The Search Box: What is really happening with your website Search

Nearly every site has one: a search box. But not everyone checks to see how their site visitors use their search box. Do you check and see what keywords or phrases people search for on your website? Do you just look at a list of keywords they search for, or do you really analyze that list in search of trends or to update your content plan? Have you ever tried to search for these most popular search terms to see exactly what your site offers up to your visitors? (Scary thought, if you haven’t, huh?)

Well, here are a few tips for getting the most out of the searches on your website:

1. How often is your site search used?

You can get a percentage of usage from your analytics. There are two sides to this — if search is used too often, that means your audience probably couldn’t find what they wanted. And, if the search they’re using most often are not relevant to your site, that likely means you are attracting the wrong people.

2. How long before a visitor uses site search?

Are they searching from the homepage? Are they searching after visiting two pages? If they are searching from the home page, you have issues. This means people cannot navigate their way into the site for one reason or another. If someone searches while they are on a product page, that might mean they cannot find what they are looking for in the product information you have offered them. Either way, these scenarios illustrate way you need to record these search activity.

3. Do visitors find what they were looking for?

Do your visitors click on a link after arriving at a search results page? Do they conduct another search? Or, most worrisome of all, do they decide you don’t have the information they need and leave your site entirely? The percentage of exits from the search page is very telling. A high number of people leaving your site from the search results page means they are not finding any relevant information and you need more content on your site immediately.

This question of whether or not they find what they want is particularly important for those visitors searching for terms that are not product names but that should lead them to a product page. If those searches lead to visitors leaving your site right away then you obviously have a big problem. Again, either the search functionality doesn’t get them where they want to go, or you don’t offer them the content they want to answer their questions.

4. Does search drive business?

Are you tracking conversions on the site? A conversion could be defined as simply as getting site visitors to fill in a contact form requesting more information. Measuring whether searches on your site helps you understand the value of search on your site and the effectiveness of your site at delivering search results that engage. If site visitors frequently conduct searches on your site but search rarely shows up as a driver of conversions, then you know you’ve got a problem. The site’s search function is not answering visitors’ questions sufficiently to keep them engaged.

5. Survey your site visitors.

Finally, if you want to know how well your search function works, survey your audience by automatically redirecting anyone who exits the site from the search page directly to an online survey. Ask them what they hoped to find and why they left the site. This picks up where data leaves off.