Why Google Analytics Site Search Data is an online publisher’s best friend | Varn


7 November 2019

Why Google Analytics Site Search Data is an online publisher’s best friend

In a previous blog, we outlined some of the reasons why all publishers should be using Google Analytics. It is an invaluable free online tool that can help publishers gain an insight into their site’s audience and the type of content they are looking for. There is one particular report on Google Analytics that is particularly useful to publishers…Site Search.

What is site search?

The site search report gets information about what words and phrases users of your site have been entering into your website’s internal search bar. The report records these keywords and reports the following metrics:

  • Number of sessions with search – The number of sessions where the visitor used your site’s search function.
  • Number of unique searches – The number of times someone searched your site, but duplicate searches in a single visit are excluded.
  • Search terms used – Terms used in the internal search function on your site.
  • Number of results pages viewed per search – An average of the number of times a visitor viewed a search results page after searching.
  • %Search exits – The percentage of visitors that exit your site immediately following a result from an internal site search.
  • %Search refinements – The percentage of searches where the visitor refined their search at least once.
  • Time spent on site after searching – The amount of time a visitor spends on your site after using the internal site search.
  • Average search depth – The average number of pages viewed by a site visitor after they have performed an internal site search.

How can site search help you?

There are many ways in which the information provided in the site search reports can be used to improve your site content and user experience.

  • Identify what your audience wants and any gaps in your content – The data collected from Internal Site Search directly tells you what content your audience are looking for. This insight into what your site users are wanting to see on your site is invaluable for informing what content to provide in the future, and for assessing if there are gaps in your current site content that need to be addressed.
  • Identify UX, design and navigation issues – Another interesting site search report is the ‘Start Pages’ report. It shows a table of the pages site visitors were on when they decided to perform a search using the internal search bar. This gives an indication of which point in the user journey the site user gave up on using the navigation to find the information that they were looking for. For example, if lots of users are using the search bar from one particular page, you should review the navigation, content and layout on that page to ensure the information they are searching for is clearly highlighted and accessible.
  • Identify issues with the internal search bar itself – The site search reports also allow you to assess how useful your internal search bar is to your visitors. Is it producing relevant results? Is it easy to use? You can use the reports to compare the user engagement, conversion rate and other metrics relevant to your KPIs of users who utilised the internal search functionality, compared to those who did not. You can also use metrics such as %Search Refinements and %Search exits to review if the internal site search is delivering the relevant results to the searcher. If these two metrics are high, it indicates that your internal site search is not presenting results in a user-friendly way, or is not functioning as it should, therefore requiring some testing to identify the problem.


How to set up site search?

After reading about all of the ways Google Analytics site search statistics can help you, you are probably wondering how you can get started with recording data for your own site.

Setting up internal site search on Google Analytics requires you to first find the ‘query parameter’ which determines which results are shown when the internal site search function is used. These are usually words such as ‘term’, ‘search’, ‘query’, ‘keyword’ or a questions mark followed by a single letter. This is usually then followed by an equals sign and then the search term. For example, if a search looked like …?q=search term, then the query parameter is ‘q’. The query parameter for your site will depend on how your internal site search was set up.

You can then use the identified query parameter in the Site Search Settings, in the Admin section of Google Analytics.

If you would like more information on how you can use Google Analytics Site Search to gain invaluable insight into your audience, contact the experts at Varn. We also offer training courses for publishers on how to use Google Analytics.

Article by: Katie, Technical SEO Expert More articles by Katie

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