As an industry, we talk about search data A LOT, but we’re normally focused on the keywords people are using before they reach your website, whether that’s checking monthly search terms in our keyword research tools, or using Google Search Console to see what phrases are driving the most clicks to our websites.
Sadly, it often stops there, but thinking about people’s search habits once they reach your site makes sure you’re actually making the most of this traffic. Here are a few ways to use this data to improve the content on your website.
What is the Site Search feature in Google Analytics?
Google Analytics collects a vast array of data on your website’s visitors, including the terms people enter into your site’s search bar. To see this, navigate to the ‘Site Search’ section in Google Analytics, which is under ‘Behaviour’ in the left hand menu, then select ‘Search Terms’:
Set your dates to the timeframe preferred, although it makes sense in most cases to look at a fairly long period of time to get a representative idea of what people are looking for.
If you’ve got no data, it’s likely you haven’t got Site Search set up. It only takes a few minutes to enable, and Google has a short guide on how to do that here.
Why is GA Site Search data useful?
Any insight into user behaviour is valuable, but Site Search data is particularly useful because it can help inform everything from decisions on navigation and site structure, to keyword research, and content ideas:
Suggestions for new pages
If people are frequently entering the same phrases in your site’s search bar, and they are relevant to what you do, but you don’t currently have a page dedicated to this, this might be your prompt to considering it.
For example, the Browser Media site doesn’t have a page specifically dedicated to link building, but if that was one of the most common phrases from our search function, it might be something that we’d think about branching out into its own page so that we’re not losing visitors who may not immediately understand that we are relevant.
Alternatively, you may find that people are frequently searching for pages that you do already have. This could be an indication that visitors are struggling to find them.
For example, we have an SEO page on the Browser Media website, but it’s not in the main menu, or in the ‘What?’ section (you can find it in the footer), so if lots of people were searching for SEO, and our SEO page was struggling to get traffic, then we might consider making it more visible.
One caveat to this is that people are lazy. Often people will search for what’s right in front of them even though it’s highly visible and clearly signposted, so do take this data with a hefty dose of common sense.
I find it particularly helpful to look at Site Search behaviour following a website redesign or major change to the site structure, to make sure no important pages or information have been inadvertently hidden.
As you start to scroll down the list of search terms, you might begin to find more niche phrases, which might not warrant you building a whole new page on your site, but could indicate that it’s a topic of interest and perhaps worth writing a blog post on instead. Or similarly, it may be something to consider for social media or PR campaigns.
Experimenting with different time periods can help you find if people are searching for certain phrases at different times of year, which may be useful for planning blog content.
Understanding the language your customers use
As with any keyword research aid, Site Search data is also useful for better understanding the language your customers are using.
When we work in any sector we get used to industry terminology and jargon very quickly and it’s easy to forget that customers are often either unfamiliar with this, or it’s just simply not the language they use, so looking through the queries entered by people who have actually reached your site is important to make sure you’re reflecting this language in your copy.
Site Search data makes sure you’re best serving the people that you’ve worked so hard to get to your site in the first place, and on top of that it’s completely free, readily available, and easily exported, so it makes sense to regularly review these terms.