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If you work in the eCommerce industry, you should be familiar with the value of reviewing user searches when it comes to adapting your store’s UI. Find out what shoppers are searching for and you can put the most profitable in-demand products front and center, save people time, drive more conversions, and generally improve store performance for a negligible time and design investment.

And of course there’s clear value in determining your product range, too. If your prospective customers are heatedly clamoring for an item that you don’t have in stock (or don’t stock at all), then you can take action to meet those needs.

But what else can you achieve by looking at how shoppers are searching for things? Can you, for instance, use that information to improve your product copywriting? That’s what we’re going to investigate in this piece. Let’s review the kinds of things you can glean from searches, and consider to what extent you can use them to boost your writing.

The complexity of a search string

What’s in a search string? As it happens, quite a lot. Search engines have long struggled to parse searcher intent for a reason: it’s very complicated and much of the information is unavailable (and thus can only be guessed).

Just think about the factors that can affect how a search string is composed:

  • The brand awareness of the searcher
  • The vocabulary of the searcher
  • The presence of autocomplete or autosuggest options
  • The existence of products with similar presentations
  • The context of the search
  • The device being used
  • The input method
And that’s just a basic list — I’m sure I could drum up some more. Regardless, there’s clearly a lot to unpack. If you approach your search analytics with a keyword-obsessed mindset, you’ll end up missing a lot of nuanced details that can give you meaningful pointers.

Let’s look at an example search to see how we can interpret it. Suppose that you look into your store’s search records and find that someone searched for “buy book store”. What could that mean? Well, let’s break it down. Buy has imminent purchase intent, so that part is entirely clear.

The next part is more ambiguous, though, because there are several possible readings:

  • They want to buy a book from a store (ideally yours).
  • They want to buy a book about stores, or about a particular store.
  • They want to buy a book about storage, or how to store things.
  • They want to buy some kind of utility item for storing books.
  • They want to actually buy a store that sells books.

These aren’t equally likely, of course. Anyone interested in a book about a particular store would name it, someone interested in buying a business would be looking into businesses for sale through dedicated marketplaces, not eCommerce stores, and I don’t imagine many people would think to refer to bookcases as “book stores”but the point is that they’re possible.

What you can easily glean from searches

As noted, a lot of context is unavailable, but there are plenty of things you can quickly take from your internal searches.

Here are some to get us started:

  • Are more of your searches very succinct, the kinds of search strings that you’d tend to get from savvy internet users? Think of bare-bones searches reduced to keywords. “Buy pizza two toppings dessert” might be how someone would search for a place to buy pizza with two toppings and a dessert, for example. Alternatively, are your searches closer to natural English? The less artificial the phrasing, the more likely you are to be dealing with people who aren’t all that comfortable with online searching.
  • There are places in the world where a pizza can be referred to as a pie and other places where the two are viewed as completely different. By looking at your searches, you can get a comprehensive view of the terms your visitors are favoring, and discern patterns and relations. Your primary keyword for a page might not be the most common term — which would be a problem.
  • When searchers feel the need to narrow down their searches, they add to the strings, and the way they do this can tell you a lot about what they prioritize, and in what order. For instance, “buy pizza within 30 minutes three toppings money back guarantee” says something slightly different from “buy pizza money back guarantee three toppings within 30 minutes”, because people will generally place important things first — though be sure to take standard adjective ordering into account, because it plays a huge role.

Each one of these things requires no additional context to be useful and can be looked at quickly and easily (provided you have the right kind of search system in place). Now, onwards to the titular question — how can this help?

How search info can improve your sales copy

Your sales copy is anything you write for the prospective customer during the sales funnel, created to drive them towards the next step: one step closer to making a purchase. In the case of organic traffic, it starts in earnest the moment someone reaches your website — if you’re running PPC campaigns, it starts with the ads.

And while there’s a lot of room for creativity with sales copy (though adhering to the classic formulas, since concepts like selling benefits instead of features have been successful for a long, long time), there are certain things you must do, such as ensure that you make your best effort to match the language of your users.

After all, it doesn’t really matter how you prefer to talk or refer to your products — you’re not the prospective buyer, and your opinion isn’t significant. People like their specific needs and styles to be catered to, particularly when it comes to search. If someone is going to sell you something, then they should at the very least understand some basic things about you.

When the time comes to freshen up one of your product pages, take a close look at the search history for it, and compare that information to the existing copy. Are there keywords in there that don’t exist in your copy? Descriptors that you never mention, even if you can actually adhere to them? Terms, explanations and tips likely to go over the heads of your searchers?

This isn’t about thinking less of your prospective customers. In the end, it’s about making sure that as few people as possible are driven from your sales funnel by a style of writing lacking appeal. You’re never going to have copy that’s perfect for everyone, but you can flesh it out to the extent that no buyer-intent searches go wasted.

Patrick Foster is a writer and eCommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips. Much of his time goes towards blogging about the latest developments from the ecommerce world. For updates on the latest events, head to the ET Twitter @myecommercetips.