Internal Site Search Data in Google Analytics

In a website, there are many components which are important for conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts. However, one of the most important and useful parts of your website is your Internal Search tool.

Internal site search data can show you what your target audience wants to read, what they have trouble finding, and, most importantly, which search phrases have the most conversion intent.

It requires a brief bit of set-up and some understanding of what to look for in the data, but it can be massively valuable in improving your site for existing users and helping you reach new users.

Getting Site Search Data Flowing

This only works if Internal Search is already enabled on your website.

Open up your Google Analytics Admin (1) and go to View Settings (2) to access the site search settings.

Screenshot of where to find View Settings in Google Analytics Admin.












Flip the Site Search Tracking toggle to “ON” and plug in the query parameter you copied under it.

Screenshot showing where to enter the query parameter you copied in Google Analytics.

Unfortunately, this setting isn’t retroactive, but it will start collecting site search data in the Behavior > Site Search section of Google Analytics from here on out.

What the Site Search Reports Look Like

Once the data starts flowing, there are several ways Google’s canned site search reports allow you to slice the data for better insights.

Behavior > Site Search > Usage

The first is simply segmenting those who perform a search vs. those who don’t and allowing you to compare a range of engagement and conversion metrics under each of those lenses.

This can give you a general feel for how effective your internal search mechanism are at helping people find what they need and complete objectives on the site.

Screenshot of Google Analytics site search usage report results for Portent blog.

Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms

The next piece is the nitty-gritty: what are people actually searching for? Although the Top 10 may indicate some broader trends, I recommend getting all search terms out into Excel and grouping them into categories of similar searches. For us, SEO-related topics (“seo” and “serp”) and searches around our tools (“title generator” and “content idea generator”) would be worthwhile groups.

One thing to keep in mind: you’ll get a much larger range of long-tail searches with only one unique search than you will short-tail searchers with lots of unique searches. So it’s important to bundle performance across a range of similar searches in order to make the data more meaningful to act on.

Screenshot of Google Analytics site search search terms report results for Portent blog.

Behavior > Site Search > Search Pages

The last report in the section gives you an idea of where people are on their site journey when they’re getting lost. A high percentage of Search Refinements and low Time after Search can be indicators that the page they started searching on isn’t effectively showing folks where to go next or answering their questions in terms of navigation.

Screenshot of Google Analytics site search search pages report results for Portent blog.

What to Do with the Data

This data, like any marketing data, can be massively overwhelming when you start collecting it over long stretches of time. But focusing on a few important things can help you make the most of it.

Content Ideas

Pretty obvious, right? Visitors searching for content that doesn’t exist on your site is a one-stop-shop for ideas your content team can work on creating. We had a lot of people searching for “analytics” in our data, probably because many of our articles revolve that topic.

In any case, it will help us create better assumptions about our target audience and what kinds of posts get them reading.

Reorganize Site Navigation

Another avenue for exploration is re-working your nav based on what gets searched for most often on the homepage.

Retargeting Audiences

But the most powerful way you can use this data is to generate audiences based on specific site search phrases who haven’t converted yet and reach back out to them with very targeted offers in Google Ads.

Screenshot showing how to segment users in Google Analytics.

With this segmentation and audience-building method, you don’t have to hope somebody will come back to the site after you’ve optimized for site search experiences. You can actively pursue them and bring them back to specific pages that they might not have seen on their last visit.

Screenshot showing how to build an audience to re-engage those users in Google Analytics.

While focusing on organic search results is important to help grow the number of new visitors to your site, don’t forget about those individuals who have already discovered your product or brand. Hop into site search data today and see what you can learn about the visitors you have and learn what they might tell you about the visitors you want

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