Hello again everyone, it's been a while since my last post. Today I'd like to talk about internal search and how best to approach measuring it. Almost any analytics solution will allow you to track raw instances of each term entered into a site's internal search engine. In fact, many search applications will provide analytics reporting to the business users. But the key here, along with anything else in this space, is how to act on this information.
OK, so you've tagged your site to track each search term and you know what you're visitors are searching for, great! Now what? First and foremost, DO NOT ASSUME that visitors are searching from just your "home page." For some reason, many analysts (including myself) think of search in terms of landing on an unfamiliar site. Is search enabled/persistent across every page within your site? I hope so! If that is the case, then you need to pass the page the visitor was on when they executed a search, the term they entered and the content they viewed as a result of their search. How? By appending unique parameter strings to your URLs and pass that information to your reporting tool.
Let's take a look at what I mean via amazon.com. The screen shot below illustrates what content I'm viewing, found their via their navigational links. In this case, it a Samsung HDTV that' I'm trying to talk my wife into buying so we can watch the Super Bowl, er, I mean cuddle up and watch a nice movie together.
Take a good look at the Page title and URL. It contains the actual model number of the product I'm looking at and the site section that I'm in. (This is a great example as to the power of parameter strings and relevant page titles towards SEO.)
Let's see what happens when I search for Invicta watches:
The page title and URL indicates what page/section I was on when I searched for "Invicta!" Let's look close at the query parameter string.
"url=Search-alias" tells us that a search was executed and "field-keywords=Invicta" gives us what I entered. You could pass these entities to separate reports depending on what analytics package you are using. Navigational analysis will tell us what I clicked on within the "Search Results" page. If you cannot track this kind of information and aggregate into something actionable, then get your analytics vendor in to make it work or dump them!
So now what do we do? Strategize on how you're going to act on this information. What business problems can I solve? If I cannot get to certain content easily while I'm deep within the bowels of your site, perhaps you'll need to evaluate your navigational design. Another great idea is to create a frame that provides a "Top 10 or 20 Items Searched For" and have it persist throughout the site. I hope you enjoyed this post and welcome replies to it!