Intuitive layouts and sleek visual designs help make brand sites easier to use, but one of the most important indicators of content marketing success may be site search.

Businesses can have the best content marketing strategies in place, but badly designed websites can torpedo any campaign. At this point, most brands understand that poor user experience leads to subpar results, but the trouble lies in getting companies to agree on what actually constitutes bad UX. Recent research indicates many companies are overlooking information architecture and overall site organization.

Econsultancy’s Ecommerce Platform Buyer’s Guide asked marketers about how much they value site search. While 56 percent of companies rated high-quality site search functions as ‘critical,’ only 21 percent rated their current solutions as ‘good.’ Over half, or 53 percent, said content management systems were critical, but only 21 percent felt comfortable with existing function. And 49 percent said product management systems are essential – but only 20 liked their own set-ups.

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Make sure customers see your content

So there is clearly a gap between what sites would like to do and what they believe they’re currently offering website visitors. Brands might wring their hands and say they can’t afford the kind of sophisticated websites that allow for better content organization and product searchability, but businesses can’t afford to overlook it or their customers will go elsewhere.

In addition to site search functionality, marketers can improve their integration strategies to make the content more accessible to visitors. For example:

  • Headlines on the homepage: As Brafton reported, putting new content and recent headlines on a site’s homepage make it easier for Google to crawl. When search engines have promptly indexed all of the pages on an entire site, customers can at least find content, products and other pages through organic search.

  • Categories: Tagging items with clickable categories gives users the option of narrowing queries to the precise groups they’re looking for, such as blog posts separated by relevant keywords or ecommerce product categories. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction from simply having every page on a site exist in one giant pool of data.

  • Site design: The most basic first step is to improve site design. Consider giving news, blog posts and products their own prominent buttons on the homepage so visitors can immediately find what they want. If users have to endlessly scroll through a blog’s posts in chronological order, they will probably bounce away to other sites.

The best sites have fully integrated search functions that automatically bring up relevant content and desired products, but this feature can require a major site upgrade. While a complete redesign is often a good thing, brands that don’t want to commit should at least try to improve the basic organization of their sites to ensure their content marketing strategies reach their maximum potential for results.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.