Website findability: How autocomplete and semantic search affect the customer experience  

If you’ve spent any appreciable time on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly experienced one of the great joys—or frustrations—of being online: the often hilarious results of autocomplete.

Suggestions like “How do I….take over the world” or “Who is…Jon Snow’s mother?” are great entertainment if you’re not in a rush or are in the mood for some free laughs. But what if you’re actually actively searching for information, say on a website for a product you bought or as research for a proposal you’re building? How might inaccurate or irrelevant results affect your experience?

Google auto-complete : Website findability

For visitors to your web or e-commerce site, search results must be relevant and accurate. They’re on your site to gather information, interact with your business, or maybe even buy something, so any results that lead them astray—no matter how amusing they might be—detract from the online experience. Worse, it can detract from your bottom line.

Why is website findability important?

Customers hate hide-and-seek with information.

Take, for example, a customer at a bank. The customer wants to send money to a family member abroad and visits your site for a simple how-to. She types “international” and autocomplete offers “international wire transfer,” as an option. It’s a great result that puts her exactly where she wants to be.

But what if your customer isn’t familiar with your language, in this instance conventional banking terminology, and instead types “how do I send money abroad?” What happens then?


The full search returns zero results, while autocomplete suggestions range from “How do I send a wire transfer?” to “How do I change my password?” In this case, none of the results is particularly what she’s looking for and requires an additional step—like calling or emailing customer support—for help. It’s another thing for the customer to do, another hassle, and she still doesn’t have the information she needs.

Customers hate playing hide-and-seek when it comes to finding information

Is that a positive customer experience? Probably not. It’s also not a positive for your business, as every call or email into your support center costs time and money that could otherwise be avoided with stronger self-service tools.

Conventional search results and autocomplete recommendations are only as strong as the information you’ve prepopulated in your knowledge base. In most cases, a knowledge base will be influenced by corporate culture or industry language, not by the myriad ways a customer might actually search for information.

If you’re expecting users to speak your business’s language instead of your business speaking theirs, prepare yourself for an influx of conversations with some not-so-happy customers.

How to Improve Content Findability

  • Semantic search can help overcome corporate or industry jargon to close the communications gap between your customers and your brand.
  • Building a vast lexicon library, continually updating it with additional data points, and activating it with artificial intelligence enables your site to search by what the user means instead of what she types.

If findability is one of the ultimate measures of a good online experience, then building a system that searches by context and meaning instead of keywords is one of the most powerful ways to improve it. More accurate results mean happier, more educated customers. And happier, more educated customers mean fewer support ticket requests and a more profitable business.

Autocomplete fails might be hilarious when there’s nothing at stake. But irrelevant or inaccurate search results are no laughing matter when it comes to delivering an exceptional customer experience.

Learn how Inbenta’s semantic search, self-support, and chatbot solutions help customers find exactly what they need, exactly when they need it.

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