If your website has a search bar, you need to ensure you’re making the most of this valuable report in Google Analytics. It’s quick to set up and can soon be giving you all sorts of insights and ideas that you may never have had without it.
The Site Search report is found under Behavior and is focused on recording how people interact with the search functionality on your website. This is actually even more valuable since organic keywords started appearing as "(not provided)", as this report shows what people have actually typed, even if it is on your site instead of into Google – it’s likely that there are overlaps!
Setting Up Site Search Reports
To set this report up, navigate to the Admin, then the View Settings for your chosen profile and scroll down to the Site Search Settings section. Here you just click the button to turn it on and then type or paste in the query that your website uses in search parameters. For example, searching on this site gives you a results URL that looks like this:
In this example, the "q" is the search parameter, so this is what would go in the field here:
You will find a tick box under this option which gives you the choice to strip parameters out of the URL. If that was ticked for Search Engine Watch all search results URLs would show in the content reports under /search, whereas without ticking it each search will generate a URL with the query included, which will break out the results and not allow you to see the data for search results pages in one row in the content report.
There are benefits to both methods, so it will depend on your reporting and website setup as to which choice will work best for you.
To get an even more detailed breakdown of data in the reports you can also specify categories, if that applies to your website. Here you pop in each category parameter and you will have a report available to group activity together within these.
Site Search Reports
The Overview report, much like any other, gives you a summary of the data relevant to that report. In this case it gives you a clear percentage of how many visits on your website included the use of the search functionality as well as how the interaction played out following the search.
This report has two rows of data, one for visits with site search and one for visits which did not include the use of the search functionality. This allows you to directly compare the success rate of people using search against those who don’t to work out whether the conversion rates are very different, whether new visitors are more likely to be using the search box, or how much revenue you have generated by people using this option.
All standard metrics are available and the Site Usage, Goals, and E-Commerce reports are easily accessible above the graph so you can drill into the most relevant report for your site.
This is where it gets very interesting! The words and phrases that your visitors have used in your search box are recorded here so that you can work out what people are looking for on your website. Each query used is shown alongside search usage metrics but Goal and E-Commerce reports are also available.
There are many uses for this report. Some examples include:
- How many pages it took for people to find what they wanted
- How many visitors gave up and left the website
- Which keywords did not have good enough results so users had to refine their terms
- How persistent visitors were with their query, by how many pages of results they looked through
- Most common queries
- Trends and identifying new searches which can help you identify products to stock or content to write about
- Identifying common misspellings or other ways to phrase something
- Which areas of the site people choose to search for over navigating through a menu for
- Which queries lead to users being engaged with the website
- Queries that have good conversion rates
As mentioned above, this data can also be broken down by category, so if you have set this up, click the link above the data table for "Site Search Category" and you will be able to see this data.
The Pages report in this area is all about which pages of the website the user was on when they made the search. If you see (entrance) under this report, your visitors are entering the website on a search results page, which may be caused by marketing activity or natural search results using search URLs.
Sometimes the Pages report can be useful for working out which pages are the ones on which visitors give up on using the navigation and switch to a different method of using the website.
Clicking the "Destination Page" link above the data takes you to a report showing where users went on the website following a search.
If you have the opportunity to do so, I encourage you to set this tracking up for your website. It’s your prerogative to know what’s going on within your website and what it is that people want or cannot find.
Here are some extra ideas to take away for this area in Google Analytics:
- International Comparisons: It is interesting to see the take-up of search functionality on websites around the world. The percentage of visits with search can vary dramatically from country to country, so do ensure you focus on the most suitable website navigation methods for your users.
- Language Use Globally: Also on the topic of international data, when you have a website specific to another country or language, you will benefit from keeping a close eye on the language used in search queries, as this can help you identify hard-to-translate items that people cannot find or terms that you can use an English version for as it may be more widely used than a local language.
- Internal Campaign Tracking: An out-of-the-box idea for tracking internal banners by Justin Cutroni is to tag them with parameters that you can analyze in search reports instead of resorting to using campaign tracking tags on internal links, which is not recommended. More information about this idea can be found here. It may be an old post, but it is still usable today.