Taking Search from Good to Great

Five recommendations to mature your Search & Discovery capabilities


"Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great."

I was on my way to Oak Island, NC for a family vacation, moving back and forth between three audiobooks. One of them was Good to Great by Jim Collins, assigned to me by Leslie Camacho, Professional EOS Implementer. With the above quote reverberating in my brain, I got to thinking about search…

The week before, we were on a company-wide call with an Algolia alliances manager. I had asked Algolia to demo advanced platform features to our team. The goal: to raise awareness and better equip us to deliver world-class search and discovery experiences to our clients. As Algolia was progressing through the demo, I interjected, “Matt, the problem we’re seeing is that the implementations get stuck. Algolia’s out-of-the-box implementations are so good, and most search experiences so bad, that organizations are wowed into not improving their search experiences after the initial implementation.”

Matt responded by sharing an anecdote of a recent 16-week integration for a major retailer. Matt’s story was of an implementation team pushing a giant boulder uphill toward greatness. The challenge? The initial implementation was so much better than the prior search experience. The old search was bad. The new search, good. Great search required immense willpower, not because of effort, cost, or timelines, but because the initial work was good. Good was indeed, the enemy of great. 

We’ve seen this, too. Over and over again organizations reach out to us looking for a long-term partner to deliver something more than the execution of tasks. They want a collaborator with eyes on the industry, who will join them at the table and contribute strategy and vision.

One of the first steps for us in a new engagement is aligning on vision. What are we going to focus on each quarter to keep from slipping into a reactive cycle of fixes, and instead achieve measurable, forward-looking results? Often, search is one of the best places to focus on measurable improvements that drive ROI and time-to-value (TTV). 

That’s because, in most cases, an organization either has bad search or good search. Seldom, do they have the motivation, discipline, and support that it takes to build great search capabilities. Algolia, in all its greatness, gives everyone a giant, easy button to good. More importantly, though, they equip us with the tools for great. As a trusted partner, we can help lead organizations from bad or good to great.  

How do we do it? Here are five ways to move your organization up the search and discovery maturity ladder:

1. Clearly identify who is owning search.

Someone needs to be responsible for the search and discovery experience, owning the outcome and monitoring key metrics. Too often, organizations know search is important, but mistakenly assume their technology team is owning strategic improvements. However, technology teams, usually developers, aren’t always equipped to think about search implementations strategically. Developers build good experiences that satisfy the initial requests and move on to other things. Whether it is you or your agency partner, make sure someone with the necessary skills owns implementation, unifies marketing and technology behind one goal, and is accountable for the results. 

2. Understand your click and conversion metrics. 

The reality is, most implementations we see lack these metrics entirely. Algolia provides powerful analytics that drive deep understanding of user search and discovery patterns. This data also underpins much of Algolia’s advanced features from dynamic re-ranking to personalization. If you haven’t already, figure out what constitutes a conversion at your organization and then configure your implementation to track click and conversion data. For even greater insights, be sure to tag your search data.

3. Make search a primary means of wayfinding.

Industry data tells us over and over again that search matters. Consider the following statistics compiled by Algolia: conversion rates through search can be up to 50% higher than average. Consumers are 2.4x more likely to buy and spend 2.6x more through search. And, site search optimization can increase conversion rates up to 43%. At the same time, 72% of sites fail website search expectations and a mere 15% of companies dedicate resources to optimizing site search. Companies can’t afford to deprioritize search in favor of other bells and whistles. They need to make search a primary means of wayfinding, rather than a secondary one. 

4. Iterate towards greatness. 

Algolia’s product offering continues to move forward and improve. If your search experience, like the rest of your online presence, isn’t moving forward, you are falling behind. Commit to a cycle of iteration — reviewing, testing, and measuring results – to continue to optimize search and discovery over time.

5. Leverage Algolia resources. 

Algolia has a talented and informed team well-equipped to help you move up the search and discovery maturity ladder. If you choose an Algolia technology partner for your project, you will also benefit from access to Algolia’s own team of experts. They can review your implementation and help you develop a strategy for iterative improvements. In addition to a team of passionate professionals, Algolia maintains some of the best implementation documentation and resources we’ve ever seen. The key here is that you do not need to be alone in the dark on this journey. There are people and resources available to you to light the path. The journey to a great search and discovery experience isn’t getting derailed because the technology is too costly or complicated. We no longer need to throw teams of people and piles of cash at complex Elasticsearch implementations. Instead, search experiences aren’t measuring up to great because organizations are settling for good. Moving up the maturity ladder is about simple, intentional steps starting from a solid search foundation. I hope this post helps motivate you to take the next few steps on the path to greatness.

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