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What Is Autocomplete Search & How Does It Work?

Autocomplete is a search engine feature that helps users complete searches faster and more efficiently by predicting and suggesting search queries as they begin to type in the search bar.

Have you ever been impressed by how platforms like Google, Amazon, and many eCommerce websites suggest what you might be searching for as soon as you start typing in the search bar?

I have.

And guess what?

That brilliant search bar functionality is a carefully designed tool that goes by a fancy-pant name, "autocomplete," "predictive search," or "autosuggest."

Autocomplete search is a valuable tool for quick and effective site search.

Incorporating effective internal site search on your website provides guidance, education, and promotion of content and products to your users.

But how does this magical tool work?

How do you design an autocomplete search for your website?

Is it worth your time, really?

This article will answer all those questions and more. We will discuss how autocomplete has transformed how we search for information online.

What is Autocomplete Search?

Autocomplete is a search engine feature that helps users complete searches faster and more efficiently by predicting and suggesting search queries as they begin to type in the search bar. These automated systems provide time-saving predictions that enable people to quickly find what they're looking for without wasting extra time searching.

Autocomplete search has grown in popularity recently, with statistics showing that ~90% of desktop searches and ~60% of mobile searches now use autosuggest. That shows how vital predictive search has become in boosting engagement and user experience by anticipating user search intent and giving relevant real-time suggestions.

Companies using HeyDay’s intelligent site search have also reported a remarkable boost in revenue due to its autocomplete from over 100 million terms, tailor-made for their needs with onsite keywords suggested first.

With such a significant impact on search behavior, you might be curious to know how autocomplete works and how to leverage it to improve user experience and drive business growth.

Let's take a look at how this feature works.

How Does Autocomplete Search Work?

An innovative search tool like HeyDay uses intelligent algorithms to anticipate a user's query by analyzing the entered characters, previous searches on the website, and popular topics.

As you start typing a search term, HeyDay's algorithm will suggest a list of related questions that match your input in real-time. These recommended search terms will appear in a dropdown menu below the search bar, making it easier to select a relevant option instead of typing out the whole query.

The algorithm behind HeyDay's autocomplete search personalizes suggestions for each user. It also helps prevent spelling errors and suggests alternative terms for vague or ambiguous search queries.

When you choose a suggested query from the dropdown menu, the search engine will provide the most relevant results based on your search term.

The outcome?

You save time and effort in site searches. Plus, you get a better search experience. That’s not all the benefits.

Why Your Business Needs Autocomplete Search Tool

Autocomplete has proven to make your site visitors feel more confident when they see results related to their search. That dopamine boost often encourages them to continue adding more details to their site search as long as relevant recommendations keep appearing.

If you’re not using autocomplete search on your website, look at what you’re missing out on, and maybe you’ll reconsider your choices:

A: Improved User Experience

Autocomplete search improves user experience by suggesting popular search terms and completing queries as users type. That saves users' time and effort, increases engagement, and helps users find what they're looking for faster.

For searchers using mobile devices, autocomplete search reduces typing effort and keystrokes needed to find information.

B: Better Search Accuracy

Autocomplete search suggests advanced queries based on popular search terms, resulting in more accurate results. Accurate search results save time, boost user experience and customer loyalty.

Imagine a scenario where a user is searching for a product on an e-commerce website. The autocomplete feature can help by suggesting the exact product name or related keywords, which makes it easier for the user to find what they are looking for.

Similarly, suppose a user searches for a particular article on a news website. The autocomplete feature can suggest relevant topics or keywords related to the report, ensuring the search results are as relevant as possible.

C: Higher Conversion Rates

When people search online for a specific product or service, they usually strongly desire to purchase it, which means improving your search accuracy already boosts your conversion rate by 50%. With autocomplete search, users find what they need faster, increasing their chances of purchasing -- thus making purchasing smoother and growing sales.

D: Valuable Insights

Autocomplete search helps you see behind customer preferences and communication styles. This information helps businesses develop products, content, and marketing strategies to meet demand.

Analyzing search queries gives you insights into customer interests and needs. You can prioritize feature development and create targeted marketing campaigns. Autocomplete search helps identify misspellings and synonyms, optimizing website content and SEO.

These insights are vital for informed decision-making and improved customer service.

E: Increased Engagement

Autocomplete search enhances user engagement with more-targeted search terms, guiding visitors to the appropriate web pages.

With that, you have increased time spent on your site and a higher likelihood of users taking desired actions, such as purchasing. Furthermore, it reinforces brand loyalty and can generate positive word-of-mouth marketing.

F: Reduced Search Abandonment

Autocomplete search reduces search abandonment, preventing higher bounce rates and missed opportunities for engagement and conversion. With relevant suggestions recommended as users type, they will likely continue their search.

