Is Your Website Ready?

Web Distribution Channels

Many Australian retailers are beginning to realise the importance of the web as a distribution channel and lucrative revenue stream. Only a few organisations are currently benefiting from an early adopter advantage in the online marketplace whilst the masses are still in the starting blocks paralysed by their lack of website investment. Hitwise research confirmed this trend in August 2008 when it highlighted that in the Australian marketplace pure play online businesses are streaks ahead of the competition in the online space.

The Facts – Online Consumer Spending in Australia

If your organisation is yet to be convinced by the opportunity, the following statistics demonstrate the value of an online distribution channel;
– Australian shoppers spent an average of $1,097 buying products online in 2008, with the forecast for 2009 set to defy the offline recessionary trends.
– Despite the current economic conditions, online spending in Australia is set to increase by 12 percent in 2009.
– According to IBIS World, online retailing is forecasted to be $15.8 billion in Australia. In 2006, online retailing was $11 billion – which equates to 44% growth in 3 years.

Getting Ahead the CompetitionGetting Ahead of The Competition

If your organisation clearly understands the opportunity and is looking to seize the potential of the online channel, it is important that you are not only playing catch up. To be successful your organisation will need to build a presence that will outperform the influx of new competition that I believe is on the horizon in the next 12 months.

I have detailed 3 of the most important considerations below that I feel are pertinent for successful websites wishing to gain drive significant levels of revenue from the online channel over the coming years.


Portability relates to the ability for site users to take your content and move it into their own online environment. As the internet has evolved users are becoming accustom to the many social tools available to share content freely. Thus it is important for organisations to determine how their consumers and the brand can benefit from content portability. At a very basic level content can be made portable through social bookmarking or by offering code for videos or blog articles that users can embed into their own blog or online environment to share with their network. As a more advanced approach, sites may create widgets (that deliver content) which can be placed on users social network pages or start up pages ie iGoogle or PageFlakes. This type of strategy provides users with more frequent brand exposure and provides the opportunity for organisations to benefit from viral distribution of content through user networks.


With Australian consumers spending an increasing amount of time on the web and less time on corporate sites, personalisation of the web experience is of increasing importance.
Personalisation is not a new concept but its lack of deployment has left most sites with a static and unengaging experiences. The demonstrates outstanding innovation in this field enabling users to create their own personalised home page. As the site is built with widgets users can re-arrange it to inline with their “news preferences” thus users are served with the content they want to see – boosting interactivity and engagement on the site. Personalisation also extends to delivering tailored content based on a users onsite behaviour.
But personalisation does not need to be so elaborate, serving users with content or products based on a users profile, geographic location or prior transactional history is a step in the right direction for many static sites. In addition organisations can use basic cookies to remember previous search queries so users are not faced with repetitious tasks like continually specifying their search query. Sometimes these subtle differences can make a world of difference when it comes to improving the user experience.

Community & Collaboration

Web Community CollaborationThe web is now characterised by many communities working collaboratively to share and exchange ideas and solve problems – so why can’t users do the same on your site. In the retail space, consumers rely on other consumer experiences to drive decision making for purchases. Many sites lose significant levels of traffic as users go in search of knowledge and assistance provided by the many opinions and reviews online. As a result it is important for organisations to consider how the community and collaboration element can be built into site architecture.

Does this mean you need to build a forum or integrate review functionality into your site? Not necessarily, for example many travel websites have benefited from integrating reviews from TripAdvisor into their site rather than building their own. The benefit of doing so is that many of these brands will never have the rich content offered by a leader in the travel review market. Brands which can integrate community elements or build partnerships to deliver this to its users will be able to add a further dimension of engagement which is needed to compete in the web 2.0 space.

Do you have any additional trends that you wish to share, why not do so below.

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Traditional Marketing Techniques & Their Modern Equivalents

Web 2.0 Strategy

Web 2.0 has allowed the relationship between brands and consumers to evolve. The very nature of web 2.0, has provided consumers with the power to influence their peers and the tools to co-create their brand experience. This has and will continue to alter the way in which brands are engaging their audience. Traditional marketing approaches will obviously retain their place within the marketing mix, but with further digital fragmentation and consumers bombarded with brand messages, marketers must consider how to leverage the new approaches to outsmart the competition.

