Search and You Will Find

Google Analytics Site Search

We stumble across this frequently as we’re auditing our clients’ sites — the lone, unclicked Site Search toggle. In Google Analytics, it’s one of the simplest but most oft-forgotten features to enable. Upon configuring, you’ll be able to view the queries performed on your site and the percentage of Sessions where site search has been used. And we want to emphasize the word “site”. We’re not referring to paid or organic search terms bringing users to your site from Google or Bing.

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Turning on the Site Search Tracking toggle is the first step to enabling Site Search reports

To view Site Search reports, each View must have this setting configured. If your site uses a straightforward query parameter in your URL, like q= or search=, you can simply enter that parameter into the parameter field without the ‘=’ sign, as seen below. Some search applications may not generate a unique parameter but instead will embed the search phrase into the URL, like the example ‘/search/node/searchterm’. In these cases, you cannot insert the parameter directly into the Site Search query parameter field but can extract the term using an Advanced Filter. 

We recommend you check the box ‘Strip Query Parameters from URL’ to avoid the numerous iterations of site search URLs in your Site Content reports. 

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And one final step before you finish: you can also enable Site Search Categories to view the search categories used. These might be categories like ‘size=’ or ‘topic=’, and the parameter can be inputted in the field in the same steps you did with the Search terms.

Roll Up Your Sleeves, and Start Analyzing

Once you’ve successfully configured Site Search, you’ll begin to see data flow into the four Site Search reports—Overview, Usage, Search Terms, and Pages reports. We’re focusing on the Search Terms report in this post, but we hope you’ll take time to review each of the reports more in-depth once you’re up and running. 

The Search Terms report unlocks the phrases used (misspellings, too) in your onsite search. While we usually see this report analyzed by marketers, the Search Terms report shouldn’t be limited to use by that department alone. Across functions, the report can provide insights throughout your organization. Here are a few ways your team can glean findings from the phrases searched on your site:

  • Search Engine Specialists: We’ll start with the most frequent way we’ve seen this report used. Whether your role is SEO or paid search (or both!), the Search Terms report can assist you with expanding your long-tail keyword list. There may be phrases missing from your AdGroups or keywords you can use to optimize your landing pages. 
  • Content Producers: In a world where content is king, content producers are always seeking fresh ideas. The Search Terms report can highlight topics that you hadn’t yet thought of or identify evergreen content that users are seeking. And forget industry jargon—the Search Terms report will display the abbreviations and layman’s terms you can weave into your content. 
  • Sales or Fundraising: Of course reports like ECommerce reporting give you a solid measure of financial success, but the Search Terms report adds another layer of insight into what they’re seeking before spending money with you. Look for other products or services they searched for, and in the Search Exits % column, identify if there are high departures for a particular term (possibly because you do not offer that product or service or provide enough education around it). For non-profits, look for phrases that indicate users are looking for more information before donating. Like the previously mentioned Search Exits % column, are there terms where users are immediately departing after a search? Determine if website content is successfully educating your potential donors. 
  • Customer Service Teams: The Search Terms report can highlight additional information users are seeking to utilize your product or service. Whether you offer physical goods, software, or services, review the report to see if users are utilizing phrases like ‘how to use’ or ‘user guides’ and determine if your product or service FAQs should be made more prominent on the site, edited, or missing entirely.

You’ll find that Site Search is one of the easiest settings to enable within Google Analytics (and if you’re not sure that it’s working, open up a new tab and quickly check that it’s enabled). The benefits you gain will be tenfold against the time it takes to configure. We’re excited to see how your team uses the reports. Tweet to us @empiricalpath with knowledge you’ve gained from using the reports.

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