Data Visualization

How Do I Use Google Analytics Site Search Data?

By August 30, 2021 January 3rd, 2023 No Comments

You’ve started utilizing the site search function in Google Analytics and now have all this new data – good for you! This guide can help you start putting that search data to work to optimize your content, marketing strategy, and site navigation to best suit your audience. Haven’t set up this feature in your Universal GA property yet? Find out how here. 


What can site search data tell me?

Site search data can help you answer several questions about your audience, their behavior, and how to market to them, including:


How and why do users utilize the search function?

What do users want to know? 

What drives conversions?


Let’s break these down. 


How and why do users utilize the search function?

  1. Consider their behavior to see how users interact with the site search.. 
    1. Do they navigate to the search bar and use it immediately after landing on the page? They might use it for quick convenience instead of using a menu. 
    2. Do they use it after being on the site for some time? They might use it because the menu isn’t user-friendly or the site navigation paths aren’t intuitive. 
    3. Are they a return user? They are likely using it to quickly navigate to a page they have visited before.
  2. Develop audience segments to better understand why they use the site search. 
    1. Utilize existing GA segments to better view common demographic or cohorts. For example, you might find that new users are searching for an account creation or login page, but return users search for content more often because they already see you as an authority on the topic or trust the information they find. 
    2. Create custom segments to view groups of your audience that interact in a particular way. For example, creating a segment of users that have visited at least three pages before using the search function might show you want content users think is difficult to find on the site. Alternatively, segmenting users by state might show geographic differences in interests such as “does home insurance cover earthquakes” being a more popular search in California, but “does flood insurance cover flood damage from a hurricane” is more popular in the Southeast. 
  3. Did they find what they were looking for? 
    1. The Results Pageviews/Search metric can show you how far down a result appeared in the list that the user clicked on. This helps you better understand what content people are actually looking for when they search particular terms, which can inform your metadata strategy. 
    2. Remember to put other standard site metrics to use with your search data. Is there a high exit rate from the results page? This indicates that people aren’t satisfied with the results of their search. 


What do users want to know? 

In-site search terms can be used to inform improvements to multiple other functions or features in your site, as well as how you market your site. 

  1. Internal strategy: Content creation, content marketing, and content metadata – Topical search terms tell you what information or content users are expecting or hoping to find on your site. 
    1. If users are searching for terms for topics featured in your existing content, this indicates that this content has potential to be a high-value source of traffic. Feature this content in email marketing and organic social media to help drive traffic to the site. 
    2. If users are searching for terms related to topics not currently in your repertoire of content, use this data to inform your ongoing content strategy. Create new content featuring these topics to capture those audiences. 
    3. If users are searching for terms related to topics featured in your existing content, but aren’t responding to that content, check your content metadata. 
      1. Including comprehensive, yet informative tags on all content ensures your content is easy to identify and find for a user. For example, if users are using search phrases that include the term “sofa” but your tags and your content only include “couch”, this could result in users not having that content displayed in search results. 
      2. Tags, however, should always remain specific and not too general. If a health and fitness site includes the tag “fitness” on all of their full-workout blog entries, search results could be cumbersome and overwhelming for users when trying to find the specific topic they are looking for. 
  2. External Strategy: SEO – Much like how in-site search terms can be used to inform content creation and organic marketing, use these keywords to inform your SEO strategy. This search data helps you better understand possible nuances of your particular audience. For example, colloquial language or geographically preferred synonyms might appear in your in-site search terms that you can use to better inform your SEO strategy. For example, your content about family room couches might be getting missed by people who search for the term “living room sofa”. 


What drives conversions?

Content that gives people what they want to know is not always the same content that drives conversions. Integrate your goals or eCommerce reporting strategy with your site search reporting strategy to identify high-value content on your site. You might find that some terms or topics drive traffic, but other topics drive more conversions. For example, some Costco online sales and search data might look like this:


Search category Users that searched this term Conversions Conversion Rate Gross Conversion Value
bicycles 1,003 (30.8%) 17 1.7% $20,400
laptops 1,562 (47.9%) 20 1.3% $18,000
jewelry 695 (21.3%) 53 7.6% $31,800


Here, more users were searching for content about laptops than any other search term. However, users searching for content about jewelry accounted for more than twice the number of conversions as “laptops” searchers and had a conversion rate that was almost 7 times greater than other topics. Understanding how traffic drivers and conversion drivers differ can help inform content strategy and other priorities. 


I’ve started collecting and reporting on site search data. Now what?


Collect, maintain, and consult this data regularly. 

Understanding how in-site search changes over time can be helpful in a myriad of ways. 

  1. Plan for seasonality, popularity, and relevance. 
    1. Some seasonal shifts are obvious – people are going to be looking for content about comfy snow boots in late Fall to mid-winter and they will look for content about trendy sandals in early spring to early-summer. However, consulting your search data is a good way to confirm your assumptions. 
    2. Some shifts in the level of interest in certain topics might be unexpected, but can help you plan for future content. For example, you might find that a recent Facebook ad you ran about a new senior discount might correlate to an unexpected increase in search terms on your site relating to other types of discounts, which could indicate a number of things you should check out. Maybe the ad copy was unclear, your audience targeting might have been off, or maybe people remembered seeing the ad and wanted to find the information again. 
  2. Expect and identify change. Identifying how popular search terms change over longer periods of time such as year over year can help you understand broader changes in audience makeup, audience needs, market needs, etc. 


Need more insight or help getting started? 

Contact us! The Futurety Data team is ready to help you optimize your Google Analytics property to help you collect the right data and get the most useful insights out of your reporting. The Futurety Digital team can translate those findings into actionable content development and SEO strategies to grow and respond to your audience!