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How Strong is Your Search?

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If you're still using a free analytics system on a high-volume site with a huge amount of products, it's nearly impossible to see where the traffic split is happening between typed-in traffic, free search traffic, and/or paid traffic.

This especially becomes important when you're competing in a very aggressive market and you need to expand the resources for your team. In most cases, you'll wind up having two competing teams -- one trying to drive paid search at the lowest cost versus the natural search team trying to drive nothing but free traffic.

A split between these segments is very important. A lack of clarity will really hurt your business and you won't be able to see if problems are occurring.

For example, say you're a VP, and you come back into work on a Monday to find that search traffic is down 20 percent. Was that 20 percent made up of organic traffic? Not always. The most common variances typically happen in the paid world. However, you wouldn't be able to see that if you were using a simple analytics package.

The large packages are great and provide tons of data. For example, Omniture has a great system that provides you any data you want to see, as long as you're willing to pay for it.

None of the large packages have an out-of-the-box solution that just works. So if you're costing out a custom solution, you may find it's a similar price to bring in your own business intelligence team and collect your own data. This way you can build your own reports and not have to worry about the analytics company knowing all of your private data and building pricing models around your revenue and conversion rates.

It seems all too easy for a large search engine to take this data and also adjust their pricing around your conversion data. Think carefully about what data you really want to give them, and how much. With your own data set, you can create custom reports and a model based on your specific business needs.

For example, it really helps to see a slice-up between categories and product types. This allows for an appropriate A/B testing model and can offer clarity between templates and content-specific data sets.

You can also run reports around how many products are really doing well in a natural search campaign, it can provide clarity around how to get more of your products indexed within natural search.

Search engines provide scoring based on how many clicks it takes to find a product. Don't fool yourself. Putting your highly competitive product in sitemaps doesn't guarantee a ranking, I promise you!

Instead, try to understand the users and how they react to changes in the site structure. You'll be able to respond to these issues with less of a headache.

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