Internal site search can be a treasure trove of information about what your visitors want. Site search benefits both you and your visitors.
For your visitors, internal site search provides a way to bypass your website navigation and tell you exactly what they are looking for in their own words.
For you, site search gives you insight into your visitors’ intent. Your clickstream data only tells you what your visitors do, not why they do it or what they want. Site search can be the voice of the customer on your website.
Google Analytics makes it easy to deploy internal site search
Tracking site search is easy to deploy in Google Analytics. You simply go to Admin >> Profiles >> Profile Settings, turn on Site Search, give GA your Query Parameter, and click “Yes” to strip query parameters out of your URLs.
For more information on implementing site search, you can read Google Analytic’s instructions on how to set up and configure site search.
Not all sites use a query parameter. Some sites embed the visitor’s search term in the url path, for example, www.mysite.com/search/milkshake where “milkshake” is the search term. GA doesn’t support the path option.
Once you have Site Search deployed, it will start collecting data from your visitors and making it available to your GA reports.
Five steps to put internal site search analysis to work for you
Avinash Kaushik wrote an article in 2007 about internal site search. It’s as valid now as the the day it was written.
He recommends five steps to kick butt with internal site search analysis:
- Understand site search usage. Look at the total number of people who are using site search. Next go to the list of search terms people use. Which terms are at the top of the list? These are the subjects people want to know more about.
- Where do site visitors search? What page are they on when they conduct a search? These are pages that either disappointed or made them hungry for more. With the knowledge of what people searched for on these pages, now you can go to those pages and look for ways to provide the information people are telling you they want.
- Measure internal site search quality. You already know that bounce rate can tell you where visitors exited your site unsatisfied. For internal site search look at % Search Exits to see which pages have high exit rates from search results. Since people are searching for something specific when they go to these pages, pages with high exit rates need to be studied and fixed!
- Three words: segment, segment, segment! If large numbers of people are searching on the same term on your site, segment to learn more about this group. For example, what keyword that brought them to your website and then what did they search for? Or segment to find which groups spend more time on your site after they do a search.
- Life is about results: measure outcomes! Measure the conversion rate of visitors who use internal site search. Their reports for revenue, average order size, and per visit value will show you the business outcomes these engaged visitors produce.
Why do visitors come to your site? How well is your site satisfying them?
Once you become familiar with the mechanics of site search, here are some questions from Performance Marketing to ask about your visitors use of site search:
- What do people seem to be searching for most on your site?
- How often are people searching for things your site doesn’t offer?
- How often are people searching for things offered that are underrepresented or hard to find on your site?
- Is there any non-obvious content on the site that visitors are not searching for at all?
- Are visitors using synonyms for terms described differently on the site? Could this be causing confusion? Think also about adding these keywords to your AdWords campaign.
- Where do people appear to be experiencing unsatisfactory results (a high percentage of search exit, or a high percentage of search refinement and low goal completion)?
Most online marketing only permits buyer and seller to communicate indirectly. The beauty of search, especially internal site search, is that it gives your buyers an opportunity to tell you what they are looking for in their own words. Listen and learn!