Imagine a scenario where a user types "black shoes" in a website's search bar, but the website has no products matching that description. The user may lose interest and try another website in such a case. However, with the help of autocomplete search, the website can recommend alternatives such as "black leather boots" or "black running shoes" as the user types. That makes them stay on the website to explore more.

Implementing Autocomplete Search: Best Practices To Consider

Predictive site search helps users quickly match search intent to results by proposing queries, leading them through the website, and presenting pertinent information. However, a poorly-crafted autocomplete tool can complicate the search and misdirect the user.

Below are recommended best practices to get the best out of your predictive site search.

  1. Start by choosing the best search plugin. HeyDay's automated site search makes sense for businesses and news agencies because of the price and ROI benefits.

  2. Configure the search engine. Define search parameters for ranking and relevance. The order of suggestions is of utmost importance as you can only display a limited number of recommendations. All proposals must be relevant to the user.

  3. Determine the autocomplete speed. Fast and easy autocomplete is crucial for a smooth user experience. Always begin suggestions with the first character for easy access. Delayed recommendations are unacceptable.

  4. Use highlights to guide the user. Consider highlighting the search results that precisely match users' queries for optimal user assistance. This way, users can effortlessly distinguish between similar suggestions from what they've typed, enabling them to focus on the distinctions. Adding emphasis to any supplementary information will capture user attention.

  5. Simplicity is best practice. Steer clear of scroll bars within your interactive widget, as scrolling can be a nuisance for users. Instead, the autocomplete tool should expand automatically to its natural size. Also, limit the suggestions to 10 items to avoid choice paralysis. This way, users can easily view and select their options without feeling overwhelmed.

  6. Label predicted terms. Providing clear instructions for less experienced web users on using the autocomplete feature is a helpful approach. Organizing the suggestions into headings like "search suggestions" or "categories" can effectively distinguish between different types of tips rather than presenting them all in one mixed list.

  7. Make your autocompleted search thoroughly interactive. Ensure keyboard controls can navigate your autocomplete suggestions easily. Make it obvious the autocomplete suggestions are clickable with a mouse. Use can achieve this by showing a cursor or highlighting the clickable area. Yet, hovering should not trigger immediate results, as it should be a non-committal action.

  8. Use personalization to improve UX. HeyDay's intelligent site search provides a customized search, delivering targeted results. The system helps keep users engaged with your content.

By implementing autocomplete search, users can enjoy improved search accuracy while you get higher conversion rates, valuable insights, increased engagement, and reduced search abandonment.

Potential Challenges and Limitations of Predictive Search

While autocomplete search has advantages, it also comes with challenges and limitations.

Incomplete or inaccurate autocomplete suggestions can frustrate and confuse users. If you're not using intelligent site search like HeyDay, then you must regularly update algorithms and include relevant data to avoid this to generate accurate recommendations.

Another potential drawback is that users who need help understanding autocomplete may not use it efficiently, leading to lower adoption rates and limiting its potential advantages.

Also, implementing the wrong autocomplete search can impact website and app performance. It requires processing power and memory, which could cause slow performance if not optimized well.

Again, autocomplete search may not be essential for all websites or apps. Consider the website's needs before implementing it.

Overcoming Autocomplete Search Challenges

I can riddle out thousands of ways to optimize your search function but it’ll make absolutely zero sense if you don’t use the right infrastructure in the first place.

Onboarding HeyDay’s AI-assisted site search helps circumvent pitfalls that could impact your company’s user experience and long-term sustainability.

You enhance users' buying experiences with pertinent suggestions rooted in a reliable architecture. Depending on the user's input as they start typing in the search field, they get prompts that are useful to them.

The Heyday platform uses advanced technology to analyze how users behave and makes accurate suggestions to ensure an adequate autocomplete search function. The platform collects and evaluates crucial data to enhance search results and prioritize the most relevant products.

Additionally, the simple and user-friendly interface makes it fun to use. The platform also allows users to refine their search queries by selecting filters, such as category or price range, further improving the accuracy of the search results.

Autocomplete search is a powerful tool that benefits website owners and users. You enhance your website's interactivity and use value by providing users with quick and accurate search suggestions. Request a demo today!


What is autocomplete search?

Autocomplete is a search engine feature that helps users complete searches faster and more efficiently by predicting and suggesting search queries as they begin to type in the search bar.

What is autocomplete used for?

What are the benefits of autocomplete search?


About the Author

Tom-Chris Emewulu is HeyDay’s Digital Evangelist. With 8+ years of digital marketing and business development experience, he crafts high-intent, high-converting, data-driven SEO articles that put brands on page 1 of Google search. Forbes, DW, Business Insider, Businessss2Community, and many other publications have featured his works. You can find him on Social Media via @tomchrisemewulu.


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