Google Analytics is a wonderful tool for any webmaster, but what many of us may be ignoring might just be the most important part of Analytics. Tracking site search can hold valuable information about your site and the searchers that use your site. Many of us overlook this data in favour of the easier to understand metrics like, Visits, page views and bounce rates.
The problem with this data is that it doesn’t really tell you very much and the bounce rate is the only one that can hold any value. It’s clear to see if you have a high bounce and if this is the case you will need to figure out why. Is there something wrong with your landing pages or the keywords being use to get to these landing pages? Your bounce rate tells you that you could have a problem but it doesn’t do any more than this, it’s then up to you to use this data to figure out where the issues lie.
If your sites bounce rate can provide you with this level of insight into how well your site is preforming, where problems lie. Then knowing about the data in your site search can offer you even more of an insight.
What it can tell you
The first thing that Analytics site search will tell you is the amount of your traffic that actually use your search function. Usually anywhere between 15 and 30% will use the search function. It doesn’t matter if you site is easy to navigate and the information they are looking for is right in front of them, there is still a good chance they will use your search.
Analytics will store the search terms and phrases that people used on your site, but did you have the content that they were looking for? If so; was it really the right content for them and if not can you add something that will help to answer these questions in the future?
Even if you think that you have the right content that you believe will answer their questions, looking at what pages they viewed after they searched will tell you for definite if that really is the case. There are usually 3 outcomes here, (1) they stayed on the page for a couple of minutes, (2) they bounced back to the search results page to try and find another more suitable search result or (3) the left your site straight after they viewed the suggested page.
Out of these 3 possible outcomes, only one is advantageous to your site and that is the first one where they stayed on this page, presumably to consume the content on this page.
Bouncing back to the search results page will usually mean that your site may not be displaying the most relevant results for a given search. Which will mean you will need to review what search results are being returned and if they can be improved.
If they leave your site completely it’s often the worst outcome possible and will usually mean that your content did a terrible job of answering their question and instead of giving your site another chance, they decided to look elsewhere for an answer.
As you can see, monitoring your sites bounce rate only really begins to scratch of the surface of how well your site is doing. If you want truly actionable metrics and data then it is time to start looking at what is stored in Google Analytics site search.
This is a guest post by Neil Jones who is head of marketing for eMobileScan, one of Europes largest online retailers of handheld computers and barcode scanners, including the Motorola MC70 and LS2208.