Site search analytics (SSA) is an emerging form of site analytics that studies search query data to discover patterns in site use. Here at Bleep we’ve been working hard to understand how to benefit from the information this type of analysis provides which drive users to buying products.
Any searchable ecommerce site is sitting on top of hugely valuable and usually under-exploited data: logs that capture what users are searching for, how often each query was searched, and how many results each query retrieved. Search queries are gold: they are real data that show us exactly what users are searching for in their own words.
The data you obtain from internal search analytics is essentially a resource that tells you what your visitors cannot find on your site. For example, if you sell clothing and you have hundreds of searches for “white t-shirts” but you don’t sell them, it might just be worth looking into selling white t-shirts. If you receive a lot of searches for white t-shirts, but you have a link to your white t-shirts category right on your navigation bar, then there’s a possibility that there is something wrong with your site navigation’s design and effectiveness.
If your top search term is ‘opening hours’ you need to make sure that the right page is at the top of your search results. Studying what users put in and analysing what these search terms bring back will help you a lot. If you can improve the UX and sales by even a small percentage then it has been worth it.
Concrete Ways to use SSA in Ecommerce
To develop useful search system. To do this you need get close up to your search system. SSA will help you understand how people entered searches, where they were when they entered them, and how they interpreted the search results.
Navigation. If certain pages generate more activity than others you need to find out why. Perhaps certain navigational options are missing or are just confusing. SSA asks questions in these areas (which you often may take for granted). What works navigationally for you might not be obvious for others.
To improve your content. Are there any queries that bring back no results? Is this because you lack the content or that the search is in effective in bringing back the accurate results. is the relevant content mistitled? Or poorly written? SSA will help you determine what content is missing and what to do to existing content to make sure it gets found.
To discover patterns. Can you structure the search data in different ways and examine it? Are there any patterns? Can you use those patterns to determine what types of metadata and content are the most important to your searchers? Can you detect changes in seachers’ behavior and needs that are seasonal? Patterns describe behavior.
To highlight failure. When searches return no results or poor results - ask why? And what can we do to fix those problems and improve performance?
To examine user behavior. What happens during a specific search session? How do searchers’ needs and understanding of the content change as they search?
To analyse the audience. How might we uncover the differences between audience segments and their information needs? And how might we better address those differing needs?
Using Google Analytics
With Google Analytics V5 it is easy to get started with SSA. If your website has a search box, go ahead and perform a search to see the URL of the search results. For example your search results might be http://yoursite.com/?s=searchtermhere. Once you have this for your site, click on the settings wheel icon in the top right corner of your Analytics menu bar and find your Profile Settings. Under Site Search Settings, select the option to ‘Do track Site Search’ and enter s as the query parameter (or the one that fits your site’s URL structure).