The internal search goldmine
Having an internal search isn’t just a service for visitors. For owners of websites, it’s a gold vein full of information, ready to be mined and panned by you. When you find out WHAT people are looking for, WHERE they look for it and HOW they describe what they want (by keywords!), we are poised to conclude WHY they’re searching and accommodate them and their needs.
In the previous article Why internal search, I hope I proved enough that implementing internal search pays off. The possibilities of monitoring searched keywords and phrases are many. Below I will mention information that can be obtained by keeping track of the "Site Search" in Google Analytics*.
1. What kind of information are visitors looking for
Since you somehow forgot to mention it, they may ask something about what you do or what you know. Or the necessary information is somewhere on the site, but just "very well" hidden. We found out an interesting example – on one specific website, people are looking for a map, though it is linked to directly from the main homepage. Probably the link isn't as obvious or it's just placed incorrectly. Sometimes they ask for a service (or product) that you don't provide, but people expect it from you for some reason. But how else could we find this out?
The conclusions are obvious: add content for the overlooked and show off the hidden. For the services and products not provided, it's better to decide whether it's worth it to begin providing them or not. If not, the site is better off honestly saying that you don't provide these services and save the hassle.
2. What words are visitors using
What is great about full-text search is that visitors talk "to us" in their language, using their words. Statistics nail down synonyms - how many times is the word job, employment or career mentioned? How often do they use office hours, working hours or opening hours? With this we can reveal that visitors are saying something completely different than we are, and perhaps that's the reason they can't find what they're looking for.
For example, on a website of a travel agency, one of the most popular key phrases is "Holiday with children". Although there's a subpage with appropriate content on that site, it is entitled "For families with children". As you can see, visitors themselves don't use the word "family". Including this section under "Thematic holidays" was also probably not the best idea and hence didn't help the visitors finding it easily.
Search terms can be used when naming / renaming menu items. The number of searched words should be taken into consideration when analyzing keywords and creating content (along with the search terms thanks to which the users visited the website). This is a valuable resource mainly for copywriters and SEO specialists.
3. What search engines are visitors using
Google Analytics also shows which search engines are being used. If we continue as usual and the most frequent search from the main page, we can see where our visitors often get caught up "in the shallows" and need help. It's better to revise the subpages, maybe even edit them. The best part is that we see which words are searched from specific pages. This turns out to be a great guideline on how to modify the site! Take the travel agency website for example – users that visited "Holiday for Seniors" are looking for "golf" on this subpage. Perhaps the agency should mention golf courses or at least add a visible link.
We can learn more using many other interesting statistics, such as the percentage of visitors who better clarify their previous queries, how many pages they visit after searching, etc. However, if you can benefit from at least these three gold veins (what they're looking for, what they say and from where to they come from), you will not only improve your website, but also its results.
* Tracking internal search (Site Search) isn't automatically enabled in Google Analytics and needs to be set manually in the profile. Although it's relatively simple, a surprising number of sites don't have this feature enabled.