Friday, December 21, 2007

Lyndon Docherty

Trueways Survival School

1) Why did you need Google Custom Search Business Edition (CSBE)?

Trueways Survival School is 'The Authority' in Survival advice, information and training. We make survival training and resources accessible to everyone through a portfolio of courses designed to take participants from basic principles through to advanced training. The goal of our Web site is to offer visitors everything they need relating to survival courses and products and provide the most specifically relevant information in as few clicks as possible. Our web site content is rapidly expanding and we needed to both improve "stickiness" and create opportunities to up-sell visitors on products related to their search queries

2) What technology, if any, did it replace and why?

Previously we had 2 separate search technologies, 1 from within our shop only returning product related results and the other from within the site forum software only showing forum results - both provided results on a different page with a very different presentation style. Obviously, requiring our visitors to use a separate search for each function caused huge navigation issues. In addition to the confusion of needing a different search for different results types, this made it impossible to show products to people only looking for information, thus making ‘related’ sales a challenge. In addition, we were previously unable to provide a search for general pages from the site which didn’t reside within the shop or forum.

3) What benefits have you derived from using CSBE?

We are now able to present 'relevant' products for sale to people looking for information alongside the specific results they want. This has obviously had a measurable impact on our sales. In addition, we can now offer a general site search facility and provide the ability to search for relevant information from all of the content types on our site and present them in a single, consistent manner with a single user interface. This means that people spend more time on the site, find what they want faster and easier and we can track 'what' people are looking for. The fact we can see how much they use search now is a bonus too.

4) What features of CSBE do you appreciate most and why?

We value - highly - the customization. With CSBE, we've designed and built a system similar to Google Adwords - placing 'adwords style' results alongside the standard Google returned results so that any searchers can look at the standard text results, and if they're looking for a specific product, the picture will appear too with the same destination click. This has 2 distinct advantages: 1) a picture is much easier on the eye and faster for clients searching; and 2) we're able to display relevant results immediately (even before Google has indexed the pages) along side other relevant results from our site in the main section of the results page.

5) Are you using Google Analytics on your website?

We understand the clear benefits of good analytics so we're in the process of integrating Google Analytics. Because our site runs on technology which is now a few years old and builds pages dynamically from a MSSQL Database, we've had to take more time on this, but we're almost there so watch this space.

6) What's been the overall impact of using Google CSBE on your website?

Thanks to our customized CSBE, we've consistently seen an increase in sales of products immediately after they appear vs having to wait until people find them. And CSBE has enabled us to remarkably refine results for our forum, shop products and general information creating an infinitely easier user experience throughout our site.

7) Do you have any advice you'd give others in implementing the Google CSBE for their company's use?
Sure. Really make the most of the search to aid your site's navigation. Search is an afterthought for many sites as it was for ours, but with navigation and usability as important as they are, your customers will really get more value from their visit if you encourage and promote it. Give it a prominent place on every page and you'll see the benefits. I use search now to navigate to parts of our site even though I know where they are in the menu as the search is faster or requires fewer clicks.