This article reviews some of those traditional marketing concepts, tactics, tools and measures and their modern day equivalents.


Online Retail CustomersFrom Web Centric Brand Experiences To Total Online Brand Experience

Consumers are spending more time on the web – up to 16 hours per week in Australia, and yet we are working harder to retain users online. Consider the average length of time visitors spend onsite – 5 to 10 minutes vs the average time users spend on Facebook or MySpace – 20 to 30 minutes. Social media has provided users with their own web presence and this is where web users are spending their time, in their surrounds and with their community. Innovative brands will recognise this trend and maximise brand engagement both on and offsite.

From Brand Messages To Content Marketing

Long gone are the days where brands are trusted. Consumer cynicism is high and customers are becoming less responsive to brand messages. Brands that truly deliver value through content will prosper as they assist consumers to solve problems rather than push the organisations agenda. In addition the viral nature of the web enables consumers to share and review popular content with their peers, making organisation assets more portable than traditional advertising formats.

Tactics & Tools

From Advertorials To Personal Blogging

There will continue to be a shift from paid advertisements written and presented as editorials in popular publications, to personal experiences and opinions communicated by the new authorities of the web – personal bloggers.

From PR to Social News Sites

No longer is the news dictated by few. Social news sites provide consumers and brands with the power to contribute and vote on what is newsworthy making PR submission the traditional route to market.

From Email to RSS & Social Networks

Email is no longer a communication hub to stay in touch with friends, family and the wider community. Social networks provide a much more dynamic way for users to communicate and interact, reducing a users dependence on their inbox. As a result brands will compete for attention in saturated inboxes – so relevance will become key for email marketing.

From a content delivery perspective, email is also diminishing in relevance as users can syndicate content to their personal web presence – allowing users to consume content when they want and in the format they prefer.

Artificial Popularity vs Real Popularity For Search

SEO and Content StrategyEven though search is still relatively new tactic, search engine optimisation is still evolving. Onsite content optimisation combined with extensive artificial link building is not enough. The best brands will succeed in search through gaining real popularity online – providing consumers with the tools to share content from their site which can result in “viral like” inbound links as content moves across the web.


From Reach to Engagement

Advertising measures include amongst other variables “reach” of the brand message however did that brand message make any impact on your target group or consumer? Brands will move from reach to focus on targeting smaller audiences which are engaging with the brand rather than attempting to touch mass audiences and gaining little recall.

The above does not encompass all new tools, tactics, concepts and measures. Do you have any additional ones? If so why not share them here.

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Leveraging The Blogging Community

When organisations consider blogging, one of the favoured strategies is the creation of a brand or corporate blog. However one of the under-utilised and unexplored assets on the web in Australia is the “personal bloggersphere.” Whilst it may be slightly premature to brand this as the next big digital trend in Australia, I believe leveraging independent blogs to achieve commercial objectives will increase in popularity over the coming years.

Why consider leveraging the personal bloggersphere?

Personal blogging is on the rise in Australia, as individuals attempt to showcase their expertise within a given field. These individuals are becoming thought leaders within the online community and are emerging as key influencers across many interest categories. And although the popularity of maintaining a personal blog in Australia is not as high as in Asia and other parts of the world, there is a sizable captive audience listening to the thoughts and opinions of the online blogging community.

According to recent research, 69% of Australians read blogs between 2 to 3 times a week and whilst this lags behind the rest of the world, it is still a significant portion of the Australian population.

However before diving into the bloggersphere there are several considerations a brand must make. One of the most important is the lack of control brands may have when utilising the personal bloggersphere, as blogs are not another platform to simply publish advertorial like content. Bloggers are trusted by their readers and want to protect the authenticity of their content from commercialisation. As a result brands may (depending on how the arrangement is structured) have less control over the final message projected by the blogger about their brand experience.

Personal BloggingThe Personal Blogging Channel In Practice

Tourism Australia, is one of the innovative Australian brands utilising the bloggersphere to connect with its global audience. Their strategy is simple, Tourism Australia has identified some of the emerging opinion leaders on the web and will host them down under.

Popular Australian Blogs

Whilst this article does not equip you with all the knowledge you need to embark on strategies within the personal bloggersphere, I have detailed a few links below to enable you to continue your research on the emerging blogs in Australia;

Top 30 Australian Food Blogs

If you know of any other popular blogs in Australia, why not share them below.

