The data I get using Site Search in Google Analytics makes this one of my favorite reports to look at and digest on a regular basis. Why? Because this data shows you exactly what your visitors are looking for when they come to your website. Knowing what your visitors are looking for can help you in many different ways, some of which we will discuss below.
To get started, its important to understand that most analytics packages, Google Analytics included, are typically set up with the most basic settings and to get the most out of your analytics package, you will have to spend some time customizing it. One of the things you will have to customize is the Site Search section.
By default, Site Search is turned off when you install Google Analytics. This is because not every website has a search function and every search function works just a little bit different. If your website is one of the many out there that lack a search feature, we highly recommend you add one as you will quickly be able to see the benefits as we discuss further.
So let's first talk about how to enable this feature.
Site Search In Google Analytics Setup:
1. Log in to your Google Analytics account and select the profile that you want to set site search up on.
2. Click on the admin button in the top right hand corner.
3. Click on the profile.
4. Click on Profile Settings and scroll down.
5. Under Site Search Settings, click the radio button that says "Do track Site Search".
6. Perform a search on your website and look at the URL to determine what your query parameter is. It will be in the URL between the "?" and "=". In most cases, it will probably be one of the following, "s", "q", "search", or "query". As you can see in the image below, this website uses "s" as its parameter.
7. Save changes and you are FINISHED!!
Site Search Reports
To gain access to your Site Search reports you will click on the content section and click on Site Search. There are four reports that are available to you: Overview, Usage, Search Terms, and Pages.
The overview section is just a simple dashboard to give you the 10,000 ft view of your site search data.
The usage report is a pretty basic report that tells you how many visits were made to your website where Site Searched was used compared to visits made where Site Search was not used. The percentages will vary depending on industry, but I would say anywhere between 10-20% is probably safe. Once you start getting over 20% you should start to worry. Here are the questions I ask myself when I feel my Site Search percentage is getting out of control. These help me begin to gain valuable insight into what might be the problem.
- Is there a reason why my site search volume is more than 20%?
- Has it changed recently, or has it always been a high percentage?
- Is my navigation broken or not useful?
- Are my pages ranking for the wrong keywords and is making it difficult for my visitors to find what they are looking for?
The search terms report is my favorite report by far. This report separates each search query that you receive from your search function and delivers it in a nice little report based on how many times it is searched for. In terms of SEO, this list of search terms is crucial for you to understand what your customers came to your site to look for and if they were satisfied with what they found. This report should help give you new ideas for keywords to target and new content to create (I use this to help guide my content strategy as well). This report is MONEY!
Lastly, the pages report shows you each of the pages on your website where a user performs a search query in your Site Search function. I like to add a section dimension to this report, the keywords used to search to gain insight as to what my users are not finding on the pages they search from. These are the questions I ask myself when analyzing this report.
- Is the navigation for this page flawed? Why can't my visitors find what they are looking for?
- What content are my visitors expecting to find on these pages (please add the second dimension, it will make it much easier)?
- Again, are my landing pages showing up for the wrong keywords in the search engines?
I hope that this post has helped you realize how extremely valuable this data is to all businesses and how it can help you pinpoint problems that if fixed, can save you money.
If you are not tracking site search in Google Analytics, I urge you to set it up do so today. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.