I was reading a great article about 8 ways to discover content ideas from your readers when I was surprised to notice that from the excellent article and many comments, no-one had mentioned using site search to gain insight into the user intentions on your website.
This is such a rich resource of qualitative insight into your users! Depending
on the kind of site you have, you might see frustrated users trying to find out about products. For a blog, you can gain great insight into what users would love to see you writing about!
If you have an analytics package like Google Analytics, it should be a trivial matter to start tracking this, so everyone absolutely should!
This article will show you how.
How to track site search in Google Analytics
First you need to identify what query string your site search uses when running searches. If you have a google search on your site, the default will be ‘q’, but this can be changed. The wordpress widget I have uses ‘s’. To be sure, the best thing is to do a search on your site and check what the value is.
For example, on my site a search for ‘site search’ will result in:
TIP: If you don’t manage the site yourself, check with your technical department to make sure they aren’t using different values in different areas of your site!
Your google analytics administrator can now go to your account view, click on ‘edit’ for the profile you want to change, and then click ‘edit’ next to ‘main website profile information’ at the top of the page. Click the radio button next to ‘Do track site search’ and enter the query string parameter, in my case ‘s’.
If you’re still not sure, Google provide more detailed instructions here.
All you need to do now is pop into Google Analytics, go to the content reports and click on ‘site search’.
There is a plethora of data, so have a good look at your headline figures. how many searches, what proportion of your visitors used search, exits after searching, time after search, etc…
Make sure you have a good look at the ‘search terms’ report. What searches are proving successful? (should this content be more prominent?) What searches are failing (can you solve for these visitors?) A treasure trove of actionable qualitative insights into your users.
had success using your site search data? Are there other ways to use the data you think I should have mentioned? I’d love to hear what you think…