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It’s A Question Of Ownership – Social Media

Social Search Strategy

There seems to be a debate over the ownership of social media within organisations. This debate is particularly important and relevant for larger brands who are vulnerable to consumers and employees airing their dissatisfaction – causing many reputation management issues on social media sites. According to a recent survey – 67% of Australian executives regard their company’s reputation as vulnerable, but many are unaware of what consumers and ex-employees may be saying about them in Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and other social sites.

However the social opportunity is not just about reputation management. Organisations have the opportunity to create a lasting impression with consumers that supports the achievement of other brand and corporate objectives.

Thus the rise of the participative web presents organisations with many opportunities and it seems many departments are all vying for a piece of the action.

So let’s take a look at who is fighting for it, why and who should ultimately be responsible for social media.

Marketing Department

Why? Marketing want control over the brand message and see the potential to leverage channels that contribute to positive and engaging brand experiences.

PR DepartmentPR Department

Why?To quote a recent discussion I had with a PR consultant “It makes sense for PR departments to manage social media because we are best trained to deal with reputation management”, as a result it is obvious why the PR department feel it is part of their remit.

Customer Service

Why? In this scenario it might be a case of why the customer service team does not want ownership. If resources are tight and the customer service department is measured on call statistics, do they have the time?


Why? Many SEO departments and even SEO agencies are vying for responsibility of social media as the viral nature of content distribution reduces the need to build artificial links. Social media also contributes to the quest of dominating SERPs both on and offsite.

Product Innovation & Research

Why? End users are discussing products and services through social channels which provide product development with the opportunity to gain valuable insight for product improvement. But will they take criticism personally and act inappropriately?

Whilst all valid arguments, I believe that the social media ownership discussion is similar to the CRM ownership discussion which plagued organisations a decade ago. Ultimately many social media strategies could have multiple objectives and/or require cross functional teams to own/champion the project.

Thus if this is the case and it is an organisational issue, what is of key importance is to ensure that social media has a voice at board/senior management level and that departments are working together to determine the best way to harness the power of the channel rather than adopting a silo approach.

Have you had an internal debate on the subject? How do you feel about the ownership issue? Please share your comments below.

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Local Search – Why & How

Evolving Local Search Strategy

Why is it important?

Those who read my blog regularly will know, there is rarely an article that does not contain statistics. So to start you off here are some statistics which justify the importance of local search;

Local Search Growth – According to a study by ComScore, local search volume has grown at a faster pace than regular web searches. Year on year, local search volume grew by 58% (vs. 21% for regular search) and now represents 12% of all user searches. In the Australian market this therefore equates to approx 1.3 million local searches per year.

Mobile Internet Growth – According to a recent report from Nielsen, 68% of all Australian mobile devices have mobile internet access, and 44% of those utilised their mobile device to access the internet. As mobile internet provides GPS tracking, it opens up many opportunities for the delivery of local search results.

Google’s Focus On Local Search; For sometime Google has been working on the delivery of more local search results for its users. One of their latest blog articles, covers the wider spread use of maps to deliver local search results even when a location has not been entered with the search term. This targeting is executed through the use of IP targeting.

How to go Local?

Local Domain Extensions1. Domain Extension; If you are yet to register your domain, consider the use of a domain especially if you have a local business. Whilst a .com domain can be appealing from a cost perspective, it is outweighed by the lost opportunity from an SEO perspective.

2. Local Host Provider;
One way Google determines if a site is local to a country is by the location of a sites server. It is not enough to host your site with a local provider as even though their offices are located in Australia their servers may be hosted overseas. Refer to to determine where your hosting provider is located.

3. Google Local Business Listing;
Secure your local business listing through the Google local business centre at It isn’t however enough just to claim the listing, ensure that you provide comprehensive information which products and services, office hours, images and even user reviews and discount vouchers.
As an extra tip if your organisation covers several locations register your business in the separate localities. To do so you will need a physical address which can be achieved through acquiring a PO box in each additional location.

So now you know why to optimise for local search here are 8 tips to do so:

4. Contact Us / About Us Address Optimisation
– Google is aware that address / location information for a business is usually held within the about us or contact details section of a site, thus ensure that you have your full business address/es listed on the relevant pages even if it is not crucial for your customers to know your physical office location.

