Google Analytics: How to Set Up Site Search

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to know exactly what your potential customers want? Not the ones already buying from you, their purchases already tell you they found what they were looking for on your site. No, I’m talking about the ones that don’t buy from you. They’ve come to your website, checked out everything you have to offer, maybe some of them even made it as far as your product pages or sign up form – but for whatever reason, they just didn’t convert. And you’re left wondering just what the hell you need to do to get those customers to buy from you? Well, it doesn’t have to be such a mystery. Google Analytics offers a handy little feature called Site Search that can help you find out exactly what visitors are searching for on your website. Obviously, it only allows you to peek into the minds of those visitors who used the search function on your website, but that can still be a lot more information than no data at all. So let’s take a look at how to set up site search, and more importantly, what you can learn from these reports.

How To Set Up Site Search

First off, we’re going to need to go to our Admin panel. Choose your main reporting view from the list, and then go to View Settings. Scroll right down to the bottom of your list of options and you’ll find the Site Search option:

Site Search

Turn Site Search tracking on, and a couple of additional options will appear. Adding site search categories is optional and only relevant if your site search allows visitors the option of searching within particular categories. You’ll need to find your query parameter, though, but don’t worry, that’s much easier than it sounds.

Open up a new tab in your browser and go to your website. Find your search option and type in any search term. On the search results page, look at the URL that appears in your browser bar, and you’ll likely see something that looks like this:

Site Search

The first part of the URL is just my domain name, so we’ll ignore that – but see that “?s=google” part? The character (or characters) that come after the question mark and before the equals sign is your query parameter, and what you need to add in your Google Analytics admin panel. It could be a single letter, like “s” in my case or “q” in others, or it could be a whole word, like “query” or “term”. Exactly what your query parameter looks like isn’t important. All that matters is that you add it into your search panel, so Google Analytics knows how to recognise the URLs generated by search queries on your website.

Hit “Save” once you’re done, and that’s it! You’re ready to start learning what your customers really want.

What You Can Learn From Your Site Search Reports

All this new data is entirely worthless if you’re not trying to analyse and learn from it. So I’m going to run you through a few examples to get you started:

01. Visitors are searching for a product / service you offer on your site.

Sounds like you need to do a bit of redesigning or reorganising information on your site. If you’re seeing a high volume of searches for a particular item, then you need to make sure your visitors can find it easily, ideally without having to search for it. Sure, the visitors who used your search probably found the item they were looking for, but those that didn’t? They probably just left your site, sadly unaware that you had exactly what they needed.

Site Search

02. Visitors are searching for a product / service you don’t offer on your site.

Whether or not you’re interested in fulfilling all of your visitors needs yourself, this is highly useful information, particularly if you add a segment to your report so you only view data from those visitors who didn’t convert. For example, let’s say you sell stationery, and you see a lot of searches for custom rubber stamps, which you don’t sell. It may be too much work to add these to your inventory, but now you know this is something they’re interested in, you can find a suitable partner to work with: maybe you take the orders and they create and ship them for you, or you work out a referral plan together. Or maybe you’ve just found a whole new product line to add to your website and keep customers shopping with you.

03. Visitors can’t find a product you sell, even after searching for it.

This is where the site search reports get really clever: you can see how many pages a visitor clicked through after they searched for a particular item on your site. This tells you how clearly your products are set up in terms of your search engine, which can be valuable information. For example, coming back to our stationery example, let’s say you do sell those custom rubber stamps. Yet in your reports, you can see dozens of queries for “signature stamps” and “personalized stamps” – and none of those searches are leading to conversions. What gives?

Well, that’s where you go back and revisit your site language: if your Custom Rubber Stamps product doesn’t include those specific query terms anywhere on the page, then it may not show up in search results for customers. The fix is simple; edit your description to include those all important keywords, and you’ve just removed a major conversion barrier.

Hopefully, you can see now how useful setting up site search can be – and it only takes five minutes, so what are you waiting for? If you’re having trouble with the setup part, just get in touch: I offer Google Analytics set up packages where I’ll configure all of this and more.