Introduction to site search analytics by SearchBroker
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Introduction to site search analytics by SearchBroker

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This paper is about the challenge of using analytics to drive your findability strategy and measure how well it’s achieving on its objectives.

This paper is about the challenge of using analytics to drive your findability strategy and measure how well it’s achieving on its objectives.

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Introduction to site search analytics by SearchBroker Introduction to site search analytics by SearchBroker Document Transcript

  • Site  Search  Analytics   1  Site  Search  Analytics   1  Site  Search  Analytics  White  paper  by  SearchBroker  -­‐  Colbenson  John  Tomlinson  This paper is about the challenge of using analytics to drive your findability strategy andmeasure how well it’s achieving on its objectives.
  • ContentsIntroduction ....................................................................................................................................................................3Putting the customer first ..........................................................................................................................................3The long neck or the long tail? ..................................................................................................................................5Search analytics to drive SEO........................................................................................................................................5Site search is different ...................................................................................................................................................5Findability: the foundation of conversion..............................................................................................................6Findability..........................................................................................................................................................................6Search analytics: the long neck .................................................................................................................................9Content or search terms?...............................................................................................................................................9Calculating opportunity ...............................................................................................................................................10The findability ceiling ...................................................................................................................................................12Search analytics: the long tail..................................................................................................................................14Step one: create clusters .............................................................................................................................................14Step two: low findability analysis...............................................................................................................................14Step three: take action.................................................................................................................................................14Low findability due to no content..............................................................................................................................14Low findability due to non-indexed content..........................................................................................................15Low findability due to customer behaviour...........................................................................................................15Low findability for other reasons............................................................................................................................15Step four: dont stop.....................................................................................................................................................16Conclusion......................................................................................................................................................................17
  • 3Introduction  People have one thing in common: they are allunique.This means that people will search in lots ofdifferent ways, and your onsite search enginemust be able to deal with it.This paper is about that challenge. The challengeof using analytics to drive your findability strategyand measure how well it’s achieving on itsobjectives.Putting  the  customer  first  The proper place to start is with customer-focussed search analytics.This means going through all the words (terms) and phrases (queries) and working out what people aretalking about.Putting each terms or query into a graph, with quantity of searches on the vertical y-axis and each searchterm (in quantity order) on the horizontal x-axis, you get something that looks a bit like this:
  • Roughly speaking, about 80% of your searches will fall into the top 20% of terms (we call this the longneck), and then the other 80% of terms will be spread across about 20% of your traffic (the long tail).This "long tail" is a broad range of search queries that tend to be a mix of words and phrases that willusually have poor findability rates (ie. they dont connect the customer to any site content).The tactics for dealing wth the long neck are differentfrom those of the long tail – but which is moreimportant? Where should you start?
  • 5  The  long  neck  or  the  long  tail?    Search analytics advice is usually focussed on the importance of the "long tail" in driving conversion.Whilst the "long tail" is important, please be aware, a lot of this advice is focussed on Search EngineOptimisation (SEO) and not on internal site search.Search  analytics  to  drive  SEO  The argument runs that using high volume queries like "TV" is less effective in driving conversion than amuch more specific - but much less common - query like "LCD smart HD TV Samsung" for example.This makes sense, the more specific the search is, the more likely it is that the customer will connect tothe data they are actually looking for, and the more likely it is that the customer is clear about what theywant and serious about finding it.Many of us search this way. We try a fairly general query then, when faced with too much genericcontent, we refine the queries getting more and more specific until we find links that connect us directlyto the content were looking for.The challenge of SEO is to get seen in external search engines like Google. In this case, the long-tail is agreat source of data to help you focus your advertising, make use of key words that convert, drive acontent marketing strategy, and other useful techniques for attracting valuable traffic.Site  search  is  different  It is not the same challenge in site search. In site search the customer is already on the site, so the sameargument simply doesnt apply and a different approach is needed.In site search, the challenge is to ensure that the customer makes the right connections to the rightdata.We may see a "long tail" query like "Samsung HD Smart LCD TV" with findability at zero, but this is muchless likely. If this is a product (or product type) you stock, then if it is not connecting it is probably due todata quality or design issues rather than search. If you stock other types of HD TVs, a good search engine- even a poor search engine - should make that connection!The long-tail in site search is often more idiosyncratic: variations on terms, common mistakes or off-catalogue items that you havent indexed.
