Using Internal Site Search Reports to Improve UX

Blog Series On All Things Google AnalyticsAs an SEO, you are most likely very used to the practice of matching a specific keyword with a desired landing page on your site. You likely do this daily. Similarly, we can use an Internal Site Search report data from Google Analytics to help users get to their desired content on your site in the fewest clicks as possible.

When a someone uses your internal site search they’re most likely doing it for one of two reasons. Either they’ve looked and can’t find the content they are looking for, or they know the content exists but feel it’s quicker or easier to get there by doing a quick search. Similar to using Google’s Search Engine.

The first case is obviously bad. You should look into making sure that anything being searched for a lot on your site has an easy to find link pointing to it from the home page and or your main navigation.

But this is not the case I’m concerned with in this post. I’m more interested in users who know where they want to go but use search in order to get there quicker. You might be asking yourself, how can I tell which search terms represent which type of searcher? This is a good question and one that can’t be answered with a simple set of guidelines. Much like many of an SEO’s tasks, this is going to be something you need to feel out on a case by case basis. No two sites are going to be exactly the same.

Google Analytics display of site search states.

Example Case

In this exercise, I want to look at terms in the internal site search report that are related to something very specific on your site. These would be very short-tailed terms that match specific content on a site. For instance, if you have a recipes section on your site, and you find that lots of users are searching for recipes using your internal site search, you can safely assume that they are either having trouble finding that section, or they want to get to that section right away.

In both cases, sending users searching for “recipes” directly to the recipe listing page would be the best possible user experience for these users. Typically you would send this user to a search results listing page, where most likely they’ll find a link to the recipes page mixed in with other recipes, recipe categories, and all sorts of other content. Not only are we requiring the user to make one extra unnecessary click, but we are taking the risk that they don’t find the page they’re interested in at all.

Google does something similar with their search results. While they don’t send the user directly to the top results page, they do throw in extra content within the search results if they deem it relevant to your search query. For instance if you search for the scores of the MLB games today, Google is going to show you a ticker with the scores within the search results. It knows what you were looking for, so it tries to answer your questions without you needing to make an extra click onto a website that may or may not have what you are looking for.

Setting up Redirects to Landing Pages

If you are using Internal Site Search, then your urls are going to have query parameters appended to the end of the url to signify to Google which term was searched for. If you’re not technically savvy or are not the ‘technical person’ for your website team, you will most likely need to get an IT or Developer involved at this point in the process. Once you have identified a search term and a matching landing page, have your tech person add a 301 redirect for any page using the search query parameter matching the search term in question.

In our recipes example, if searching for recipes resulted in the landing page: http://www.testsite.com/?searchterm=recipes, we would setup a redirect on any url matching ?searchterm=recipes and send them directly to our recipes page, http://www.testsite.com/recipes/.

By keeping this in mind, we can help to give our users a much better user experience while searching on your site. The web is getting more and more complicated for its growing user base, it’s our job to try to make it as easy as possible for them to get the information they need.