Many of the tools that Google offers website owners and webmasters are free. We can sometimes take for granted the they offer free stats (Analytics), free business listings in their directory (Google My Business) and free (once again) product listings in their shopping center that help us with our site and expose our businesses to millions of potential customers. One free tool in particular that we find most customers do not understand that well is Google Custom Search.
So, how can you benefit by including this on your website?
Let’s start by telling you what Google Custom Search is. It is basically a search engine for your website. To a visitor it is the search box they use to enter a phrase or product they are interested in, and once they enter the phrase, results are displayed that are only relevant pages from your website (unless you choose to show results from other websites that are indexed by Google). Today, many visitors will not spend time looking through a site’s navigation to find where they need to go. They will head directly to a search box and type in what they are looking for. And there are also times when visitors can’t easily find what they want, they’ll type in a phrase and see a list of pages related to that phrase. The closer the relationship between the search term and any page, the higher up in the results the page will appear.
So how can you utilize this to your advantage? There are a number of ways. The first is that it is a service to your customers and potential customers. For the most part they will use this when they are unsure of where to go within your site navigation, or as a short cut to quickly find something they are looking for.
Second, if visitors are using the search box often it may tell you that there is an issue with the site navigation, so you may want to update it. Google will show you which phrases are being searched on the most (and you can set up Google Analytics to show all onsite searches). This gives you an idea of what people are expecting to find when they get to your site. If the phrases relate to your business, you may want to make it easier for people to find information on it from your main landing pages. If the phrases don’t have to do with your business, you might want to find out how those visitors are getting to your site and work to get traffic that is more relevant and likely to convert.
Another benefit of Google Custom Search is that Google allows you to indicate preferences of which pages of your website you visitors should see at the top of the search results (i.e., get them to product pages vs. general article pages). This means you can steer traffic to the pages that you want them to visit. You can also upload a custom synonym dictionary that relates to your site. Once synonyms are set up on your site you don’t have to worry about what version of a phrase a visitor uses to describe a product. If you are a drink producer, the correct pages will show whether someone types in soda, pop or soft drink.
The short of it is that if you use Google Custom Search effectively, you can work to get more targeted traffic to your website, get site visitors where they want to go quicker and ultimately increase conversions.
We started by telling you that this was one of Google’s free tools. This is true – Google does have a free version of Google Custom Search. But that comes with some restrictions (that are usually not too much for small businesses and blogs). Larger businesses may want to look further into the paid offerings of Google Custom Search to see if they may be more appropriate.
Does this make you want to test out Google Custom Search? Are you using it already? Let us know.