I’m always disappointed when I get a new analytics client that does not already have an on-site search (OSS) engine. Or, where it does have on-site search but nobody set it up for analytics.
I think on-site search is a gold mine for finding analytics insights that can really make a difference. I’ve never presented analytics results for OSS that didn’t result in action by the client (or intention to act, which is almost as good).
In hopes that readers will supply their own favorite OSS reports, here are the reports I’ve found useful.
- When I say “terms” I often mean “terms, themes or topics.” Sometimes looking at themes is more valuable than looking at individual terms.
- I am convinced that a certain proportion of site visitors prefer search and will use the search box immediately on the landing page. I think this proportion ranges from 10 to 25 percent, although it’s influenced by the type of site. For this reason, I like to analyze search that happens on the landing page separately from search that happens once the visitor has clicked around a little bit. The latter can indicate navigation or clarity problems. The former indicates, loosely, the size of the search-propensity group.
- A lot of these reports require the collection of more than just the search term used. On the search results page(s), you should be collecting the term and the number of results shown. On clickthroughs from results, the resulting content page URL should contain the search term and the rank of the individual result that was clicked on.
On-Site Search reports that help improve relevance of OSS results through adjustments of dictionary, meta-text, or copy
- Terms, themes, or topics where people seemed to find what they’re looking for, but far down the list of results
- Terms that lead to an exit immediately after the results page
- Terms that lead to an exit one or two pages later (not necessarily a bad sign, because those one or two pages might have contained the answer. )
- Terms that lead to a customer service page and a contact action, probably because of unsatisfactory results
- Terms that are followed by a conversion
- Terms that tend to be refined (re-searched in a different form) once the searcher sees the results – either because of too few or too many results, or bad results
On-Site Search reports that help improve the site by suggesting added or improved site content
- Terms that are increasing in popularity
- Terms with no results
- Terms that have results but very low clickthrough
- Terms with very large number of results
- Terms that led to an exit directly from the results page
On-Site Search reports that help improve the site by suggesting changes to navigation, nomenclature, etc
- Terms that are used at some point after the landing page
- Pages where searches started (and, of course, what the search terms were)
- Pages that were disporportionately reached using on-site search, rather than navigation
- Terms used at some point after the landing page, indicating that the visitor started with navigation, but may have given up and used search when navigation didn’t work
- Terms used on the landing page (these people could be natural searchers, or an indicator of revisions needed to the hp nav)
On-Site Search reports that have implications for SEO/SEM
- List of on-site search terms for visits that came from search engines. (may indicate an inappropriate landing page, for example)
On-Site Search reports that are basically interesting-ish but not necessarily useful. They seem to be obligatory and expected, however, and can be useful as benchmarks if, and only if, you can decide whether it’s “better” for the metrics to trend up or down.
- # of searches
- % of all visits with search
- Number of searches per session
- % of all searches that occur partway through the visit rather than on the landing page
- % of all searches or visits that happen directly from the home page – especially after a very short look at the home page.
- % of searches where no results were clicked on
- #/% of searches that are followed, sooner or later, by a conversion
- Proportion of conversions that involve search
- For more detail on some of the above, see also these Outsider posts: