Color Keyword Search: Who Passed With Flying Colors?

Continuing the series on site search usability, I decided to test out color-specific searches on a number of apparel etailers from my favorite list of top etailers of 2006. I wanted to compare the results for “black capris” across the board of etailers and see what I would discover.

I found that the majority of the 22 sites tested delivered results for “black capris” just fine (I even clicked through on each result just to make sure):

These sites had an added usability feature, although thumbnail images were not always black, each product that was available in multiple colors indicated that more colors were available:

Urban Outfitters


Nordstrom “passed” but also delivered a L.A.M.B bag called “Love Capri” and a men’s shoe style named “Capri.” Which is fine, it is just indicative that it will match keywords to more than just one category.

The failures:

American Eagle Outfitters seemed to be employing what Adwords advertisers would recognize as “broad matching” keywords. My query for “black capris” delivered one result, which was not even available in black. Searching for just “black pants” returned 8 results, and the results included pant styles NOT available in black. A search for “pants” brought up the exact same results, as did my subsequent search for “ugly pants.” My search for “butt ugly pants” delivered the “0 results found” page. (Finally!)

Liz Claiborne failed for “black capris” so I tried just “capris.” Interestingly enough, LC really didn’t carry any black capris! I searched for a color it did carry, “mocha capris” and search still failed.

J.Crew returned a motley crew of results for “black capris”:


Clicking thru on the red tank top to find out why it was considered relevant to my search, I assume it was returned because some capri sandals were recommended “you might also like…” items:


Not exactly black or pants…

Gap and Abercrombie and Fitch did not even have search boxes at all, which is generally not recommended for ecommerce sites, as you leave users to the browse menu, and we know that many users prefer search to browse mode, and browsing navigation systems have their limitations. Because they are well known brands they may not lose sales to other stores out of user frustration — but most ecommerce sites don’t have that luxury.

None of the etailers delivered only color-specific thumbnails, a functionality that EasyAsk claims to provide for clients Talbot’s and J.Jill by loading a photo in each color for each product and programming the search engine to pick up on color keywords. Though not as important for black, it would be a nice feature to be able to see “green blouses” at a glance, for example, and be able to click on only the hues of green you like without having to click through each individual product. This capability can’t be too far off, as sites like Etsy and Shopwiki are already providing visual search goodies like this.

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5 Responses to “Color Keyword Search: Who Passed With Flying Colors?”

  1. Color is a huge area ecommerce sites fail in. Virtually none of the retailers in the apparel segment search engine optimize pages for color. Think about how many people use color to filter products! Ever meet a bride who didn’t know what her wedding colors are when shopping for accessories, bridesmaid dresses, etc.?

  2. Would you recommend Google’s new “Custom Search Business Edition” for an e-commerce site? I’m referring to the $100 a year version where you can remove the ads.

    We’re looking for a search solution for our site, Yuppiechef, and I’ve read with interest your comments about the necessity to get site search right. On the strength of your convictions we removed the in-house search solution that we had on the site until we could find something more powerful!

    Our site has about 600 pages in Google at the moment, covering about 400 different unique products and categories.

    Thanks for the help.


  3. @ Andrew
    In-site search purely depends on the type of product you sell. If they are attribute rich like consumer electronics, shoppers often need a means to filter results. I do not believe the new Google Custom Search offers this kind of drill down capability. It also only displays pages in which the main Google index contains. You are dependent on the googlebot to come crawl your site and find any additional pages you may have. I am not 100% sure, but I believe a weakness may be color searches (or similar). If someone searches for periwinkle but you only have a ‘blue’ attribute, the page will not be uncovered. Most third party site search solutions like Mercado or Celebros account for things like that (or can be ‘trained’).

  4. @ Andrew (is this a Twitter convention now? LOL)

    I agree with Jason. After checking out Google’s overview of the site search, I’m not crazy about it for e-commerce because it doesn’t offer more advanced search configuration options which would really boost an e-commerce site’s search usability. It’s not like Google Analytics where they acquired a robust, paid software (urchin) and offered it free, they’re taking their own search technology and charging a modest annual fee. Mercado, Celebros et. al are more expensive, but who knows, one day Google might buy one of the leading site search companies and make it free for everybody…???

  5. [...] on the red tank top to find out why it was considered relevant to my search, I assume source: Color Keyword Search: Who Passed With Flying…, Ecommerce Blog, Articles, and Tips for Online Retail [...]

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