Internal Site Search: What Does The Data Tell You?

On March 4, 2011, wrote:

Google Analytics holds a wealth of information about your site. Within a few clicks you’ll have all of the metrics that are important to you: page views, visits, unique views, bounce rates, and conversions, etc. If you want to go a step further you can start to segment this information or create custom reports so you can look deeper into the data.

Regardless of whether you are an e-commerce site owner, a marketer, a business owner, or a blogger, if you know how to interpret the data correctly, you will be able to make the right choices more often. The numbers don’t lie and if you can base your decision on what the numbers are telling you, you’ll be able to improve the performance of your website and increase the number of business opportunities you’ll get from it.

Site Search: A hidden gold mine

One of the most overlooked tools in your analytics arsenal is quite possibly the Internal Site Search, especially with the kind of data that it holds. With the feature you can gain a lot of insights about what your searchers really want. This data tells you about their intent, why they came to your site, and what they want to find on your site.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. In this case, it’s actually true.


Above is the first screen that you will see once you start to dig into your internal search data. Straight away, you are presented with a clearly actionable insight; in other words, your visitors are telling you what is wrong with your site. In the screen shot above it is easy to see there are issues with the search results that are being returned.

Total Unique Searchers: There isn’t really a great deal you can pick out of this one, at least not independently, but it’s the amount of searchers who used your search function.

Results Pageviews/Search: This is where things start to get a little more interesting. This metric tells you on average how many search result pages they viewed before clicking on one of the results. If this figure is any more than 2 it may mean that your traffic is not finding what they want and you should look at how your search results are displayed.

% Search Exits: This metric tells you the percentage of searchers who left your site after searching but never bothered to click on any of the results. In my case, it is higher than I would like, so I will need to dig further into this metric, firstly to see what was being searched for and secondly what results where displayed. There may be something that I need to change to improve the search results that are being returned.

% Search Refinement: This one scares me; it says it’s so high, so the more I look at this data the more I’m starting to think that my search function is rubbish (which is something I’ve always known but never wanted to admit, but the numbers don’t lie and I guess I will have to do something about it). This metric tells me what percentage of the traffic felt that the search results didn’t return the results they wanted and subsequently performed another search.

Time After Search: Again, this is pretty straight forward. This is the average time the searcher spent on the site after performing a search.

Search Depth: How deep did they go into the site after they performed the search? As you can see, as soon as I open the main report screen, I can see there are changes that need to be made to my site. No other part of analytics will offer up this data so easily.

Segmenting Internal Search

Now that we have gone through the basic layout, lets looks at what happens when we start to segment this data.

When we do this we get a more in-depth look at how people are interacting with our site. I have taken 2 of the default segments, paid traffic and nonpaid traffic; you can segment your analytics data any way you want, and you can review what is important to you and your site and segment that. Based on what we have already talked about, I think we can make some assumptions with this segmented data.

Some of the numbers that stand out straight away are the % of search visits that exit for paid traffic; this only reinforces the fact that I have issues with the search function. Being that I pay for this traffic, I’d better fix it.

Search refinements are how I would expect paid traffic to come in on very specific keywords. They should be able to find what they are looking for on the landing pages they have been sent to. Non-paid traffic, meanwhile, will be coming in via a lot of long tails, so I would expect some refinement, but maybe not this much. Perhaps work on the search depth will need to be reviewed, some questions will need to be answered, and I will use the data in analytics to do that.

So there you have it, within a couple of minutes I have been able to positively pinpoint 2 areas of my site that need to be addressed.  Please remember that these are only examples from one of my sites. Every other site will have different results and actionable points, and if you continue to dig through this data you will soon find some really interesting information that would not otherwise have been available.

Remember that this function tells you about the searchers intent. If you know what they want, you will be in a better position to offer it to them!

About the author: This is a guest post by Neil Jones, the head of marketing for eMobileScan, one of the UK’s leading Barcode Scanner experts and also offer one of the largest range of handhelds including the Datalogic Memor.


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