March 12, 2008
Case Study

4 Simple Steps to Tweak Site Search Box & Lift Conversions 20%

SUMMARY: Most online marketers know that getting viewers to use onsite search usually lifts conversions. But how much impact does enlarging your search box really have?

Turns out quite a bit. A home décor eretailer boosted the size of its search box and saw conversions jump 20% and revenue 84%. The change was so simple that you could test or implement it in no time.
Jason Dupus, President, Black Forest Décor, and his marketing team anticipated making several little changes to copy and navigation buttons when they began a website redesign late last summer. But more than anything, they wanted to optimize their onsite search box.

Like other eretailers, they saw greatly improved conversions from visitors who queried keywords for products with their site search when compared to those who navigated without it. They thought the search box was key. Data from MarketingSherpa’s Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2007 supports their hunch: 43% of consumers go to a website’s internal search box to look for a product or a category.

“We wanted to clean up several design areas, but we had a hunch going in that getting the search box just right could pay big [dividends],” Dupus says.

First, Dupus and his team compared their design to several top retailers’ sites. “It became clear that implementing a bigger [format] would make it easier to find and use. And, based on the conversion rates we were seeing in the old design, we easily concluded that getting more search queries would mean more sales.”

With that analysis in hand, here’s what they did in four easy steps:

-> Step #1. Dramatically increase search box size

Working from the assumption that they were pretty sure that a bigger net would catch more fish, they increased the overall pixel space their onsite search box took up on the page by 72%.

Here’s a breakdown of what the two different formats looked like:
- Old search box: 20-by-18-pixel rectangle, including 209 pixels for the white, keyword fill-in field.
- New search box: 30-by-18-pixel rectangle, including 359 pixels for the white, keyword fill-in field.

-> Step #2. Move search box to center of page

They noticed that retailers like and Wal-Mart had their search boxes centered on the page rather than in the top-right corner or left-hand navigation bar like most sites. So, Dupus and his team moved the search box from the top-right corner to a centered position above the fold directly below their top navigation bar.

“We wanted to clearly emphasize site search through placement on the design, and we thought putting it in a centered position would simply make it more visible.”

-> Step #3. Tweak copy near search box

Then, they wanted to see whether they could better optimize the copy around the search box. They changed the copy on the button to the right of the search box from "Go" to “Find.”

Some team members thought the word Go was dated,” Dupus says. “And ‘Find’ just looks and sounds so much more search-related by nature. Onsite searchers, after all, are trying to find something. We are sure that the copy change has helped our performance because it makes so much more sense.”

-> Step #4. Add color to search box

Finally, they decided that the former search box, mostly hued in gray, looked too drab. “We thought the search box was probably getting lost in the design a little.”

To get viewers’ attention, they added color to the box:
o Dark green in bold font for the box’s outline and the words “Search”
o Dark red in bold font for the “Find” button
o Off white in the small rectangle surrounding the “Find” button to make it more three-dimensional
o White for the search field

The design strategy mirrored the overall goal of the search-box makeover -- make it more primary to the user’s site experience. “We wanted the search box to jump out and create a more eye-catching presence.”
Dupus instincts on a bigger box were dead on. Their simple tweaks blew them away. Compared to the previous search box, the larger one saw:
o 20% lift in conversions for people using onsite search
o 84% increase in average revenue per customer using search
o 34% increase in website conversion rate

“I thought we’d see increases,” Dupus says. “But the kind of lifts we got were pretty surprising, especially the conversions.”

In addition, the number of raw searches increased significantly. “That was another benefit because it also gave us more options for keyword terms to consider for our SEM campaigns, and that part of the redesign didn’t take a whole lot of work.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Black Forest Décor’s internal search test:

SLI Systems - Black Forest Décor’s onsite search technology provider:

Vastplanet Corp. - marketing services firm that aided in the effort:

Black Forest Décor:

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