What Is Search Result Quality?

Search is high quality when a user enters terms into your application’s search box and receives precisely the result they were looking for.

Providing great search results is simple in theory, but complex in practice.

The problem of bad search…

Producing high quality search results may seem like a solely technical problem: users can’t find what they’re looking for, your search engine is broken. Although engineering and technical teams are always involved, search impacts companies that rely on search on an organizational level – from product managers to UX, content strategists, sales and marketing.

And when users (shoppers, members, patients, employees) can’t find what they’re looking for, they leave. 

Beyond Relevance to Search Result Quality

Great search results aren’t just the most relevant results – users may prefer items that are in stock, close by for delivery or appealing in other ways. We’ve gone beyond relevance to view Search Result Quality as a wider topic, based on a deep understanding of user behaviour using analytics & data science. We can help your team understand how to measure and understand search result quality.

Search is an organizational issue.

For brands, bad search result quality mean lousy product launches and lost revenue; for e-commerce, it’s less traffic, higher bounce rates and overall profit losses; for product or platform companies, it’s a reason not to buy; for everyone, bad search means unhappy users.

Search is a blind spot in many organizations, big and small, across various industries. If search is core to your organization’s success, your teams may know something is amiss but are unable to identify what’s wrong.

Providing great search result quality isn’t just helpful for your users, it’s a competitive advantage for your organization.

The business case for improving search result quality

Organizations with poor search are at a loss: resource, time, profits, sales, and customer/user experiences. For example:

  • E-commerce and online retailers – Shoppers who don’t find the products they’re looking for simply won’t make a purchase, or they’ll find it on an aggregate seller’s website (Amazon, Walmart)
  • Digital content providers – users and subscribers who can’t find the right information may not renew their subscription, or start using a competitor’s service instead
  • Associations and research-based institutions – Bad search results mean users can’t find what they’re looking for, end up frustrated and often see less value in the membership or service your organization provides.
  • Enterprises and internal search – users are less productive and get frustrated, finding alternative routes to information (‘shadow IT’) that may be incorrect or out of date
  • Products or platforms – if search is a key feature of your product, it must shine to attract and retain users

Great search result quality is all about responding to users’ searches with content that satisfies and sells.