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Internal Search
‘The Forgotten Child of Analytics’
Charles Meaden
Digital Nation
A Very Brief History
• I’ve been involved in web analytics since 1995
• Run a small digital agency in Mumbles, Wales
• Came to look at internal search from a usability and user
experience perspective
• Worked on internal search for large ecommerce clients, charities
and government departments and councils
Why The ‘Lost Child’?
• Some analysts don’t bother to look too deeply into internal search
as at first glance it doesn’t look like search is used that often.
Understanding User Intent
• “Search queries are gold: they are real data that show us exactly
what users are searching for in their own words”
Lou Rosenfield
• It’s the closest you’ll getting to what the customer is thinking
without actually talking to them
• Understand this and you can start improving your
– Navigation
– Search results
– The whole user journey
Allows For Quick And Easy Fixes
• Depending on the platform, it’s a relatively simple job to tweak
the platform to fine tune the results
• Google Custom Search allows you to
– Add Synonyms
– Date Bias the results
– Categorise the results
Show All The Routes To Your Content
It’s Not Just About The Search Box
Tip 1: Use Your Analytics Internal Search Tool
• It makes your life easier
• A lot of the tools and reports are already setup
Tip 2: How Deep Is Your Long Tail?
• Which words standout?
• What % of the total searches do your top 10 search phrases
represent
4,752 unique
phrases and 8,414
unique searches
Top ten only
account for 15% of
searches
Tip 3: Where Are People Searching On Your Site?
• Which pages are generating the most searches?
• Are there areas of your site that are generating more searches
than others
Tip 4: Collect Your Failed Searches
• This doesn’t always come as default
• You’ll need to get your developers to find a way to capture this
– Via the URL
– Via Javascript
• Google Tag Manager makes this so much easier
– Scrape the DOM
– Push an event into the data layer
• Once you have it, you can:
– Fine tune your search / autocompletes
– See how your potential customers describe your services
– Find out what your visitors think you are offering
– Source new products to sell
Tip 5: Discover Where People Go Next
• Mine your analytics package to find out where people go after the
search results page
• Use Regular Expressions and / or SQL to manipulate the data
• Find out whether people got a content page or did they just go
back to the home page
Up to 20,000
different
combinations per
week
Tip 6: How Many Searched and Then Left?
• What proportion of users search and then leave the site?
Tip 7: What Types Of User Are Searching?
• Segment, Segment and then Segment again…
• Thing to look out for
– New or Returning Visitors
– Where did they enter the site
– Where did they come from
– Are they customers or prospects?
Tip 8: Cross Match Organic / PPC Phrases
• What's the difference between the phrase someone entered into
Google and the one they used on your site?
Tip 9: Does Search Help or Hinder Conversions?
• Are people who use search more or less likely to convert?
• If more, what phrases work best
• If less, what are the ‘stop phrases’
Tip 10: Look For Patterns In Your Data
• Are there certain types of searches that appear?
• How often do advice or questions appear
– “how to”,
– “help on”
– “how can”
• Are people using abbreviations or shorthand
• Catalogue numbers from printed brochures around mailings
– If too catalogue numbers appear as failed searches, you may have an
issue
Tip 11: What Are Your Most Common Words?
• Your analytics tool will give you the most common search phrases
• Are there certain words and phrases that keep on appearing?
• Tools such as Textanz and Hermetic Word Frequency Counter will
happily crunch 100,000 of phrases an and display the most
common words and phrases used within it
• Give these to your
– Copywriters
– SEO and PPC staff and agencies
Tip 12: How Good Are Your Search Results?
• Two metrics will tell you just how good your search is
– Number of results pages people searched through
– How many times they refined their search
Tip 13: How Are People Refining Your Faceted Search
• If you’re using filtered or faceted search, what’s the most popular
refinements people make?
Tip 14: Learn SQL
• Or make friends with someone who knows it
• Internal search can throw up 100,000’s of rows of data
• Excel has it’s limits
• Processing Power is cheap
– Use a cloud service such as Amazon AWS and crunch data for less than
50 per hour
Tip 15: Setup Search as a Goal
• A Google Analytics tip
• Setting up the search result page as a Goal lets you use the
‘Reverse Goal Path’
• You can then see the three previous pages
– The page they searched from
– The two previous pages before that
• Hat tip to Tim Leighton-Boyce for that tip
– Follow him on Twitter @timlb
Tip 16: Don’t Just Rely on Your Analytics
• Use tools such as Hotjar, Decibel Insight, Sessioncam or Inspectlet
to observe your users
• Run some live usability tests and ask users why they searched in a
particular way
• Run tests on your current search results and classify the results
– The excellent Lou Rosenfield “Search Analytics for Your Site” has
plenty of good examples
Tip 16: Check out Algolia
• Very clever SASS search tool
– https://www.algolia.com/
• Builds facets on the fly based on a JSON feed
• Great analytics
• We’re testing with Google Tag Manager to get some really rich
data
Things to Do Next
• Read “Search Site Analytics for Your Site” by Lou Rosenfeld
– PDF and Print versions
• View all the articles I’ve tagged as site_search on Pinboard
• Follow me on twitter @charlesmeaden
• Join my mailing list – email me charles@digitalnation.co.uk

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Internal Search - The Lost Child of Web Analytics

  • 1. Internal Search ‘The Forgotten Child of Analytics’ Charles Meaden Digital Nation
  • 2. A Very Brief History • I’ve been involved in web analytics since 1995 • Run a small digital agency in Mumbles, Wales • Came to look at internal search from a usability and user experience perspective • Worked on internal search for large ecommerce clients, charities and government departments and councils
  • 3. Why The ‘Lost Child’? • Some analysts don’t bother to look too deeply into internal search as at first glance it doesn’t look like search is used that often.
