Many website and online shop operators are primarily interested in finding out how visitors found their website. But what happens to the internal search? Is it used often? What are we specifically looking for? These things can also be found out with analysis tools such as Google Analytics.
The so-called site search function in Google Analytics is probably one of the less or not at all used features. Many site operators assume that the evaluation of the internal search will not reveal any new findings and therefore classify this measure as “not relevant enough”.
But this is usually a clear fallacy. Because often completely new potential is uncovered in the course of the evaluation of the internal search, which can be used excellently to optimize the website.
Activation of site search tracking
The site search function is inactive by default, which means that an appropriate configuration must first be made in Google Analytics. The settings including activation can be made in the administration:
Administration> Data View> Data View Settings
A search parameter must be specified there – this means that the search query made must appear in the URL. WordPress blogs, for example, usually use the following URL structure for internal searches:
In this case, an “s” should be entered as the search parameter. If the search parameter has been saved and the function activated, the search queries made in the internal search are recorded from now on. Search queries from the past are not taken into account.
New analysis options
With the site search activation, a lot of additional analysis data can now be viewed and evaluated. Some of them are:
- Sessions with search query
- % of search exits
- % of search refinement
- Time to search
- Average search depth
Ultimately, a more comprehensive view of the analysis data is possible via the menu. The following are sample scenarios in the evaluation of the internal search:
1. Evaluation of the search terms
The item “Search terms” gives an overview of all search queries that were made in the defined evaluation period. There are different approaches to analysis. If, for example, a product is searched for more than average in the online shop, there is a lot to suggest that the product cannot be reached easily via the shop’s navigation and / or that it is not linked prominently enough in the shop.
If the number of search exits is relatively high, there is a lot to suggest that the internal search was unable to provide any relevant results and that the searchers left in frustration. Nobody wants that, of course. In such a case, the solution could be to create a new subpage for this specific search term and to link it prominently on the website.
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2. Evaluation of the pages
By evaluating the pages, it is possible to understand fairly precisely where on the website most searches were made. If a subpage or a shop category was searched particularly often, the conclusion could be drawn that the subpage does not deliver what the visitor would have expected at this point.
The analysis can be further evaluated by checking what the visitors were looking for on this specific subpage. This could mean, for example, that the name of the sub-page is misleading or too crude. An optimization on the structural and content level would be the result.
3. Other profitable analysis approaches
The analysis of site search data can be expanded in many directions. It is most expedient if the site operator formulates his questions and requirements for the analysis in advance. This could lead to the following analysis approaches, for example:
Which search queries could not be answered satisfactorily?
Unanswered search queries give website and shop operators an excellent opportunity to create new content or expand their product range. For this reason, the internal search can also be ideally used as a suggestion for creating new content.
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How often are search queries replaced with new ones?
If a user searches several times for a certain thing using various terms, this could indicate that the search is too imprecise and / or returns too many irrelevant results.
How many visitors jump off after using the internal search?
A particularly strong increase in the number of exits in the internal search can indicate that the internal search is not working. All alarm bells should light up here and appropriate functional tests should be initiated.
How does internal search affect conversions?
If the conversion rate is good, this indicates that the visitors to the site have found what they were looking for using an internal search. So the search works fine. It may be worth considering at this point to expand the website with the corresponding content so that in future the visitors do not even have to use the internal search to get to their destination.
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Conclusion: an analysis that is worthwhile
The evaluation of the internal search can really be worthwhile. Especially with larger portals and online shops, the number of searchers is naturally high, which means that a lot of new potential can arise almost continuously. For this reason, the analysis of the internal search should definitely be part of the holistic optimization of a website.