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Over the years I have spoken to many IndexTools users from agencies to direct clients and all of them agree on the importance of tracking internal search. I think it’s safe to say that if, as a visitor to a site, you can’t find what you’re looking for then you’re not going to stay very long. We’ve all experienced clicking on what looks to be ‘relevant’ paid ad in a search engine, landing on page that is kind of relevant and then search for what you’re looking for and getting zero results. Waste of my time, waste of the advertiser’s money and chances are you won’t go back to that site again.

Granted this is not the most exciting task for marketers but it should be one that is looked at more frequently than not. It improves the usability of your site and ultimately contributes to conversions and more importantly revenue.

I am not going to get too technical in this post, but gathering internal search query data is not complicated. In its simplest form, we’ve seen that most clients want to track:

  • The Search Results Page
  • Origin of search (internal)
  • The Search phrase itself
  • Revenue participation and relevance of Search Phrase

So how do I go about capturing these? This is when the flexibility of the IndexTools system comes into play. We activate custom fields (these are custom JavaScript variables) on your account and then design them for your specific need. You then simply add them to the required page of your website and we gather the data in your account. It really is as easy as that!

Once deployed, we start to gather data instantly and you can quickly begin to identify what’s working for you and what’s not.

First start by running a ‘Revenue Participation’ report. This is especially telling if you web property is ecommerce based. If you are in the business of Lead Generation the run an ‘Action Participation’ report for your key actions. These are not standard reports in the IndexTools system; therefore you’ll need to run a quick custom report (you can easily bookmark this for later reference):

Figure 1. Custom Report Wizard

The result of the custom report will look something like the below:

Figure 2. Search page Revenue Participation

In the above example, it is clear that the search page is an integral part of this website’s business model. Therefore it is not good enough to leave this development task to a web designer; the marketing department must have a hand in this and ensure that correct deployment and management of the search functionality for the site occurs.

Ok, so we have quickly ascertained that the Search Page results page is important. Many websites nowadays have multiple search sections to help visitors quickly input a search requirement wherever they are on the page. In this UK retailers case they have search functionality in the Header and Footer as well as an advanced search function. So where are my searches originating from?

Again having pre-defined my custom fields to capture this information I can quickly run a custom report to display this (the actions represent the number of searches made):

Figure 3. Search Origin

We can therefore surmise that the header is the most effective search instrument on the web property and can decide whether we want to put any further effort into optimizing the footer and the advanced search functions. So all in all we’re doing pretty well so far.

What about the actually search phrases themselves though? Which are individually converting? Which are not and can we determine why?

We going to run a couple of reports, containing slightly more data, to give us a more detailed view of our search phrases, the number of results returned for those and the revenue participation. Again, running a custom report (remember that you only need to create these once and then bookmark them; they can then be emailed to you and naturally accessed through the user interface) we can collate this information to give us a detailed picture of the performance of these keywords:

Figure 4. Search Result with Revenue Participation

Ok, so an iPod is a rather unoriginal example and a well performing product! However we do know that our internal search is being used to look for iPod related products and that in the last hour there were 1,248 search requests for iPod related products. I could also hedge my bets slightly and say that maybe we weren’t stocking enough iPod related products…1,248 searches in the last hour with 19 results returned, but only