Local Directory Listing5. Local Directory Listings
– Whilst directory listings have lost some of their value from a “link juice” perspective, listings detailing location details, can assist Google to determine your location. Maintain your listings on, and any of the other prominent Australian directories.

6. Content Optimisation – It is important to also make your location prominent throughout your site. Where relevant optimise your content to include location details (ie within meta tags, and within copy). Don’t make the mistake of stuffing your content with location keywords – remember it needs to make sense for your users.

7. Local Speech Optimisation
– If your product or service location is usually referred to with a nickname – also try optimising your site for this location as well ie Chaddy vs Chadstone.

8. Google Webmaster Location
– Within the Google Webmaster Tool, there is now a setting to select your Geographic location. If you are not familiar with the Google Webmaster tool visit

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Australian Social Media Statistics Compendium

Social Media Strategy

With so many new social sites emerging it is very important for marketers to have Australian specific intelligence to determine which channels are the most attractive to pursue as part of your marketing strategy.

I have collated a summary of the key community sites in Australia (exc social news site), to aid your decision making and assist to develop a strong business case to drive the “social” agenda in your organisation.

Why should organisations invest in a social media strategy?

Social Media StrategyAt a recent marketing seminar it was identified that only 18% of all organisations have a social media strategy. Thus for those which need to understand more about the importance of social media here are a few statistics;

In Australia, one in two Australians use social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace. On average Australians are members of 2.7 different sites, with the global average membership at 2.5 different sites. 8% of the time Australians spend on the internet is on social networking sites and each session on these sites range between 20 – 30 minutes in length. These statistics demonstrate the “need” to be where your target market is spending their time on the web. In addition it demonstrates the time people are investing in their online relationships. Time which can often influence users decisions on a range of topics and products.

But are web users that bothered to discuss brands? Nielsen recently published figures which suggests that;

Two in five (41 per cent) published opinions specifically about brands, while more than twice as many (86 per cent) read such content.

Social Networking Sites


Facebook has become the most popular social networking site in Australia as many users have started to desert MySpace for Facebook.
Members: 5 million users in Australia – May 2009
User Profile;
Gender: 57% female / 43% male
Household Income: 56% of users have a household income of above $75,000 and 34% of users have a household income above $100,000.
Average Time on Site; According to Hitwise Facebook members spent 21 minutes and 15 seconds on the site.
Other Interesting Information; Facebook has 38% reach of Australians online according to the Nielsen Globalfaces report.

Niche Social MediaMySpace

Members: 2.1 million Australian users
User Profile;
According to Nielsen Netratings MySpace Australia’s target audience is not as skewed towards the older demographic as it is in the US. 48% of Australian visits are aged below 25.
Gender: 59% female / 41% male
Household Income: 52% of site users have a household income of $35,000 – $75,000. Only 19% have a household income above $100,000.
Monthly Unique Visitors: According to Nielsen Online, MySpace attracted 2,362,000 visitors in December and on average a MySpace user views 252 pages.
Average Time on Site; 27 minutes and 46 seconds

When comparing Facebook and MySpace it is obvious that the Facebook demographic represents a high portion of professional / mid – high income earners whilst MySpace appeals to a younger less affluent audience.


According to the Nielsen GlobalFaces report in March 2009, Bebo is the 3rd largest social network in Australia. However Bebo’s early success in Australia in 2007 has since diminished. Bebo is still the 3rd most popular however Friendster is hot on its heels.
Members: In late 2007 it was 2.8 million (unfortunately I cannot source an updated figure).
User Profile:
Gender: 68% female / 32% male
Age: Those 12 – 24 represent 76% of total network members
Average Time Per Site: 25 minutes per session


Members: 1 million users in Australia
User Profile:
Gender: 57% male / 43% female
Age: 43% of network users are 18 – 24 and 33% are 25 – 34.
Average Time Per Site: 15 minutes 40 seconds per session


Twitter StrategyMembers: 249,000 February 2009
Growth: Traffic from Australia to Twitter grew by 1,067% from the beginning of 2009. Twitter is now the 37th most visited web site in Australia – moving from position 81 in February.
User Profile;
Gender: 57% male / 43% female
Age: 29% are aged 35 – 44 and 18% are aged 45 – 54.
Household Income: 71% of all users have a household income greater than $50K and 50% are over $75,000.
Average Time on Site; 13 minutes 10 seconds

Other Important Information; Global figures show the retention rate of Twitter is approximately 40%, whilst it is 70% on Facebook & MySpace. More than 60% of Twitter users are said to deflect from the site within 1 month. With the rate in which membership has grown in Australia, it is believed that the retention rate may be higher than that of the global average however it is still an important consideration when trying to develop online relationships with your consumers.

