Why Does It Matters
The internal search box on your website is an opportunity for you to learn about the people who use your website and what they search for. The data you obtain from internal search analytics is essentially a resource that tells you what your visitors can not find on your site or might be too busy to hunt for on your website.
For example, if you sell clothing and you have hundreds of searches for “pink ball gowns” but you don’t sell them, it might just be worth looking into selling pink ball gowns. If you receive a lot of searches for pink ball gowns, but you have a link to your pink ball gowns category right on your navigation bar, then there’s a good chance there’s something wrong with your sites navigation and effectiveness. There are four main sources of knowledge that your internal search box can tell you:
Looking over the search terms that people are using on your website, can tell you how people view and what they call your services. Are you using the same terminology as your customers? It’s important to use the same terminology as your visitors. This leads to more people finding out about your services and driving more traffic to your website.
Are people searching for a service you don’t offer? Does it make sense to offer this service or have a page for it and refer people to another startup or company (maybe with a referral link?). Understanding what people are coming to your startup for and why, can help you understand underserved areas.
Are you spelling the terminology the same way as your visitors? Misspellings by accident or because your service also caters to expat can lead to valuable keywords ( e.g. behaviour vs behavior). This has been a strong growth area for a lot of startups and clients I work with.
If popular site search phrases are unrelated to the nature of your business, then maybe people haven’t understood what your site is actually about. This could imply many things that you could be doing to improve the content, structure, and design of your site, such as including a site summary or tagline in a visible location on all your web pages or improving your about page to clearly state your site’s objectives.
All three sources of knowledge above can feed content on your website and help you build your keyword list for your paid search campaigns. Taking the time to sift through the list in your Google Analytics is an important exercise.
Turning On Site Search
Login to your Google Analytics account and click on “Admin” at the top of the page. You’ll be presented with three columns: Account, Property and View. Under “View” look for “View Settings” and click on that. Scroll to the bottom of the list and turn on “Site search Tracking”. Takes at least 24 hours before you start to see data. Give yourself 30 days before you start running the report below.
How To Do It
Don’t feel too daunted if this is the first time you’re looking at your internal site search. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be digging into this resource to look for the trends above. You should be looking at your internal site search every month. You can schedule the task along with when you refresh ad copy for your paid search campaigns.
Step 1. Login to Google Analytics and click on “Reports” at the top. Than along the left navigation click on Behavior> Site Search > Overview page in your account.
Step 2. Under the “Site Search” heading click on “Search Terms”, which takes you to the list of internal search terms that people are using on your site.
Step 3. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on the drop down box for “Show rows” and select 500. The top 500 internal search terms is a high enough number to understand what people are actually searching for on your site. Unless you’re the size of Amazon, you shouldn’t need more than this.
Step 4. Scroll to the very top of the page and select your date range. I’d a pick a date range that coincides with your fiscal year or the start of this year, whichever is greater right now.
Step 5. To the left of the date range and within the grey bar area, click on “Export” and pick “CSV” from the list. This will let you download the top 500 internal search terms from your analytics.
Step 6. Once downloaded. Open the excel spreadsheet and start looking at columns B (Total Unique Searches) & F (Time after Search). Any search term that is being searched on multiple times and sending people who spend a lot of time on our site, is a term I’d want to place in one of the four main sources of knowledge: current services, new services, misspellings, or unrelated service.
Step 7. Once you’ve organized the list of search terms by sources of knowledge. You can start to see how the keywords can help expand the content on your website, help you build your keyword list for your paid search campaigns or even give you and your startup ideas for new services. Taking the time to sift through the list in your Google Analytics is an important exercise and one that many miss out on doing.
It’s essential to note that we have barely scratched the surface of internal search analytics. However, this is a fundamentals and a new skill set you should be adding to your knowledge base within performance marketing.
In case you missed other posts in this series: