Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of any successful website.
However it can be resource intensive process which focuses primarily on making the web page content search engine friendly.
One area that is often overlooked is search analytics and how this information can also be used to improve the search experience.
A good search analytics dashboard will include a number of features that can be utilised when combined with this information to improve the findability of content and the overall search experience. This could be considered SEO for the site’s internal search.
There is often quite a bit of attention given to web usage data – looking at page visits and viewing time. Search analytics are usually overlooked or underestimated in terms of utility value.
Search analytics provides you with an insight into what a user is actually looking for as it presents the words and phrases that a user has entered into a search box. This is arguably more useful than what can be found by looking at website usage statistics, which tell you what pages a user happened to view. The fact that a page was viewed does not equate to the user finding what they were looking for.
The search experience can be greatly enhanced by applying a few simple techniques in combination with regular analysis of the analytics reports.
With this in mind, we have put together 5 simple techniques that can be used to improve user search experience.
Top query reports show you the most popular searches, ranked by popularity.
This provides a window into the information that users are seeking and helps an administrator understand the audience of the website.
Better still, this information allows prioritisation to be given to content creation and maintenance.
Top non matching query reports show the most frequent queries that did not return any fully matching results.
This is a very useful report as it helps to identify:
Organizations are often constrained to use particular language for many reasons including corporate style or for political reasons.
This can result in internal language, acronyms or jargon being spread across a site – language that doesn’t match what a user knows (or cares) about.
An example of this is the difference between murder (in common usage) and the technical terms used (homicide, manslaughter and so on). From an end-user point of view these terms should be equated. Another common problem is caused by acronyms (such as “UK”).
Search engine administrator functionality such as synonyms matching can be used to transform user language into internal language by equating or expanding the terms.
When a user searches for ‘murder’ search internally for ‘murder OR homicide OR manslaughter’
When a user searches for ‘UK’ search internally for ‘”United Kingdom” OR ‘UK’
Note: United Kingdom is specified as a phrase to ensure the expansion only matches when the phrase is present.
The non-matching queries log may indicate seemingly valid searches. These can be addressed in a couple of different ways.
Ideally, a search engine will automatically return spelling suggestions for user queries. However why not automatically correct the query where the intent is obvious if the non-matching query log indicates a high number of queries with incorrect spelling. This reduces a click for the user and improves the user experience.
The synonyms feature can once again be used to automatically correct the spelling.
When a user searches for ‘goverment’ search automatically for ‘government’
Significant improvements to your search is possible by following these simple steps. These steps are also highly valuable if built in to a regular analytics review process.
Using the real analytics data provided by your users to optimize your search provides a closed feedback loop which rapidly provides a better overall experience for the users of your search at a very small cost to your business.