  • This is why search analytics always starts with the customer.It is vital to use the customers own language to drive how the search and category navigation functionsdeliver. If you dont, youll be building connections from a business perspective, not from a customerperspective.This is why the head of the graph, the long neck that are about 80% of the traffic, becomes hugelyimportant: thats where the customers are and in site search analytics, that’s where you need to start!Findability:  the  foundation  of  conversion  Before discussing the specific approaches you should take when dealing with the long neck and long tailof site search, we need to define the term “findability”.Findability is mapped on the vertical y-axis of the graph where each term or query has a findability valueassociated with it. This is driving the analytics process, and so we must understand the term to be surewe are building our methodology on solid foundations.Findability  The term "findability" is a cumbersome and inelegant word, but one that captures an important concept.The first formal definition is often credited to Peter Morville:"the ability of users to identify an appropriate Web site and navigate the pages of the site todiscover and retrieve relevant information resources"(Peter Morville, 20051)He wasnt the first to use the term, but his definition is most widely accepted.This definition includes two ideas:• The ability of the website and its content to be found by customers searching externally.• The ability of the content of the website to be found by customers internally (i.e. already on thesite).1Source: http://findability.org/
  • 7The first part of the definition is now the field known as SEO: (Search Engine Optimization). This is abouthow to ensure your site ranks in Google and other major search engines, and has become a vital tool foronline organisations and a complex science with its own devoted experts.The second part of the definition is the focus of this paper. Can people who are already on your siteactually find what theyre looking for?This is increasingly important as big data becomes ever more commonplace, and especially so in e-commerce. The ability of your e-commerce customers to find your products is the different betweenmaking a sale and losing a customer.This is why we at Colbenson define "findability" as:"the measure for how easily your customers can make the right connections to your data"This is findability, and it is the fundamental component of online conversion. Can your customersconnect to your data correctly - if not, theyre not going to buy anything.This also goes beyond site search.Findability is not just about how onsite search works, it applies generally to how your customers connectto your data. This could be via promotional advertising, category navigation, social media or any otherchannel.How customers make these connections will vary from sector to sector and from business to business.
  • This is why “findability” is such a useful concept, it doesnt focus on the tool (e.g. the onsite searchengine), it focuses on the outcome: customers making the right connections to your data, or, to put itanother way, it focuses on conversion.Reducing Site Search abandons increases Conversion
  • 9Search  analytics:  the  long  neck  In site search, 80% of your customers are at the long neck; thats where you need to be!The great thing about long neck search terms is that they are predictable. It doesnt take too mucheffort to scan through the top bundle of search terms used, see whats happening, and create a plan forthe kind of connections you want to see made between customers using those terms and your sitecontent.The best way to convert the long neck is by creating promotional links to either successful searches orhigh-performing content. Or both.But what links should we create?The best way to decide is to let the customer decide by using A/B Testing on various different solutions.A/B TestingA/B Testing involves trying two or more options and randomly applying these to your customers atthe same times of day. You can then compare which is the most successful at building connections.Content  or  search  terms?  A search engine like Google will link you to popular search terms by suggesting popular searches as youtype. This is called Google Suggest. In this case, the search is still performed and a page of results shown.The customer needs to browse these results and select the content they want.This is great when there is no obvious standout link between the term and the content.
  • If there is a strong relationship between a search term and site content, you can bypass the search andresults process and directly suggest that content to the customer is the autocomplete space. This meansthe customer clicks and is taken directly to that content.A great example of this is Apple:Be careful with this, you can overdo it, and end up thinking all of your customers want to make the sameconnections to the same content. You must always allow the customer to feel in control of the search,and allow them to make the connections they want to make.Calculating  opportunity  A useful way to measure this is to consider the concept of “opportunity”. This process allows you toprioritise your actions when managing site search.OpportunityOpportunity is the measure of what you’re not converting – how many opportunities to sell are youmissing because your search is not making the right connections.Sticking with the TV example from earlier in this paper, if we have a "long-tail" item like "telvision" thathas a findability of zero, and a frequency of 5, then we are potentially missing out on 5 connections andtherefore have 5 opportunites.
  • 11At the same time, if a thousand people are searching "TV" and this has a findability of 20%, then thats800 people (1000 x 80%) not making connections to your products.Looked at this way, you have a much greater opportunity to make an impact on your overall conversionrates if you work out why people are not finding what they want when they search "TV" than connecting"telvision" that had only 5 incidences.The calculation for working out the number of opportunities (o) each search query presents us with issimple: the number of incidences (n) multiplied by the percentage not found (1-f%):o = n x (1-f%)There is a problem with this method.We are assuming that it is possible to get a findability percentage (f%) of 100%.Sadly, we must reluctantly accept that there is a ceiling somewhat lower than perfection for mostqueries. Some individual queries with very low frequency (usually pointing at specific content) may haveunusually high findability, but this anayisis uses he more numerous terms found in the "head" of thegraph.This will vary from industry to industry, and from sector tosector, but it is rare to see 100% findability - especially if yourresults page (or autocomplete) has so much information thatcustomers need not click on anything to get the information!
  • The  findability  ceiling  To estimate your findability ceiling, first isolate your top search queries. These should be the top ten (orso) that have the best findability percentage, but that have a similar success rate. It neednt be exactlyten queries, but you should be able to see a number of queries that cluster at the top with similarpercentages.Now you need to drill down on the part that is not converting.Staying customer-focussed, there are only two things thatcan be happening if the customer is not connecting tocontent. Either they are (a) giving up and abandoning thesearch, or (b) they try again and search with new terms oruse filters to refine the results.This is shown in this diagram. The green channel showsconversion, the red is abandonment and the yellow iscustomers trying again.Let us assume that our top performing search querieshave an average findability of 40%, and that of the 60%thats not connecting, it is split equally into 30%abandoning the search and 30% refining or redoing.We can now make an assumption that we should be ableto see a 30% improvement in (b) and a 10% improvementin (a).The difference is because redos usually signal that the person is not finding what they want to find (i.e. asearch problem), whereas abandonments may signal the customer being put off by a non-search-relatedreason such as price, terms and conditions, payment methods, poor reviews, lack of information, orsimply poor page design.So, adding this up we get the original 40%, plus 10% of abandonments (3%) plus 30% of redos (9%) anda ceiling target to aim for of 52%. This is much more realistic than 100%. For those who like equations:o = n x (fc%-f%)(The new term is fc% which is the percentage of the findability ceiling).
  • 13The queries should then be listed in order of opportunity, giving us a quick and simple priority list foractions we need to take to drive up conversion.In this way we are able to focus our efforts in the places where we will have the most impact.
  •  Search  analytics:  the  long  tail  Although it makes sense to start with the long neck, it is still useful to look at the "long tail”.This contrasts with the long tail where the search terms are more numerous and less predictable. For thelong tail we need the search engine to be really clever at ranking results organically - but in the longneck, because were working with fewer terms and we know what they are, we can take control andcreate the links we want.There is a four-step process for dealing with long tail analytics.Step  one:  create  clusters  The first step is to examine the data, and where possible, create clusters of terms. If, for example, theare a lot of terms like "postage", "delivery", "shipping", "packaging" or even errors such as "pakaging"and "dliver" which are recognisable, then you can see there is demand for content about how productsare delivered.Step  two:  low  findability  analysis  There are only four reasons why findability is zero or very low:1. You dont have content on your site that relates to what they are looking for.2. You do have content, but didnt index it so it cannot be found with the search engine.3. The customer misspelled, mistyped or described the content in a way that wasnt recognised4. None of the above. For some other reason they did not choose to click on any result that wasoffered.For each cluster created in Step One (or each term where no clusters could be created), work out whatthe reason for the low score is.Step  three:  take  action  Each of the above four reasons requires a different approach.Low  findability  due  to  no  content  You have three choices:1. Create content that includes these terms. This can mean adding a blog post, an FAQ, a technicaldescription ... it depends on the nature of the query which type of content makes sense.
  • 152. Stock the item. If the customer is searching for an item you dont stock, this a great view intopotential demand. If it makes no sense to stock it, you may still be able to create content thatmay be of interest and may keep the customer on the site, or you can link the term to a similaritem - perhaps via the "zero results page" ("We dont stock X, but we do have Y").3. Dont worry about it. Sometimes people will search for things that just dont make any sense ...but beware, sometimes what might seem to make no sense to you, does make sense to thecustomer. Why would people suddenly search for Brad Pitt on the Chanel site? Or search forKate Moss on Mango’s site? Before dismissing the search term, ensure youre aware of allpromotional activity your organisation is involved in - there may be a connection there and theright move is to create some content or direct the search to the relevant product.Low  findability  due  to  non-­‐indexed  content  This one is fairly obvious. All site content should be indexed, not just your product catalogue. Oftencustomers will search for store location, returns policies, how to make complaints, how the deliveryprocess works and other off-catalogue information. This should be there and should be indexed.Low  findability  due  to  customer  behaviour  This data is a gold mine of common mistakes that your customers will make and allows you to beproactive about anticipating future errors. If they are often misspelling a word, you will find it here. Ifthey dont understand how your product is categorized, youll find their version of the truth representedin the words and phrases in this data.Where it is possible to link these words and phrases to content, you should do so by including them inproduct descriptions, keywords or synonyms.The most important action you can take here is to ensure that your autocomplete function offers searchsuggestions and content that avoid mistakes in the first place.An alternative is to link them to similar words or phrases that have good rates of conversion. This ispopular with Google where they will use "Did you mean X?" and perform the search on X which theyknow has some good results. If you do this, you must be clear that the results relate to X, and not whatthe customer searched for.A last point on this. Dont assume these are all customer errors, they could just as easily be your errors.Challenge your own category structures, product names and descriptions: are you the one who is makingthe mistakes?Low  findability  for  other  reasons  This is a very broad category, and could include many factors, not all of which may be negative.
  • Here are ten of the more common reasons:• Poor results page design.• Lack of, or poorly designed, autocomplete function.• Poor zero results page.• Poor data quality - the right content is not being offered.• Lack of, or poorly designed, filters.• Ineffective dynamic ranking of results.• Poor or confusing product descriptions so that the customer cannot correctly recognise theproduct.• The lack of appropriate use of images and other visuals.• So much information shown in the results page or autocomplete that it becomes unnecessaryfor the customer to click on anything (not necessarily a bad thing!)• Non-search related reasons such as wrong pricing, confusing descriptions, generally poor designdestroying customer confidence.Step  four:  dont  stop  This process is not a straight line, its a circle. Once these actions have been taken, the process startsagain.
  • 17Conclusion  A good search engine succeeds because it is part of a customer-centric findability strategy. It is focussedon helping your customers connect with your content, and measured by how well it achieves thisobjective.The process for acting on these analytics involves taking the long neck and the long tail of search termsseparately. Each is then dealt with differently, and always with the objective of driving up findability andso increasing the connections your customers make to your content.This is the foundation of conversion. If your customers can’t connect to the right content, they can’t buyit.15 Queen Square, LEEDS, LS2 8AJ United Kingdom0113 335 0791 / 08454 757 973http://www.colbenson.com