Search Optimizations | Yext Hitchhikers Platform

What You’ll Learn

By the end of this unit, you will be able to:

  • Explain why Search requires continuous optimization
  • List types of search quality improvements you can make grouped by content issues, configuration issues, and algorithm issues


Now that you have set up your Search configuration, it’s time to refine the results. In general, we recommend starting with fewer configurations (think searchable fields, vertical ranking adjustments, synonyms, and query rules), so that you can get a sense for the base performance of your experience and then make adjustments off of that.

Once your experience is live, you’ll also want to monitor what users are searching for and continually optimize your experience.

Additionally, things change – whether your customers are changing, your brand is changing or releasing new products, or there are larger market trends and global shifts happening. You may want change your Search experience to keep up with these changes.

All this to say, your Search experience, just as any other part of the Yext platform, will be in a state of continuous optimization. How can you get better results? How can you increase conversion? How can you surface more content? How can you reduce more costs? These questions are critical to ask to ensure your Search experience is working for you and your users.

In this module, we’ll cover what continuous optimization looks like for Search. You’ll find queries that return unexpected results and need to debug to determine why those results are returned. You’ll use tools like experience training and search merchandiser to refine results. You’ll monitor search terms and analytics to understand what users are searching for and where the gaps are. In this unit, we’ll first cover what types of search optimizations you might make to give you the lay of the land before jumping in.

Customer Intent

The first step to making Search optimizations is understanding customer intent. The power of Search lies, in part, with the analytics and insights you can get about your customer. It’s a goldmine of information to find out exactly what your customer is looking for, also known as their intent.

Because Search’s Analytics shows you valuable insights – like how complete your search results are, how many clicks you’re getting, and what people are exactly searching for – you can better understand what kinds of changes you might make in your organization to improve the consumer experience — and how you can improve your Search experience – so that it’s optimized for responding to customer intent.

As you gain insight from people’s searches and clicks, you’re able to get a sense for their true intent. Once you learn their intent, you can make educated decisions about search and about your business strategy as a whole. As you improve the answers people are seeing, they’ll come to rely more heavily on search, giving you even more information about what they need and how you can help them.

In many cases, we encourage customers to go live as soon as possible to start collecting some of this valuable data, even if you haven’t established a complete CMS. This allows us to better inform how we structure Content. If a brand already has search on their site, past search logs can also help with this.

In Search, there are two categories of optimizations, though they often overlap:

  1. UI Improvements
  2. Search Quality Improvements

UI Improvements

UI improvements are all about ways that you can adjust the look and feel of the search results to drive more conversions or engagement. For example, you could:

  • Change CTA labels or URLs to maximize click-through rate (CTR)
  • Expose more content on result cards so users can get their answers more quickly, or hide content if the results are too cluttered and causing confusion
  • Change colors or fonts to increase readability

You can evaluate these kinds of issues based on engagement, click-through rate, and qualitative feedback from your users.

Since these are frontend optimizations, we’ll cover them in more depth in the frontend tracks.

Search Quality Improvements

Remember that search quality, or whether the search results meets customer intent for the search, are affected by Content, the Search configuration, and the Search algorithms. When reviewing search quality issues, you’ll want to determine which of these three are driving the issue. It’s typically easiest to evaluate in this order, but sometimes you’ll know immediately what the issue is and can skip a few steps as you get more confident.

Content Issues

Content issues mean that your CMS simply doesn’t have the content that is being searched for. It can’t make it up!

For example, if you’re seeing many searches for “marketing jobs”, but the query returns no results, some possible solutions are outlined below. Note these build on each other, so if you have not done a particular step, you’ll need to do the ones after it as well.

  • Add the entity type: You don’t have a Jobs entity type enabled. Add it to your Content and then add a new vertical (configuration improvement) to your Search experience.
  • Add a new field: You don’t have a Department field on the Job entity type to be able to differentiate between a job in “marketing” or “finance”. Be sure to make the field searchable (configuration improvement).
  • Fill in your Content: You have a Department field, but there are no open Jobs in marketing.
    • Make sure you have entities for the available marketing jobs and that the Department field is filled in correctly for these entities.
    • If there just aren’t marketing jobs available and it’s a popular query cluster, you might consider telling the Marketing department that people are eager to apply. In this case, there’s little you can do to produce results because there just aren’t any jobs available that the user is looking for. You could make a UI update to improve the No Results component, or you could add an FAQ indicating that the Marketing department simply isn’t hiring right now.

Configuration Issues

If you have the content in your CMS, it’s almost certainly a configuration or algorithm issue. Configuration issues mean that you can make an update in the backend to fix the results. For changes in the configuration, you’ll want to be careful that any updates that you make to improve one search term won’t negatively impact another. Any of the configuration settings we covered in the last two modules are open for adjustments.

Before you make changes to your configuration, make sure that the production configuration label is set to an explicit version and not “Latest”. Conversely, make sure the staging label is set to “Latest” so you can test your latest changes in staging.

For the same “marketing jobs” query with no results, some configuration improvements you could make are:

  • Add a new vertical: You have Jobs in your CMS, but there is no jobs vertical in your Search experience. Add one.
  • Add or update searchable fields: Set the relevant Department field as searchable in the Search configuration with the appropriate searchable field type. If the field is already searchable, consider changing the searchable field type.
  • Add a synonym: Let’s say you don’t have any open jobs in the marketing department, but you have a roles for SEO specialists open. You could add a synonym from marketing → SEO specialist for those roles to surface.

Algorithm Issues

If you’ve determined your search quality issue is not caused by the Content or the configuration, it may be an algorithm issue, which means there is a bug or core component of the algorithm that is causing this. While search quality improvements usually means you’re making changes in the Search configuration or Content, if you’re stuck and can’t figure out why results are different from expectations, you should raise any issues to the Yext Search team as there may be algorithm issues we need to address.

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    Error Success Question 1 of 3

    What are some reasons Search experiences are in continuous optimization?

    Error Success Question 2 of 3

    What is an example of a content issue?

    Error Success Question 3 of 3

    What are examples of configuration updates you can make to solve a configuration issue?

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