Achieving the best site search is rather like the “holy grail” of ecommerce. Search solutions for Magento are myriad.

Enhancing the Built-In Search Options

First, start by adjusting the built-in search options. This will help you understand what you actually need to improve upon. Once all or most of your products are loaded, complete with descriptions, then experiment with all three options in Step 2 below.

1) Adjust which fields (i.e., attributes) are searchable. Select Catalog / Attributes / Manage Attributes and filter on ‘Searchable’ to see which fields on your site are actually being searched. Adjust the attributes as needed. If there are fields you want to be searchable, like Color, Brand, or Long Description, you should add them now . Adjust ‘Use in Quick Search’ to Yes or No accordingly. You can also adjust Use in Advanced Search accordingly, although most searches from the header area field are driven by the Quick Search.

2) Adjust the type of search. Select System / Configuration / Catalog / Catalog / Catalog Search. Note: After changing your search type, you’ll likely need to re-index your data (System / Index Management).

  • Like: The ‘like’ method is based on a database query method that states “Find me results that are similar to this keyword”. So if you are selling notebooks and notepads, and somebody on your website types the word ‘note’, the ‘like’ search setting allows that shopper to view all options where the product name has the word ‘note’ in it. It is considered a more ‘loose’ approach to searching because you are not forcing the user to only view results that are a 100% perfect match with your keyword. This type of option can have performance issues and is not based on ‘relevance’ at all so it is not the most accurate method of searching. Its primary benefit is the ability to find products if a customer accidentally mistypes a product name. This is why many people prefer the ‘fulltext’ method.
  • Fulltext: If you select ‘fulltext’ as the ‘search method’ for your store’s search engine, you will be providing your visitors with a search that bases results on relevance. It will *not* find partial matches, so if you type note in the search box, you are not going to see ‘notebook’ products listed. What it will do, though, is, behind the scenes, calculate which products are the best match for your search so if you have a few products with the keyword in the title, since NRO also searches the description of a product, it will be able to weigh which listings are worth showing first. The advantage to this method is you are providing a higher quality listing of products based on their search. The potential disadvantage is that if they make a mistake on typing the keyword, they will not find the product they intended to find. This is why the third option, titled ‘combine’, may be appealing to some people.
  • Combine (Like + Fulltext) - RECOMMENDED: The ‘combine’ method uses the power of both ‘like’ and ‘fulltext’ searches. When it comes to matching product titles with the keyword, just like a ‘like’ query, it will allow for partial words to be matched such as ‘note’, as a search word, pulling up listings for ‘notepad’ – something a ‘fulltext’ search will not do. As for generating results, the ‘combine’ method, while it is flexible when it comes to finding products with a partial match of the keyword, it uses the flexibility and power of the ‘fulltext’ search in order to sort results by relevancy. Therefore, as it is described in its title, it is combining the benefits of ‘like’ and ‘fulltext’ searching. Now that you are familiar with the logic behind the three NRO search options, it is time to learn how to configure your search feature.

3) Add Search Redirects: Create redirects for obvious search terms and their matching results on your site. For example, if many shoppers are searching for “car seat” but you already have a category landing page for car seats, then create a redirect so that the shopper lands on the category page instead of a search results page, especially if this landing page is curated with the best-sellers and most popular items. In doing so, you are guiding users to a category page which will then give them the ability to see a much ‘richer’ experience as these pages provide the opportunity to showcase static block content (banners), full faceted sub-category and reductive attribute navigation as if they were using the standard category menu navigation. This can be especially useful if catalog/category rules are in place as these are typically category specific (as opposed to displaying products that may not land into a particular promotion). For more info, see Customizing Search Keywords in the NRO Help Center.

4) Add Search Synonyms (Catalog / Search Terms): In addition to creating redirects for common search terms, there is also the ability to add synonyms for search queries so that shoppers will be presented with terms that are more commonly used across your catalog. For example if the term ‘suitcase’ is not commonly used in attributes that are indexed in search, you can have this as a synonym for ‘luggage’ if that is a very common term used in product names and descriptions (assuming that these are available to be searched). To make this even more powerful, include a redirect to the appropriate link where you want to have your shoppers go. A point to note is that this will be most beneficial after there is historical data of search terms to analyze so that you can see what is happening on your site and the behaviors of shoppers. We recommend revisiting this on a monthly basis as external trends will have an influence (new products names, catchphrases, marketing efforts and a changing product catalog).

5) See More Search Tips from Blue Acorn: http://www.blueacorn.com/improve-magento-sales-with-better-search-results/

Search Add-Ons

If you need more powerful searches, take a look at the following add-ons for improving search results, as well as Which Search Add-On is Right for Me?

Search Pro

Increase relevance of search results and specify search priority for attributes. Include product thumbnails in the search hover.

Nextopia Site Search

Innovative search, dynamic filtering, and ecommerce merchandising from Nextopia, the global leader in site search solutions. Nextopia's learning algorithm improves the relevancy of search results over time by pushing the most popular, clicked-through products to the top of search results.