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The Value of Site Search Data

I challenge you to think of creative ways to start to use your data to make better SEO decisions.  Data for search can come from a number of sources, webmaster tools, web analytics, auditing tools, and more.  One of the most powerful sources of insight I find is site search.  Think of it as an opportunity for refining what your customer is truly looking for

Insights from Site Search

As much as SEO is focused on driving traffic I believe there is a greater responsibility on search teams to focus beyond driving traffic and focus on delivering a customer experience.  When the search engines talk about “Quality Content” you can actually measure “quality”.  A few key measures of quality are:

1). Bounce rate

2). Pages viewed

3). Sales/Conversions/Opt-ins Generated

And my favourite….

4). Immediate use of site search

If people use your site search immediately upon entry it may indicate either they found your content slightly relevant but not exactly what they were looking for, or it inspired them to search deeper into a topic.

To understand the differences, consider different types of searches and similarity to the referring keyword.  Typically you can figure out relevancy from your site search results by filtering and looking at your data as so:

Page Referring Keyword(s) Searched Keyword(s) on Site Car Repairs (4586 referrals) Fixing cars (1023)Repairing dents (954)

Removing scratches from paint (543)

Paint chips (234)

Filling in dents (153)

Cars (208 referrals) Car repairs (65)Fixing cars(12)

Car improvements (12)

Car damage (7)

Repairing dents (5)


Very quickly from this data we can see that people arriving at our site on the keyword “cars” are clearly looking for content about repairs.  If this is what our entire site was about this would likely be expected, particularly if they are arriving on the home page as is the case.  However if we look at people arriving on “car repairs” we see searches more specifically about dents, scratches and chips.  The very first question I have is “Do we have prominent content on these topics visible on the home page?”

If the answer is no, then most likely you don’t have the most relevant content, you should consider how to bring some of this content to forefront or consider if you might need to create content to address a specific need that is not covered by a page on your site today.

On the other hand if we saw a lot of searches for the same term that brought someone to our site, I would be willing to bet they didn’t’ find your content all that engaging, but have given you a second chance to redeem yourself with your site search.  This is where you really need to step up your game and determine if the issue is content or the ability to decipher your content.  Most likely the page is the right page, but people are not for whatever reason finding any value in it.  Consider testing plans to improve the experience and better deliver on your searchers expectations.

Find the Sweet Spot

Typically your sweet spot to use this approach is to identify pages that rank perhaps on the second or third page of the search results that have a chance for improvement and moving to the first page.  More importantly this also identifies which words are also driving people to a specific page in case there is a term you were not expecting to see.  I have seen pages optimized before even considering what words they may already be ranking on.

Developing a page and keyword matrix like this can give a pretty quick insight to a pages current opportunity and potential opportunity.  We live in the most measurable age ever as more and more content goes online, start to think about how you can use this to your advantage creatively to develop insights and opportunities for your own site.

Next month I’ll be presenting at SES in San Diego with fellow SEJ author Ryan Jones on Meaningful SEO Analytics.  Hopefully if you’re there you can stop by and say hello or attend our session.

Category SEO
Brent Chaters

Brent Chaters is senior manager Marketing Strategy & Analytics at SapientNitro, where he works with multiple Fortune 500 clients where ...

The Value of Site Search Data

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