Whilst not as affluent or highly educated as LinkedIn members (refer below), Twitter’s profile does demonstrate similarities with the LinkedIn profile. Whilst Twitter promotes itself as a social messaging facility it has obviously been embraced by many professionals and entrepreneurs. As a result, Twitter is useful for both B2C & B2B markets.

Professional Networking Sites


Members: 637,000 Australian users.
Growth: 23% increase in members over the past 8 months
User Profiles:
Gender: 62% male / 38% female
Education; 80% of users have further education (diploma/degree/masters)
Average household income; $109, 703 & 34% own a PDA
Average age; 41 years old

Xing is another professional network however it has not gained traction in the Australian marketplace thus has not been covered in this article.

Check out this video on what social networking sites people are using:

Do you have any statistics that I have missed, if so please share them below.

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digiCast – Social Shopping – Why It Will Take Off Down Under

Online Retailing

With social media cementing its position in our lives there is barely time for marketers to get their head around a new site/social channel before the next one is upon us.

Whilst social shopping is not a new concept it is yet to reach the mass adoption of other social media channels. However it seems that this is all set to change.

New to social shopping? What is it all about?

Social shopping websites/networks leverage the community and relationship aspects of social media to enable consumers to share, discuss and rate retail products.

Why will it take off now?

The online influence

Online retailing is just one of the booming digital sectors in Australia and whilst not all activity in this sector directly results in online sales – the influence of the internet in the decision making process cannot be ignored;

Research from the Australian Centre for Retail Studies (January 2008) showed that 50 per cent of Australian shoppers had researched their products online before heading into a store to complete their purchase.

Retail Search Behaviour

In addition many sectors are experiencing significant growth in search queries which depict the growing interest to research and or buy retail products online. So which sub-sectors are sparking interest on the web?

According to Google in a recent press release;
• Shopping-related queries were 22% higher in March 2009, compared with March 2008 Apparel-related queries were 34% higher in March 2009, compared with March 2008
• Queries for Clothing labels and designers were 29% higher in March 2009, compared with March 2008

Online Retail CustomersOnline Retail Spending Trends

If like most trends we are behind our US & UK counterparts, online shopping is set to grow in Australia. Online shopping comprises almost 7 per cent of all purchases in the British department store segment and 8 per cent in the US, IBISWorld figures show. In Australia, online shopping is worth less than 3 per cent of department store sales. However according to IBISWorld, online retailers will grow by 4.3 per cent per annum over the next five years, providing much-needed good news to the fashion industry.
Part of this trend is driven by the economic downturn which is driving more Australians to turn to the internet to source bargains through research and price comparisons rather than buying on impulse. However part of this is also driven by the increasing amount of time users spend online.

What sites are out there?

There are already many social shopping networks and bookmarking sites that are popping up. I have detailed some of the popular sites for you however this is becoming a popular space and there are many other alternatives;

Very popular on a global scale Kaboodle attracts more than 12 million visitors per month. Kaboodle is a social shopping network where users can discover new products and recommend items to their friends.

According to Alexa, Kaboodle sits within the top 1000 sites in Australia. 1.6% of their total monthly visitors are from Australia which equates to nearly 200,000 Australian visitors per month.

Online Shopping BookmarkerStyleFeeder

StyleFeeder is said to be more of a social bookmarking service for shopping to enable users to bookmark items of interest and gain ratings from their friends.

According to Forrester Style Feeder generates 1.2 million unique visitors per month, of which 1.8% are from Australia – representing approx 22,000 unique Australian visitors per month.


ThisNext positions its site as a shopcasting network to discover and broadcast a users interest in products. According to Alexa, Australian traffic to thisnext was approx 45,000 in September of 2008 and given the sites growth this number could be substantially higher.


