Internal site search is probably one of the most unloved aspects of any website, most people may swap their default search with Google’s and the only reason they do this is so they can display some AdSense. I have to admit that I was one of the neglecters, with so many other aspects of a site from design, architecture and blog marketing to worry about, it seemed pointless to spend any time on something that already works.
But when you really dive into the data behind your internal site search you can begin to see the potential that is held in this little search box. The obvious reason why people use a site search is, of course to find what they are looking for. In an age where time is precious and everyone wants answer now, if searchers are looking for something on your site, chances are they will use the search function. It doesn’t matter if directly under your search box your full site is categorized and silo’d perfectly, you may think you have the easiest site to navigate in the world but this doesn’t matter to your traffic they will still use the search option, and it all leads back to wanting answers now! Properly categorizing and siloing your site is still a good thing to do but more and more it is beneficial for the search engines more so then website usability.
But don’t despair! This could turn out to be a good thing, because when your traffic uses site search you will get a unique view into the minds of these searchers and what they are really looking for! And if you can offer them the answers this knowledge could be priceless. It doesn’t matter what type of sites you run, whether it’s an ecommerce store or a content heavy web publishing site, the insights that internal site search offers can be a real eye opener.
This is one of the areas where Google Analytics really comes into its own and under the content tab is where you just might find yourself a goldmine! And here is how you can take advantage of this new wealth of data.
Let’s first take an ecommerce example:
After reviewing this data you find that most people find what they want after one search, which is great, but there is also a number of people searching for products you don’t stock.
If this is the case, you better add that products to your site or if it is completely unrelated to what you currently sell and you have not optimized for it then how are people getting to your site? There are 2 possible reasons; the first is relatively innocent, where your site shows up in the SERPS for some obscure long tail search.
The second however should set alarm bells ringing, if the searcher has come through AdWords means your campaign could be targeting the wrong traffic and wasting your advertising budget.If this is the case you need to fix things fast.
The second example is with a content heavy site where all your revenue is generated through advertising. After revising the search terms ( called search refinement) you find that people continually revise what they are looking for until they either eventually find the answer or the leave the site. This again has a number of implications that can affect the future success of your site.
If the searcher is forced to continually refine what they are looking for, either because there are no results or there are too many. If there are no results then this should prompt your to start generating content around the searched for keywords and if there are too many then you need to review how your site is structured and how your search criteria is refined. In most cases the most relevant results should be displayed at the top of the search page, if the searcher has to trawl through a long list of pages they may prefer to leave your site rather than spend time digging through pages of content that is irrelevant to what they are looking for. If this happens then in all likely hood you have missed an opportunity to try and influence a searcher into taking the action you want them to.
I hope that these simple examples can help to give you an idea of just how important this data can be to your site, if you have 5 minutes to spare I can guarantee that it will be among the most productive and beneficial 5 minutes you will have spent for a quite a while. The data stored in analytics can help you open up new revenue channels, increase readership and loyalty, so take the time to see what kind of a gold mine you could be sitting on.