What is Google Analytics? It is a free tool from Google that helps you measure your marketing efforts and identify marketing and technical performance problems. Out of the box it is not very useful. It must be configured specifically for your business needs. Configuration includes;

  1. Setting up the correct views. You need at least a master view, a test view and a raw data view.
  2. Setting up filters. You need at least a filter to remove your own and your teams traffic, and you need to filter out spam traffic.
  3. Setting up goals. Your goals represent the actions you want visitors to take on your website, such as download a pdf, a newsletter sign up or make a purchase.
  4. Setting up Ecommerce tracking. If you want to make sales on your website this is a must.
  5. Connect to other Google services – AdWords and Google Webmasters Tools.
  6. Set up site search. Once site search is set up you can see what words people are using to search your site

How to set up site search.

Link to Google instructions. https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1012264?hl=en&ref_topic=1031951

  1. From your Google Analytics account, go to your Admin setting and click on the view where you want to capture your site search data.
  2. Click on View Settings.
  3. Scroll down until you see “Site Search Settings”.
  4. Set the “Site Search Tracking” button to ON.
  5. Identify your site query parameter. To do this, go to your website, type something into the search box, press enter and look at the URL. It will look like this www.yoursite.com/?search=something . The word or letter after the ? is your query parameter.
  6. Enter this in your settings where it says query parameter.
  7. Save (you can ignore the other settings for now).

How to analyse the search data

You can find your search data by going to Behaviour -> Site Search.

Let’s start with the OVERVIEW tab

% Search Exits = % of visitors that left after searching. If this number is high it could indicate that the search was unsuccessful, the visitor didn’t find what they were looking for and decided to leave.

% Search Refinements = % of searches that were refined. The higher this number the more they search terms were refined, which means more work your visitors had to put in to find something.

Number of searches. Alone this number isn’t meaningful. A high or low number can be a good or bad thing, it needs to be used in conjunction with other numbers. For example, if you have a high number of searches and a high number of search exits then you have a problem and people are not finding what they came for.

Time after search. This number wants to be high. This tells you how long someone stayed on your site after searching. If it is high it means that the visitor found what they were looking for.

Search depth. This number also wants to be high. This tells you how many pages were looked at after the search took place.

So you want low search exits and refinements but high time and depth after search.

Search term analysis: Here you can see the most popular words visitors are searching for. Are they what you expect? This is where you can get ideas for writing more content.

Questions your search data can answer

  1. Is there a navigation problem on my website?

The Usage tab can help you identify whether or not there is a navigation problem on your website.

You can compare the effect that having a site search can have on your goals. By having search are you helping more people find what they want and take more action? If you have an e-commerce you will find that there is a higher conversion rate for customers who start with a search.

If visitors are taking more action because they can move around your site more then you have a navigation problem and you need to help people who are not searching, to move around your site more so they can find what they came for.

Below is the Usage tab from my clients account. You can see that people who searched, were able to find what they wanted, they stayed on the website longer and were more likely to buy. The e-commerce conversion rate of this group was 41.04% compared to just 7.10% for those who didn’t search. These figures highlight a major navigation problem on this client’s store.

  1. Which pages are not fulfilling visitors’ expectations?

We find this out by looking at the pages where a search started. If the search started on the home page, this can mean either the visitor knew exactly what they wanted or the info they wanted wasn’t obvious from the home. In the case of an e-commerce site it is quite often they know what they want, in the case of a blog or service provider site it is because it is not clear from the home page.

To identify what pages searches started from go to Search Terms, click on the word secondary dimension, then search for ‘Start Page’. Click on Start Page so it is added as a secondary dimension. This will show you on which start pages a visitor used a particular search term.

If you find you have some pages with a large search volume (high total unique searches) then that is a sign that people are not finding what they are looking for. Look at the search terms to identify what they are looking for.

Have they landed on a blog post then not found the info they expected? What did they search for from that page? Was it related? Could you improve your content to add in the information they are looking for?

The worst place for searches to happen is when someone has entered a conversion funnel. This could be during checkout on an e-commerce site. Perhaps there is some information missing that is preventing them from completing the sale. If customers are searching for something then leaving the checkout process this could lead to a high number of abandoned carts and low sales.

Identify where people are searching and what they are searching for will identify if you are leaving them with the info they came for. This data will help you improve your content and improve the user experience so you can get more engagement, have happier visitors which will result in more leads and sales.

  1. Did my visitors find what they were looking for?

It can take a fair bit of effort to get visitors to your website. The last thing you want is to see them leave because they didn’t find what they came for. To answer this question we need to focus on search exits.

  1. Click on ‘Total Unique Searches’
  2. Click on ‘Search Exits’
  3. Click on the average comparison graph button.
  4. Look for the red bars. This is telling you above average numbers of visitors left the website.

  1. What new content or new products can I provide for my visitors?

This is a continuation to 4 above. Look at the search terms for the red bars. Why are people leaving? Could you include content to cover these search terms since people are already on your site looking for it? If you have an e-commerce site, could you include new products that people are searching for?

Your turn.

Set up your search feature but make sure you have goals and filters set up first.

Look at your search data and answer the questions.

  1. Do you have a navigation problem?
  2. What pages are not fulfilling your visitors’ expectations?
  3. Did your visitors find what they were looking for?
  4. What new content or products can you provide for your visitors?

If you need help with anything here you might want to consider my Google Analytics Basics coaching package. A 4 week basics training program with unlimited email support to get you started and keep you going. Read more about it here.

Just in case you were doubting the usefulness of site search here is a great video from Google, with a bit of humour 🙂