Top Reports for Site Search (Part 1)

What is the most valuable report that you can get from your Web analytics package? Arguably, it’s the site search report; also referred to as internal search.

Why? Because most of what web analytics gives you is quantitative data – what your visitors do on your site – and it leaves it to you to figure out from the volumes of data what your visitors are looking for. Site search on the other hand is user-entered data;  your visitors are actually telling you what they’re after.

In this three-part series, we’re going to provide information on the top reports or data points to look for when analyzing site search. The top reports are:

  1. Search Usage
  2. Searches per Search Visit
  3. Top Search Terms
  4. Top Failed Terms
  5. Visitor Segmentation
  6. Top Pages Driving Search
  7. Search Groupings
  8. Success Rate
  9. Micro Step Success Rate


1. Search Usage

This metric is measured as the ratio of visits (or sessions) conducting site search to overall site visits. For example, if your site had 1,000 sessions and 65 of them conducted a site search (hit the search results page), then your search usage (as a visitor ratio) is 6.5%.

Why is this important? Because the search usage could be an indicator of navigation shortcomings. Site search is a navigation feature and is meant to complement your site navigation design. In cases where your navigation fails, then your visitors resort to site search. This isn’t always the case, as we?ll discuss in ensuing points, but if you have a high search usage, then it is an indicator that your visitors are bypassing your navigation and therefore you should be revisiting your navigation design.

Like all KPIs, search usage should be trended so that you can see the impact of site changes to the ratio. In our studies of top e-commerce sites, the site search usage is between 5% to 10%.

2. Searches per Search Visit

This KPI is measured as the ratio of the total number of searches conducted divided by the number search visits (or sessions). Going back to the previous example, say the 65 sessions or users of site search conducted a total of 260 searches. This means that the average search user conducts 4 searches.

Obviously you want your site search results to be accurate and to the point. This means that the higher this number, the more cause for concern you have that your site search is not providing the necessary information to users, forcing them to refine their searches. Realistically, you want the average user to search for no more than two searches per session. Obviously, based on the complexity of the product or service, this number may vary.

3. Top Search Terms

This is the core of site search reporting. What are your visitors searching for? What are they telling you? For example, if your top search terms are ?Wii?, ?Xbox? and ?PlayStation?, then it will be a good idea to have a gaming related promotion or banner on your home page and other main landing pages, since a large number of your visitors are interested in this category. Additionally, because site search complements your navigation, you can use the information to conduct gap analysis on your navigation menus. This means that you can look at your navigation menu and if the category “Gaming” is not being presented in there, then you should consider adding it to the menu. The end goal is to create a navigation menu that reflects your visitors’ intent.

In our next posts, we?ll cover the other reports and KPIs that you should be looking at for site search analysis.

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