Practical Ecommerce

Google Analytics: Using Site Search Data to Grow Revenue

Do you wonder how people navigate to find products on your ecommerce site? What about visitors that hit just one or two pages and then leave, without buying anything? Did they not find what they were looking for?

Google Analytics has a site-search reporting suite that can help answer these questions. Unlike the keyword reports in Google Analytics for organic and paid search traffic — external to your website — the site search reporting provides insights into what visitors searched for on your website, using your site search. This data can be valuable for ecommerce merchants, as I will explore in this article.

Setting Up Site Search in Google Analytics

Setting up site-search tracking in Google Analytics is easy.

First, identify the query parameter from your internal search results page. To do this, perform a search on your site. Then look at the URL on the search results page. Identify in the URL the keyword you searched for. The character(s) just prior to the keyword is called the query parameter. In the example below, the query parameter is “q”.

Identify the query parameter in the URL. In this case, it is "q."

Identify the query parameter in the URL. In this case, it is “q”.

If you do not see your keyword in the search results’ URL, work with your developer to set this up. It shouldn’t be too challenging as this is not typically a complicated task.

Enter the query parameter in Google Analytics in “Admin > View Settings” (near the bottom) and you are done.

To get to the query parameter field, go to Admin > View Settings

To get to the query parameter field, go to Admin > View Settings.

Enter the query parameter in the query parameter field on the View Settings page.

Enter the query parameter in the query parameter field on the View Settings page.

You can let Google Analytics strip the search query parameter by checking the box to “Strip query parameters out of URL.” I see no reason to check this box, so I typically do not.

If you have enhanced search features that include a query parameter for the search category, enable “Site search categories” and include that query parameter in the settings. You can then report by site search category in the reports. Most sites do not have a site search category.

Using Google Analytics Site Search Reporting

With site search data active in Google Analytics, access the reporting under “Behavior > Site Search” in the left navigation.

Access the reporting under Behavior > Site Search in the left navigation.

Access the reporting under Behavior > Site Search in the left navigation. Click image to enlarge.

In the above data, 4.64 percent of visits used site search. This is a little low. I typically see a range of 5 to 15 percent for niche ecommerce sites.

Looking at the additional metrics can indicate how your site search is performing. If “% Search Exits” is high (over 50 percent), search is not likely driving visitors down the path to purchase.

For additional details about the search metrics and how they are calculated, see Google Analytics’ explanation.

The Usage report (Behavior > Site Search > Usage) also helps to determine if site search is driving sales. In the example data below, I clicked on the “Ecommerce” tab — the data is available if Ecommerce reporting is enabled for the account — to report the data in the “Usage” report (Behavior > Site Search > Usage). “Visits With Site Search” had a conversion rate of 6.93 percent, versus 3.67 percent for “Visits Without Site Search.” This indicates that site search is helping to convert visitors.

Visits with site search had a much higher conversion rate: 6.93 percent versus 3.67 percent. <em>Click image to enlarge.</em>

Visits with site search had a much higher conversion rate: 6.93 percent versus 3.67 percent. Click image to enlarge.

To see what search terms are popular on your site, go to the “Search Terms” report, at Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms. Do the top search terms align with your product offerings? If not, what can you learn from them, about what people are searching for?

For example, a family business I co-own imports product from Greece and sells them online. We noticed that people were searching for “gyro” on our site. But we were not selling gyro meat at the time because we assumed it would not be a big seller.

People were searching for gyro meat, even though it was not offered as a product at the time.

People were searching for gyro meat, even though it was not offered as a product at the time.

We started selling gyro meat after this feedback and now it is a big seller for us.

If you see searches for products that are not relevant to your business, use Secondary dimension by Source (Secondary dimension > Acquisition > Source) to identify what traffic drove those users to perform the searches. There may be an opportunity to optimize that traffic or stop bidding on certain keywords that are not driving relevant traffic.

In the example below, someone searched for an 1999 Toyota armrest on our site. But we do not sell armrests. Fortunately, this was an organic session, so we did not pay for the click.

Try to figure out where site searches unrelated to your business are coming from.

Try to figure out where site searches unrelated to your business are coming from.

If you see a high volume of searches for certain products with corresponding high conversion rates, this may be an opportunity to more prominently display these products on your website. For example, people searching for “halva” on our site converted over 12 percent of the time. We will explore adding halva, a dessert, to our main navigation or to our home page.

Consider adding highly searched items, such as "halva" in this example, to a prominent display on your site.

Consider adding highly searched items, such as “halva” in this example, to a prominent display on your site. Click image to enlarge.

The “Pages” report (Behavior > Site Search > Pages) shows the Start Page (the page that initiated a search) and several metrics. I clicked on the “Ecommerce” tab for this report to see what pages drive the most searches and their associated revenue from those searches.

Click the Ecommerce tab on the Pages report to see which pages drive the most searches.

Click the Ecommerce tab on the Pages report to see which pages drive the most searches and the corresponding revenue from those searches. Click image to enlarge.

You could further analyze the top revenue-generating pages and what keywords were searched on those pages. To do this, click “Secondary dimension” on the above report by “Search Term” (Secondary dimension > Behavior > Search Term) and look at the results. You may find opportunities to add products to certain pages based on the results.

Consider doing further analysis for the top revenue-generating pages and what keywords were searched on those pages

Consider doing further analysis for the top revenue-generating pages and what keywords were searched on those pages.

Turn your site search analysis into the following routine, to drive more revenue from the data.

  • Monitor your site search reports regularly.
  • Identify opportunities to promote highly-searched products.
  • Attempt to optimize traffic from irrelevant searches.
  • Identify new products to sell on your site based on site search activity.
Morgan Jones

Morgan Jones

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  1. Anthony August 31, 2016 Reply

    As an amateur in the eCommerce world, I really enjoy articles that simplify the intimidating world of GA. Thanks for the great article, Morgan!