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Hello⦠is it me youâre searching for?


Amongst the unsung heroes of the Analytics world lies Site Search. If you aren't familiar with this gem of insight, I strongly urge you to have a read around. Just to get everyone up to speed, tracking your website's internal search bar can help you answer some key questions like:

- How frequently do users interact with my search box?

- Do users tend to favour search or navigation?

- What search terms are they using?

- Do they find what they're looking for?

- How does one persona's usage of Site Search compare to another's?

- Do sessions involving a search lead to completions of my business objectives?

Now before you start thinking "sounds great but I'm not a developer", fear not – Site Search reporting is available in Google Analytics in just a few clicks for most search-savvy websites. Alas, setting up tracking isn't the purpose of this blog – instead I'm here to introduce you to a new feature of Site Search reporting that was quietly released by Google last month.

The Ghost of Site Search Past

If you're already a user of Site Search, you'll be aware that the Site Search reports (under the Behaviour section of Google Analytics) had one glaring flaw in what they could show. The Site Search > Pages report could only show you the page which a user came to directly after the search. This leads to something a bit like the below:

Site Search Results Pages Grouped

Nothing but the results page. Not very handy, eh? Well halt your suppressed sighs and make way for a solution – there's a new dimension in town.

A New Horizon

Presenting the Search Destination Page dimension!

New Search Destination Page Dimension

To access this new report tab, simply navigate to the Behaviour > Site Search > Pages report, and switch the Primary Dimension to Search Destination Page as circled above. "But what does it do?" I hear you cry! Well let's have a look:

New Search Destination Page Report

As you can see, instead of reporting a long list of results page variations, the new Search Destination Page report shows you the pages which your visitors saw after performing a search on site, which come after the initial results page. This dimension steps past the useless results page reporting of old, and opens up a whole new wealth of insight to help you understand whether or not your visitors found what they were looking for, at a much more granular level.

Note: You may still see results pages in the new report. This'll be due to search refinements, filtering and browsing through search results pages. These may be aggregated and will account for a lot of search destinations if you're stripping your site search query parameters in View Settings – that's normal!

The Power of the Search Destination Page

Now I'm a web analyst, so I'd probably lose my job if I didn't think that data is the bee's knees. But we all know that the true value in having data lies with using it to your advantage. As with most Analytics data, segmentation is a key technique to do just that. Since this new dimension is, well, a standard dimension, we can apply Secondary Dimensions, filters Segments etc. to chop it up. Here's an example of applying a Secondary Dimension of Search Term:

Search Term Secondary Dimension

With that simple technique we can now see the pages that users are clicking through to after conducting their search, split by the search terms themselves. Let's dig a little deeper:

Advanced Filter to Show Exits

To get the above, I applied a table filter to show only "(exit)" results, still split by Search Term. Et voilà, there you have a list of the most frequent causes of unfulfilled searches on your website. This marks all the occasions in which a user leaves your website straight after viewing the first page of results (no refinements), and as such offers some good candidates for improvement / addition of content.

Note: This is also available by drilling down on the (exit) result of the Search Destination Page report.

Bonus idea: By using Start Page as a secondary dimension similar to the above, you can see the most common search journeys made by your visitors. As such, you could improve the User Experience by adding links where people get stuck and have to start searching (from start to destination page).

I've Found What I'm Looking for

Well I'm glad! Now start letting your website visitors do the same. This is a great, but subtle addition by Google, and as always here at Periscopix we're bursting with ideas on how to make the most of it. If you feel like a helping hand on your journey to user insight, get in touch with one of our friendly geeks.

To view the article written by Andy Ankrah as displayed on Periscopix's website, please click here.

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