Getting the Most Out of Your Website's Internal Search Data
Google Analytics allows us to track internal site searches on our website—without having to make any changes! Let's take a look at the site search standard reports in Google Analytics and what sort of questions we can answer using our site-search data.
If there is a search bar on our website, then we should certainly be monitoring its usage. Some internal site search engines provide details on what people are searching for and how frequently. However, enabling and setting up site-search tracking with Google Analytics can also help us combine our site search analytics with information about how users arrived on our site or other behaviours on our website such as pages visited or items purchased.
Setting it up is super easy! You'll just need a certain level of access to enable Google Analytics Site Search. Here's an article on how to enable site search in minutes!
Site Search Reports and What They Tell Us
Under Behavior -> Site Search are four reports with information on your website's search. Let’s have a look at how these reports can be helpful to you. Overview
The first report in the drop-down menu is the Overview report. The Site Search Overview report gives us a general overview of our website's searches; it has a timeline of Sessions with Site Search, scorecard, and pie-chart metrics about site search, along with a table showing the top search terms. This is a great place to check in on your site-search data!
The second report on the list is the Usage report. This report breaks down metrics by Sessions with Site Search and Sessions without Site Search. eCommerce metrics are also included in this table, giving us a comparison for conversion rates between the two different segments.
The Search Pages report shows us which pages on our website the search was made. "(entrance)" in this report means that visitors are entering the website on a search results page— either coming from search results on a search engine, or through marketing efforts. This report gives us insights on where users chose to use site search over navigating through the website. We can also set the primary dimension on the table to "Destination Page", which will also show us where a user went after making a search.
Search Terms The Search Terms report provides data on different search terms made using your website's search. This report will give us insights on what content is popular or more important, what content is missing or hard to find on our website.
*Google Analytics reports are case-sensitive. This is a great place to use a lowercase filter to consolidate search terms with different cases.
What do these metrics mean?
Total Unique Searches
This metric tells us how many unique searches by session. We can use this metric to identify what search items users are most interested in, figure out trends, what items to promote or content to create.
Results Pageview /Search
This metric tells us how many pages of search results were looked at following a site search. If the number is higher than one or two, this could tell us that useful results are being surfaced well enough, or relevant results aren’t being shown.
% Search Exits
This is the site search equivalent of Bounce Rate and tells us how many users left the site after viewing only a single page. The higher this percentage is, the less satisfied the users were with the search results. For example, if a visitor visits our website for something specific and leaves if it’s not available, or did a search and the search results weren’t satisfactory, we might have to look at making changes to our site search.
% Search Refinements
Search refinements are added terms to the original search term that help narrow (refine) the returned results. For example, a search term “marketing,” might be refined to “email marketing,” to help reduce the number of returned results.
Refinements are neither good nor bad; it all depends on the context. If the original term was broad (e.g. “marketing”), refinements can be expected. However, a high percentage of search refinements combined with a high percentage of search exits can signify a problem. The search engine needs to return quality results in order to keep users engaged.
Time After Search
Time after search refers to the number of time users spend on the website after performing a search. The last metric is Average Search Depth and tells us the number of pages viewed after performing a search.
If these two numbers are high, that means a visitor continued on to other pages of our site after performing site search—indicating that the website's search function is working as it should. If these numbers are low, however, then it might be time to take another look at our website's site search functionality.
We can also change the metrics in our table by clicking "eCommerce" (or a goal) in the tab above the timeline in the explorer report.
Site Search with other Google Analytics reports
Besides the standard reports listed above, there are a few additional ways we can combine our Site Search reports with other reports within Google Analytics to gain deeper insights into how visitors are behaving on our website.
One combination would be using Site Search data together with Segments. There are two segments that we can create to dive deeper into our insights; one that includes sessions which a user performed site search, and one that includes sessions which a user did not perform site search, in other words, a segment excluding sessions in which a user performed a site search. It is important to keep in mind the scope of the segment; this is a session-level segment, so we’re seeing all hits from a session where a user at some point of their session used site search.
Now that we have two segments, we can analyse them separately, together, or in comparison with "all users" if we want aggregate numbers in our reports. By using segmentation allows us to see differences in behaviour between different clusters of users.
Other Google Analytics reports that may be worthwhile to look at with segments applied are:
We can also look at our Site Search data with other segments applied too! A few other segments that might be worth using segments to analyse are device, country, language, gender, and acquisition dimensions such as source or medium.
Besides using segments, we can also add Search Term as a primary or secondary dimension to other pages. Some interesting pages to add are:
Secondary dimensions on Product Pages: What did people search for vs. what did they purchase.
Secondary dimensions on Landing pages: Which pages users performed their site search.
Adding other secondary dimensions: Finding trends between search terms and other Google Analytics metrics.
Custom reports: Create custom reports using site-search data, then combining it with other available metrics to give us a report with all the information we want in one place.
Get Comfortable with Site Search
There are lots of interesting questions that we can answer using site search. Have a play around with these reports and start thinking about how you can discover insights to help answer other business questions.
Site search is also a great idea inspiration source for content - the users search, the more insights we get on what our users are looking for. High usage of site search might also imply that our website is not easy enough to navigate without searching, so keep that in mind! These reports and search-related dimensions allow us to better understand our users and make changes to our site to better serve our potential customers.