I would like to share with you my thoughts on how user reviews can improve site search on an ecommerce site. We are seeing an increasing number of our customers allowing their visitors to write reviews and rate their products. Many are using our partners, PowerReviews or BaazarVoice to do this. On a personal level, I can see why this trend is happening; I feel more comfortable buying a product if I can read reviews first. By offering reviews on an ecommerce site it means the prospective customer doesn’t have to go somewhere else to get these. Having reviews on a site should increase conversion rates.
The additional information collected from these reviews and ratings can be used to enhance site search in the following ways:
- The ratings summary (normally 1-5 stars) can be displayed in search. In particular this draws peoples attention to the products with good ratings.
- refine and sort by rating – this allows people to more easily find products with good ratings.
- Use ratings to weight results. The idea here is to give products that have a better rating more prominence in the search. You do need to be careful with this type of approach – just because a product has a good rating doesn’t mean it’s relevant for all keywords. But where two products have similar relevance it makes sense to show the one with the better rating first. Our initial experiments with this have been positive.
- Index additional text in reviews. The reviews add additional text to your product pages. This is useful for SEO purposes but it is also potentially useful for your site search. If the text in the reviews is indexed by your site search then your visitors are going to be able to find results using a broader range of phrases.
User reviews empower people by allowing them to express themselves and influence the choices of others. This fits nicely with SLI’s Learning search which uses peoples selection from search results to improve the relevance for others. Together user reviews and site search are a nice complement.