Tribesmart is a social shopping community which has a strong emphasis on product reviews as well as offering the opportunity to gain user opinions and have discussion with tribes. Accordingly to Alexa Australians represent a total of 10.6% of the sites total traffic. In December 2008 the site only generated 42,000 unique visitors thus only 4,200 Australians visited – however I have listed it as one to watch given the portion of Australian users.

So what opportunities exist?

If you are managing an eCommerce site in Australia and are new to social shopping the first step is to start to observe community behaviour and interests to determine which site/s are best for your target audience.

These sites offer many benefits to marketers from more traditional online opportunities such as affiliate programs and online advertising, through to other benefits derived from social media platforms such as group development, ability to demonstrate specialist knowledge in niche product categories through Q&A type functions, product feedback gathering along with gaining market intelligence to identify future/upcoming trends.

If you have experimented with social shopping sites, or want to add an additional popular social shopping site for Australians why not share your thoughts below.

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Improving Your User Experience With Onsite Search

Webs Search Onsite

With 11.8 million Australian searches conducted per month on Google, my guess is that users dependence on search engines is playing a major role in shaping our expectations for onsite search capabilities.

This is not to say that Google has created the optimal search function, on the contrary users still struggle to find what they are looking for. However there are some key learnings that we can take from Google to improve our onsite search capability which will be explored in this article. Along with this I have thrown in some others factors that are not always considered but can have a significant impact to improving onsite search.

What Google Has Taught Us

One of the key benefits of Google is its ability for users to conduct a search and results are returned instantly. This has made us a nation of impatient web users. Speed that rivals Google is of course unattainable for many but it is very important to benchmark processing speeds in your sector to ensure that your onsite search function is performing better than your competitors.

Speed Did you mean?

Spelling MistakeIt’s one thing for users to type in a spelling mistake, but it is another for your site not to recognise that mistake. Google has spent a lot of time looking at this exact issue. Matt Cutts indicated in a recent article that approximately 10% of user search queries contain a spelling mistake.

So you may be thinking this is an obvious consideration. I conducted a search on 10 of the top 100 Australian sites as listed by Alexa and only 7 out of 10 had optimised their site for this issue. Of those that hadn’t 2 of them gave me hints to improve my search by checking my spelling in fine print. If I miss this I may just assume that these sites didn’t have what I was looking for.

The above rationale may not only be applied to spelling mistakes but also for acronyms.

Simple But Advanced If Needed

Users search differently and whilst some users like a quick search function to easily identify information of interest, others want to start with a more targeted/advanced search.

Google’s own Matt Cutts stated in a blog post late last year that many users do in fact click on their advanced search function demonstrating the importance of it. However even Google sometimes gets it wrong with many of its users defecting from the advanced search landing page. So what can we learn from Google;

1) It is important that naming conventions for search are self explanatory – don’t confuse your users before they have even hit the results page.
2) Too many search options can over-complicate the search function for your users. If you already have an advanced search function on your site review which fields are rarely used as this many assist you to refine your advanced search function.

For full details on Google’s advanced search page testing click here;

Other Onsite Search Tips

Google is not of course an e-commerce site, so to model your onsite search solely based on what works for search engines may negatively impact your user experience. Some additional considerations for onsite search are;

Managing Expectations

If your site needs to offer several search criteria or you have a niche offering, your users may often be faced with no results. Rather than allow user to be served with no results consider deploying techniques which enable them to determine how their search selections before the user reaches the results page. does this for its users when the visitor is selecting their make and model. To deploy such a technique requires a structured dataset however the benefit to users could outweigh the additional work involved and could increase site conversion.

Onsite SearchNo Results – Expand My Search

There is nothing more frustrating than conducting a search to be presented with few or no choices. And no matter how many products your site has, obscure user searches will always be under-catered for. solves this issue well – if I search for properties in an area and there are no results based on the maximum price I have specified, Domain will provide results in surrounding areas within my price bracket. This is one way of approaching it, whilst another alternative is to provide hints to users ie if you expand “X” criteria you will receive “Y” results.

Don’t Make Me Repeat My Query

If as a user I have to come back to your site on several occasions and perform the same search query then a shortcut to my previous search is going to save me time – does this perfectly. This kind of functionality is useful for recruitment sites, property sites and possibly car sales sites where a user is regularly returning during a given timeframe to a search for new listings in a particular area in the case of property, or for a certain type of car or role.

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