Know What Your Customers Want: Analyze Internal Search Data With Google Analytics
Ian Lurie Jul 31 2007
I’ve seen conversion rates jump by as much as 20% on sites tailored to internal search phrases. To accomplish that, though, you need to know your site’s internal search data. What’s internal search data? If you know what your customers search for on your site, you can deliver more of what they want. Here’s how you can use two free tools to measure internal search.
Google’s new Custom Search Business Edition is a great search engine for small to mid-size sites. But it doesn’t provide much in the way of useful analytics – a little graph of search volume, and a short list of heavily searched phrases, if you’re lucky.
Enter Google Analytics. You can use Google Analytics filters to create detailed, easy-to-read onsite search reports. Here’s how:
View this video in Quicktime format: Click here.
Here’s the same steps, in text, in case you need them while you set up:
- First, set up your Google custom search engine. If you don’t have Google CSE, then see the video tutorial here. You can be up and running in a few minutes.
- Next, log into Google Analytics. If you don’t have Google Analytics, see the video tutorials here.
- Go to the Analytics Settings page. You’ll see this page when you log in. If not, click ‘Analytics Settings’ at the upper left of the screen.
- Click ‘Edit’ next to the reporting profile for your site.
- Under ‘Filters Applied to Profile’, click ‘Add Filter’.
- Set up a filter with these exact settings:
It’s very important that you enter this exact formula into the Field A -> Extract A field: q=([^&]*)&sa=Search. This bit of gobbledygook is a regular expression. It’s a highly geeky way of getting a computer to go through a bunch of words, characters and random text and find just what you want. If you want to know what it’s doing, see the video tutorial, above.
- Save changes.
That’s it. In about 24 hours, you’ll start seeing results. To find your results:
- Log into your Google Analytics account.
- View your report.
- Click ‘Content’.
- Click ‘Content by Title’.
- Scroll down to ‘Find Page Title Containing’ and enter ‘search2′.
- Voila. You’ll see a list of phrases entered into your onsite search tool.
This data is often completely different from the phrases visitors use to find you on a search engine. It’s also a great indicator of what those visitors really want to see when they arrive. Internal search is the best way to find out how your customers use your site.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More