What the Best Listing Sites Have in Common and You Can Have in Your WordPress Sites
What makes some listing sites so much more successful than others? If there’s a “magic ingredient”, can you use it for your sites?
Do you remember something called “Yahoo Directory”? When I started university, way back in 1991, we would always turn to Yahoo Directory to find stuff on the (at the time tiny) Internet. By the time I went into graduate school, 7 years later, we were already using Google to do our academic search. It was so much easier to find good material using a Google search than browsing through the huge Yahoo Directory.
At that time, in 1998, the Internet was still small. At least, compared with today.
Both Yahoo and Google served the same “content”. The major difference was in how you’d find your desired result. One used a hierarchical directory, the other used a powerful search.
Today we understand that a good search is the best way for visitors to find content.
Google uses a simple “text” search, which finds anything anywhere. However, a simple “text” search is not always the right answer for every search problem.
Custom search inside categories
Everyone knows Amazon. Have you considered what makes Amazon.com such a great (and successful) site?
When you go to Amazon, the first thing that you do is search for the category.
Once you’re in a category, you get a custom search, which includes the different features for items in that category. This way, you can quickly filter and find items that match your needs.
Some websites offer “virtual” items, but many others offer physical goods. For sites that offer something physical or local, geo filtering (filtering by location) is a great feature. What’s the point in finding an antique table, if I need to fly halfway around the world to buy it?
Craigslist offers a simple and straight-forward search, which invites me to filter by my location and the cities around me.
When I go on holiday, I have to be very picky about accommodations. I need to have working Internet connection, we’re looking for family-friendly places, with enough beds for all of us and in the neighborhood we choose.
This is why I’ve used Airbnb so many times. I can find exactly what I need, in just a few minutes. I enter all my requirements into the search filter and I know that all the results match my criteria. Now, I just need to find a place that looks nice to me.
Detailed features list with side-by-side comparison
Dell produces a lot of different computers. When you shop dell.com, it’s easy to find what you need, because of the detailed product listings and comparison. With so many variations, it’s almost impossible to jump from one product to the other and look for differences. This is why the product comparison is so useful.
If Dell wants me to buy one of their PCs, they need to let me understand what’s the difference between the many models.
Developing custom searches for WordPress sites
So, you may already be convinced that any listing and directory site needs to have a custom search. This search should help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for, according to the different characteristics of each category.
But how do you create such a custom search?
I. Organize the content and make it filterable and searchable
Amazon, Craigslist, Airbnb and Dell websites include different kinds of content, organized by category. On Amazon, dining room sets are completely separate from smartphones. Without this separation, it would be impossible to give each category its own sub-categories and fields.
In WordPress, we call this “custom post types”. You should use different custom types for anything that you want to distinguish between.
II. Create the search box
Once your content is organized into custom types, uses taxonomy for order and has custom fields for bits of information, it’s time to create your own custom search.
Toolset Views lets you build a custom search View, which is your custom search engine. In this search, you choose the “filters” (what visitors will search by). You can create custom searches by fields (like price or weight), taxonomy (like gender) and relationship (like state>county>city).
You will design the search using simple HTML, which includes placeholders for the different inputs.
III. Display the search results
The same “custom search View” will also display the search results. You can display results any way you like. Some sites display search results as a simple text table. Others prefer grids. Some sites display results on Google Maps.
Views plugin lets you display WordPress content any way you choose, using simple HTML and CSS.
Learn how to build your own custom searches with Toolset
No matter if you bought Toolset or not, you can learn how to build custom searches. Visit our custom-search training, where you will see step-by-step instructions. For practice, you can use our training system, where you will register a free training site and follow the tutorial from inside the WordPress admin.
In about 15 minutes, you should have your first custom search running.
If you decide that you like it, you’re very welcome to buy Toolset. An account for Toolset costs $149 and allows you to build unlimited sites for yourself and for your clients. You get free updates for one year and unlimited support.
Got questions, ideas or suggestions? Leave your comments and we’ll get back to you.