If your website has a search box, definitely you’d need to spare few seconds to read this short article, and edit the placeholder as soon as possible. I am not speaking for everyone however; I have come to realize that placeholders play important roles in every website’s search box. It is not difficult for you to understand how different people interact with placeholders if you can relate your present experience to the time when you knew nothing about internet marketing and search behavior. Based on my personal experience I will try as much as possible to demonstrate how individuals interact with placeholders.

When a new user visits a website it is likely that the person don’t know how to get to the final destination. For instance, when someone hear about your business from neighbors and come to your website to confirm it, it is very likely that the person will use the search box to search for more information about your company. You are the owner of the website and you know where to click when you need to see something. It is not the same for other users who know nothing about your website. In fact, the most popular websites still confuse daily users. If you really want to understand how new users behave when they visit your website, then you need to think about how you interact with big ecommerce sites like Amazon and EBay.

Let me talk about ecommerce website for a second. When a newbie visits a website like Amazon, it is likely that the person will buy from what they see on the homepage, provided it is the exact thing that they are looking for. As the person gets familiar with the site they will start using the search box to look for what they want. At this point they may not use the advanced filters because they don’t understand how they work. However, when a professional visits ecommerce sites like Amazon, they already know where to go and how to filter out irrelevant results. I know this because I have been doing it for some time and I have also interacted with other professionals and beginners. At my present level, I am mostly interested in search box with advanced features like filters and long-tail keyword match.

If your website has a search box you need to consider how beginners use it before thinking about more experienced users. Newbies are those people with little or no experience about how things work. They get what they want by following instructions. Some of the instruction they see in your website are “click here, buy now, and submit”. A placeholder also presents important instruction to newbies. Of course, they are not computer guru, and they may not understand how those things work. All what they know is to “do as instructed”. Now let’s examine some examples.

If a novice visits your website and wanted to use the search box to look for something, the person will simply enter the search term based on the search instruction. In this case your placeholder is the instruction. If your placeholder says “type your name here for quick results”, most newbies will do it because they don’t want to go wrong. For more experienced users, such instructions will not change how we search the website. In fact, we may use advanced search queries to get what we want. Google, for instance, will not tell you to search using “intitle”. However, experienced users use it to get the exact thing that they are looking for in post titles.

It is important to consider inexperience users when setting your website placeholders. “email here” is different from “enter your major email address here”. The way newbies understand internet terms different from how experts do. If you really want to get the best results, make sure that you write in the way that newbies understand. For instance “type your email address here” will yield better result than ordinary “email”.

When a placeholder says “enter a keyword”, it is possible that newbies who does not understand internet marketing terms will work away instead of typing just anything in the search box. Most of them don’t understand what keywords are, and don’t want to harm your website or get banned. You don’t need to complicate things for people who really need them. Let your placeholders provide valuable instructions for inexperience users. Experienced users will enter their email address in the email box even if the placeholder is “@”.

Do you really need to provide search instructions for experienced users? Well, I don’t think it is necessary unless you have some special search rules. If you really want to get the best out of your search box, let it speak the language of inexperience users. Let the placeholder be as simple as “search for a name, search for a school, search for a job, and so on”.

Understanding how inexperience users use search boxes is important for you to know the best way to optimize your website. Read the next article…