exactly what they’re looking for, without having to know the product name.

Effective product filtering greatly improves the user experience and is the central component of collection page navigation. 

Use a ‘quick view’ and pop-out cart  

Being able to quickly view essential information, as well as photos and videos, of a product without having to redirect the page is an easy way to earn UX points.

You can also use a pop-out cart so users can quickly see what’s in their shopping cart.

Both of these features prevent users from having to leave your collection page and ensures they’ll have fewer distractions when browsing products.

popout checkout search vs navigation

The pop-out cart on the Shopify Parallax theme allows users to quickly view their cart without being redirected. 

Include social media links

Don’t forget to showcase links to your social media pages clearly on your website. This is a simple navigation win that will allow you to build more of a relationship with users by having them follow your social media accounts.

Encourage users to follow you on social media by letting them know they can receive discount codes, the latest information on new releases, and early access to sales. 

Conclusion: Search and navigation are both essential 

Search and navigation are both useful tools to optimize your eCommerce website. The old search vs navigation debate only distracts merchants from the reality that they’ll earn more conversions by paying attention to both.

Use Boost Product Filter & Search to take back control of your search function and access incredible product filtering features that will boost your conversion rate.

Be sure to tweak your main menu and footer section to see if you have an uptake in engagement. This is a learning process and the best way to expand your understanding is through trial and error - and by reading the Boost blog, of course!