[Non-product searches] Why your internal search engine should know how to handle non-product search terms

Picture this situation. 

Someone (let’s say Jack) goes into your web store looking for a jacket for an important dinner party. He fears he might not get the order in time for the dinner party —which is just a couple of days away. 

So before taking a look at any product card, he:

  • Looks for your store’s shipping policies on the menu, but doesn’t find anything (because you’ve placed them on the footer, the lower part of the page).
  • Types “shipping” on the search bar but gets only product results. 

What does he do then?

Well, since he doesn’t want to have a late delivery, he abandons your store and goes to another one. 

It may sound strange to you, but in fact, users are increasingly employing the store’s internal search bar to find information (and not just products). 

In fact, this kind of search has a name of its own: 

Non-product search queries.

And if your internal search engine is not capable of offering relevant results for these terms, your eCommerce’s shopping experience could be affected. 

To avoid that, here you’ll learn:

  • What non-product searches are
  • Why these informative searches are so important and how they can affect your sales.
  • How to set up your internal search engine so you can handle them

Are you ready to become an expert on non-product searches?

Here we go! 😉

👉 What non-product searches are

Let’s begin at the beginning. 

When we talk about non-product searches we mean a type of search in which the user is not trying to find a product but rather information. 

But, what kind of information do users look for when they do non-product searches?

Well, for example:

  • The Q&A section.
  • Return policies.
  • Shipping costs.
  • How to track an order.
  • Countries you ship to. 
  • Blog articles. 

Here’s an example from Fashion Eyewear, one of Doofinder’s customers. 

When we search “refund”, we are immediately taken to their return and refund policy page. 


On the other hand, HP’s online store’s search engine responds to this kind of search. These are the results we get when we look up “cancel”. 

✅ But why is it so important for your search engine to respond to it? 


You might be thinking:

“Well, I already have that info on the lower part of the page. If my customers want to see my return policies or the countries I ship to, they can look for that themselves, right?”

Be careful about this:

A usability test run by Baymard (a research institute on user experience) has shown that 34% of users use a non-product search term while browsing.

In other words, many customers no longer bother to scroll all the way down to the footer; they want to find that information using the search bar. 

That percentage is expected to increase over time. 

If you simply have all this information on the footer, you risk having many customers missing it and leaving your store (remember Jack’s example at the beginning of this post). 

On the contrary, when your search engine can offer relevant results to non-product searches, you get to:

  • Reduce the bounce rate: users can easily access the information they need and keep on browsing your store (which, in addition, works well SEO-wise).
  • It improves the shopping experience: they feel safer when placing an order. 
  • Higher conversion: as a consequence of everything else, a higher percentage of users who land on your page will end up buying. 

As you can see, nothing but advantages. 😉

So let’s get to the point: how to offer relevant results to your store’s users when they do this type of search. 

👉 How to offer relevant results for non-product searches

Grab a pen and paper; we’re on. 

Note: if the search engine you’ve got running on your store is the template’s default one, some of the features we’re about to review here might not be available for you. If that’s the case, don’t worry; we have a solution for you at the end of this post. 

✅ 1. Find out what kind of informative searches your users are doing

The first thing is to find out which non-product terms your users employ. 

So how can you do this?

If you have a smart search engine, such as Doofinder, then this is easy for you because your search engine keeps an automatic record of all the search terms your users employ in your store. 

For example, imagine you find out most of your customers look up:

  • “Return.”
  • “Shipping costs.”

These are terms you’re absolutely sure your store’s users are employing. Therefore, you must set up your search engine so that they get relevant results (so when someone looks up “return” they get your detailed return policy page as the main result, for instance). 

But there’s more to it.

✅ 2. Think about other related search terms your customers might use

You already know what the most common non-product searches are amongst your customers. Careful now, not everyone uses the exact same words, even if what they are trying to find is the same thing.  

Let’s have a look at return policies. 

Even if the majority of your customers looks it up simply as “returns”, there will be some people who will type:

  • “Return a product.”
  • “Change a product.”
  • “How to return a product.”

Even if you don’t see these terms on your search engine’s records, you can add them as synonyms all the same. 

➡️ Extra tips: watch out for typos

It’s possible that when you go over your eCommerce’s search terms, you come across a typo or two. 

For example, a relevant percentage of your customers can type “reyurns” instead of “returns” (who hasn’t typed the wrong key?)

In these cases, it’s important that your search engine can understand these typos and still return relevant results. 

✅ 3. Decide how you’re going to display non-product search results 

Once the user types a search term and hits Enter, 2 things can happen:

  1. Non-product content shows up next to product cards on the same results page.
  2. The search engine takes them directly to the landing page.

For you to better understand this, we’ll show you examples of both options and tell you when it’s best to use one or another. 

➡️ A. Next to product results

What do we mean by this? 

The search engine offers various search results, mixing both products and content.

Check out this example from Sansaru jewel shop. When we search “clean” we get: 

  • Product cards (silver-polishing cloths).
  • Different blog posts with advice on how to polish silver.

And you get all these on the results page, even if you can clearly distinguish them.


When might this option be interesting for you?

When the search terms the user employs are too general. 

In Sansaru’s example, when we type “clean” into the search bar, we can be equally interested in products and information about how to clean jewelry. 

So, when in doubt, the search engine returns both kinds of results. 

Extra tip: in these cases, it’s convenient to distinguish non-product results from product cards. For example, when we type “returns” on Amazon, informative results come up with an icon next to them (in this case, a cardboard box). 


➡️ B. Offering a straight answer to the user’s search

A second option is to only offer informative results. 

This is how Zooplus does it. When we use their search bar to find information on shipping costs, we are directly redirected to the site containing that information. 


This is an interesting option for search terms with a clear search intention (that is, when we know for a fact a user is not looking for a product). 

✅ 4. Run tests and measure results

We’re only one step away. 

Let’s suppose you have already applied all the tips we’re telling you about here and your search engine is responding well to non-product search terms.  

So what now?

It’s important for you to start running tests to ensure everything is running smoothly.

For example, imagine you own an online bookstore (you’ll see why we pick this as an example). You have set your search engine up for it to redirect users who have searched “contact” straight onto your web’s contact page.

But when you check this page’s statistics, you find out its bounce rate is pretty high. 

So, you realize some users are actually trying to find books on martial arts and other contact sports by typing “contact”.

In this case, you’d have to display more open results, mixing product cards and non-product results. 

👉 Now you’re up: optimize your eCommerce’s internal search engine for it to offer more relevant results to non-product search terms

By the way, do you remember when we said that if you used the template’s default search engine some features would be unavailable to you? 

For example, your search engine might: 

  • Not indicate the most searched terms by your customers.
  • Not even handle synonyms or typos. 
  • Not even allow you to set up search results freely. 

A smart search engine such as Doofinder can do all of this. 

Thanks to thess (and to many other features) eCommerces that use Doofinder have improved their web search experience, and have increased their sales between 10% and 20%.

Would you like to see for yourself?

Click here to try Doofinder for free for 30 days.