Internal Search Tips
Published by Adam Greco on November 16, 2009.
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Correlate Internal Search Term & Page Searched From
Knowing what people searched for on your site is certainly valuable, but knowing the exact page they searched for each term from is even more valuable. Having this allows you to see what content visitors think they should be able to find on each page. This is like gold to your content folks who can look for terms that are consistently searched for on a specific page and make a case that they need to add or improve content.
Setting up SiteCatalyst to do this is very simple. All you have to do is pass the Internal Search term to a Traffic Variable (sProp) (as Ben showed) and then set a second sProp with the previous page name value (use the Previous Value plug-in) and create a Traffic Data Correlation for these two sProps. When you are done, you will be able to see two cool things:
1) What terms are searched for on a specific page:
2) For any given term, what pages are visitors searching for that term:
Group Internal Search Terms
In Ben’s post, he discussed how to eliminate duplicate terms by taking upper/lower case out of the equation. In addition to this, there are times when you might want to group specific keywords together into buckets since they represent the same type of search. For example, if you manage a travel site, you might want to group all City internal search terms by State and Region so you can supplement your analyses. This is easily done by taking advantage of SAINT Classifications which allow you to bucket your internal Search Keywords however you would like. Here is an example of a SAINT File you could use in the preceding example:
Use Compare Feature to find differences between Dates
Once you are tracking internal search terms, you can use the Date Comparison feature in SiteCatalyst to see how the same internal search terms perform in two different time periods. You access this feature from within the SiteCatalyst Calendar window. Below is an example of looking at how the top internal search terms for September perform in October:
As you can see, by using the date comparison feature, SiteCatalyst will show you the difference between the two time periods so you can be aware of significant changes. Simply click the difference column and you can see the search terms that changed the most/least (depending upon whether you sort ascending or descending).
Use Compare Feature to find differences between Report Suites
In a similar manner, if your implementation has multiple report suites (or ASI Segments), you can use the Compare feature to see how internal search terms vary by suite/segment. For example, if you have a Customer Segment and a Non-Customer Segment, you can see what internal search terms each group is looking for:
In the above report, we can see that Non-Customers are more apt to search for careers, while Customers are more interested in detailed product information.
One cool thing you can do with this is to combine this data with Test&Target by FTP’ing the most popular search terms to a Word Cloud program and having Test&Target show the appropriate Word Cloud based upon a cookie value indicating customer status. That is a great way to proactively use your web analytics data to create a better experience for your users!
Trend Search Page Exits
One way to see how good or bad your internal search results are is to look at how often visitors exit your site on the search results page. While this isn’t a guarantee that your search results are bad, most of my clients agree that search results page exits are not normally an indicator of success! Therefore, I like to trend this and set alerts to monitor this. Here are the steps to do this:
- Open your Pages report and find your Search Results page in the list
- Click on its name and in the sub-menu choose Paths – Next Page report
- Unfortunately, Exited Site might be one of your highest next pages, but in this case it is a good thing since you that makes trending it easier (I haven’t figured out how to trend it id it isn’t in the Top 5!). Once you are looking at your list of Next Pages, click the “Trended” link to see the top five next pages trended.
- From here, I usually refine the report to only show the Exited Site and Home Page (for some reason SiteCatalyst won’t let you see just “Exited Site” so you need to have one other value – not sure why – so I normally choose Home Page)
- Finally, change your date range and View by (i.e. day, week, month) and you will see a report like the one below where I am trending Exits and clicks to the Home Page by percent over time. You can now add this graph to a dashboard to monitor it over time…
Use Counter eVars!
There are two ways you can use Counter eVars with internal search. First, per my last blog post, you can use the # of Pages Counter eVar concept to track how many pages visitors view prior to doing a search to see how your website design is functioning. I showed this in my last post:
Second, you can track the # of internal searches in a counter eVar so you can see how many internal searches each visitor has done prior to completing your desired success event.
Track Recommended/Filtered Search Results
Many companies provide internal website searchers with recommended search results or filtered results based upon the search term as shown here:
You can use SiteCatalyst to track whether the visitor clicked on your organic links or the recommended/filtered links. All you need to do is add a query string to links in each distinct area and capture that in an eVar when visitors click on these links. For example, the eVar values may be “organic link click” or “filtered link click” which will show you the distribution. You can take it further by passing this to an sProp and correlating it to the search term to see which internal search terms lead to visitors clicking each type of result.
These are just a few of the fun things you can do with internal search tracking…
About Adam Greco
Adam Greco is a longstanding member of the web analytics community who has consulted with hundreds of clients across every industry vertical. Mr. Greco began his web analytics career managing the website for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and then became one of the founders of the Omniture Consulting group. While at Omniture, Mr. Greco managed accounts large and small and helped clients maximize their use of Omniture technologies. In 2012, in partnership with Adobe, Mr. Greco is publishing the first-ever book on Adobe SiteCatalyst - The Adobe SiteCatalyst Handbook: An Insider's Guide.
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