We just launched our newest “Big Book of Site Search Tips” – an even bigger and better collection of tips and advice to help retailers optimize the performance of their site search and enhance their user experience.

The Big Book of Site Search Tips is available for free at GetSLIeBooks.

Each week for the next several weeks we’ll post an excerpted group of tips from one of the many search categories covered in the book, including Search Box Tips, Relevance, Non-Product Content, Search Results Page, Search Results Cells, Mobile Site Search, Refinements, Merchandising, and Reporting.

Our first edition “Big Book” was one of our most popular industry resources, and we’re certain the 2012 edition will be as well. Below are a few tips taken from Chapter 1: Search Box Tips. If you have questions or want more information, please leave a comment below. Happy reading!

Make Sure Your Search Box is Large

It’s important to design the size of your search box to meet the needs of your site visitors, so make sure your search box is large enough to contain most search phrases. For instance, if visitors on your site use long keywords to search, make sure the box can display the entire term so they can easily see what they typed. Short or small search boxes make it hard to read a long search term, which will increase the likelihood that site visitors will spell it incorrectly, which can lead to “no results” and your visitors leaving your site.

In our research of top Internet retailers, we found the average size search box is approximately 245 pixels wide. Some retailers use a search box that automatically increases in size when visitors click on it, which is another option to consider. A large search box is also easily viewable and therefore more likely to be used by site visitors, which can translate into additional benefits, as users who search are more likely to convert than those who don’t.

Offer a Search Box on Every Page

Placing a search box on every page of your site will make it easier for visitors to find the search box and use it wherever they are, without having to click back to find it on the home page. Ideally the search box is in the same location across all of your pages, so people know where to find it when they need it.

Place the Cursor in the Search Box

By putting the cursor focus in the search box, when visitors come to your site, it’s faster and easier to start a search. As searchers convert at a higher rate than navigators, by automatically taking them there you can increase the likelihood that they’ll use the search box.

If you decide to make this change to your site, be sure to do so only on those pages where search is the only box on the page. You will also need special code to allow keyboard shortcuts (like using the arrow keys to scroll up and down the page) to work as expected.