  • 4. Understanding User Intent • “Search queries are gold: they are real data that show us exactly what users are searching for in their own words” Lou Rosenfield • It’s the closest you’ll getting to what the customer is thinking without actually talking to them • Understand this and you can start improving your – Navigation – Search results – The whole user journey
  • 5. Allows For Quick And Easy Fixes • Depending on the platform, it’s a relatively simple job to tweak the platform to fine tune the results • Google Custom Search allows you to – Add Synonyms – Date Bias the results – Categorise the results
  • 6. Show All The Routes To Your Content
  • 7. It’s Not Just About The Search Box
  • 8. Tip 1: Use Your Analytics Internal Search Tool • It makes your life easier • A lot of the tools and reports are already setup
  • 9. Tip 2: How Deep Is Your Long Tail? • Which words standout? • What % of the total searches do your top 10 search phrases represent 4,752 unique phrases and 8,414 unique searches Top ten only account for 15% of searches
  • 10. Tip 3: Where Are People Searching On Your Site? • Which pages are generating the most searches? • Are there areas of your site that are generating more searches than others
  • 11. Tip 4: Collect Your Failed Searches • This doesn’t always come as default • You’ll need to get your developers to find a way to capture this – Via the URL – Via Javascript • Google Tag Manager makes this so much easier – Scrape the DOM – Push an event into the data layer • Once you have it, you can: – Fine tune your search / autocompletes – See how your potential customers describe your services – Find out what your visitors think you are offering – Source new products to sell
  • 12. Tip 5: Discover Where People Go Next • Mine your analytics package to find out where people go after the search results page • Use Regular Expressions and / or SQL to manipulate the data • Find out whether people got a content page or did they just go back to the home page Up to 20,000 different combinations per week
  • 13. Tip 6: How Many Searched and Then Left? • What proportion of users search and then leave the site?
  • 14. Tip 7: What Types Of User Are Searching? • Segment, Segment and then Segment again… • Thing to look out for – New or Returning Visitors – Where did they enter the site – Where did they come from – Are they customers or prospects?
  • 15. Tip 8: Cross Match Organic / PPC Phrases • What's the difference between the phrase someone entered into Google and the one they used on your site?
  • 16. Tip 9: Does Search Help or Hinder Conversions? • Are people who use search more or less likely to convert? • If more, what phrases work best • If less, what are the ‘stop phrases’
  • 17. Tip 10: Look For Patterns In Your Data • Are there certain types of searches that appear? • How often do advice or questions appear – “how to”, – “help on” – “how can” • Are people using abbreviations or shorthand • Catalogue numbers from printed brochures around mailings – If too catalogue numbers appear as failed searches, you may have an issue
  • 18. Tip 11: What Are Your Most Common Words? • Your analytics tool will give you the most common search phrases • Are there certain words and phrases that keep on appearing? • Tools such as Textanz and Hermetic Word Frequency Counter will happily crunch 100,000 of phrases an and display the most common words and phrases used within it • Give these to your – Copywriters – SEO and PPC staff and agencies
  • 19. Tip 12: How Good Are Your Search Results? • Two metrics will tell you just how good your search is – Number of results pages people searched through – How many times they refined their search
  • 20. Tip 13: How Are People Refining Your Faceted Search • If you’re using filtered or faceted search, what’s the most popular refinements people make?
  • 21. Tip 14: Learn SQL • Or make friends with someone who knows it • Internal search can throw up 100,000’s of rows of data • Excel has it’s limits • Processing Power is cheap – Use a cloud service such as Amazon AWS and crunch data for less than 50 per hour
  • 22. Tip 15: Setup Search as a Goal • A Google Analytics tip • Setting up the search result page as a Goal lets you use the ‘Reverse Goal Path’ • You can then see the three previous pages – The page they searched from – The two previous pages before that • Hat tip to Tim Leighton-Boyce for that tip – Follow him on Twitter @timlb
  • 23. Tip 16: Don’t Just Rely on Your Analytics • Use tools such as Hotjar, Decibel Insight, Sessioncam or Inspectlet to observe your users • Run some live usability tests and ask users why they searched in a particular way • Run tests on your current search results and classify the results – The excellent Lou Rosenfield “Search Analytics for Your Site” has plenty of good examples
  • 24. Tip 16: Check out Algolia • Very clever SASS search tool – https://www.algolia.com/ • Builds facets on the fly based on a JSON feed • Great analytics • We’re testing with Google Tag Manager to get some really rich data
  • 25. Things to Do Next • Read “Search Site Analytics for Your Site” by Lou Rosenfeld – PDF and Print versions • View all the articles I’ve tagged as site_search on Pinboard • Follow me on twitter @charlesmeaden • Join my mailing list – email me charles@digitalnation.co.uk