Searchers don’t come to your web page just to hang out. They’re on a mission. Whether they’re seeking product details to support a customer or need information about an HR policy, they’re looking for the page that answers their specific question. And if your page doesn’t immediately answer their questions — if it prevents them from succeeding on their mission — they leave. Quickly.
Failed search rate is a measure of how effective your page is at helping searchers find the answers they need. A high failed search rate indicates that they’re leaving before giving your content a chance to succeed. To ensure you’re helping your searchers solve their problems, review your pages against each of the following items:
- Match page content to the searcher’s intent. What problem is the searcher looking to solve? And does your page help solve that problem? It’s very rare that a single page can solve every problem that searchers might have about a given topic. Searchers prefer bite-sized answers to their questions. Split your content into multiple pages, and focus each page on answering a few simple questions about a single topic. If you are designing a hub page about a big subject, the question could be something like, “What is this subject about?” and your page can provide an overview the subject and contain links to more page that answer more specific questions. For more details on this idea, check out “How Do I Decide the Purpose of My Web Page?”
- Include relevant keywords in the title and heading tags on the page. The title and heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) on each page help searchers to quickly skim and understand at a glance whether the page meets their needs. When your title tag and heading tags don’t include relevant keywords, searchers frequently won’t read more deeply to see if you offer what they need. Make sure that you have included a unique title tag and h1 for each page, and that each contains relevant keywords that match what searchers will look for. For more details on selecting relevant keywords for your title and heading tags, see “How Do I Know What Keywords Searchers Use?”.
- Structure your content to aid skimming and readability. The structure of your content plays an important role in highlighting key topics and helping searchers find what they need on your page. In addition to the h1 tag, use subordinate heading tags (h2, h3, etc.) to structure your content in a clear, logical fashion. Use a single h1 tag on each page that includes relevant keywords and describes what the overall page is about. Use h2 tags to chunk content into major sections, and, where necessary, use h3 through h6 tags within those sections to further break your topic down into small, easily scanned information. Use HTML ordered and unordered lists, and strong and emphasis tags (ol, ul, strong, em), to outline structure, ease navigation, highlight key information, and improve readability for your searchers.
- Track progress and work to improve. Finally, once you’ve included relevant keywords within your page’s unique title tag, appropriate headings, and lists to show searchers that your page contains the content they’re looking for, measure your results. Establish an ongoing review of your pages’ failed search rates and test additional changes to continually improve the experience for your searchers.
Improving failed search rate isn’t a one-time event. It’s a continual process of testing, measuring, and adjusting to improve the results both for your page and for your searchers. However, it’s critical to ensure that your content not only appears within the search results, but also helps searchers accomplish their goals. Which, ultimately, is the definition of successful content.