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Old 09-26-2008   #1
jimbeetle
 
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Site Search Data: Extremely Valuable

I was at dinner at a friend's place yesterday evening. As I played bartender there was one of those entertainment-oriented shows on the kitchen television (A marvel in itself: a Manhattan apartment large enough to justify a kitchen TV). As I muddled the ingredients for a round of old-fashioned Old Fashioneds my ear caught the words "search engine." What followed initiated this reminder thread.

I'm not a fan of sites that rely on a site search function for the user to find anything, it most cases it annoys me as it's simply a lazy alternative for solid navigation. When I first started creating sites back what seems so many years ago I concentrated on clear and concise navigation. As the tool used was -- and still is -- called a browser, I figured I'd make it easy for my site visitors to browse.

So I was kind of surprised when visitors e-mailed saying they couldn't find certain things, I thought everything was quite clear. After a bit of over-the-shoulder research (yes, you should enlist family and friends), the light bulb came on:

Not all visitors browse the same way, some look for navigation clues, others immediately look for a search box.

From that point I made sure that every site I built incorporated a site search function. And then I found the benefits that can accrue to SEO/SEM.

Whatever site search solution you employ you must make sure it has one feature: access to the search logs that show what queries visitors entered. This is a goldmine of data that has two fundamental uses.

First, you have your very own keyword research tool. You know exactly what your site visitors are trying to find. You know exactly what phrases they are using in their attempts to find it. You know the source of the data. Best of all, you know the accuracy of the data: 100%.

For the second benefit let's go back to the television show that mentioned the words "search engine." What they do is mine their search logs for what their site visitors are interested in, then package it as a TV segment called (what else), "Search Engine," that features the topics its viewers want to know about. I had been doing this for years and was quite impressed to see it implemented cross-media. Somebody pretty danged savvy is on the staff at that show.

I can't tell you the number of page topics I've been able to mine from my search stats, easily in the 100s, plus all those bits of info I've added to existing pages to beef them up a bit. Also, much of this stuff falls into the longer-tail terms, those you couldn't predict yourself but, enough of them put together, bring bunches of traffic to a site.

So if you haven't already implemented a site search solution, you know how you should keep busy over the weekend ;-)
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Old 09-26-2008   #2
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Re: Site Search Data: Extremely Valuable

Great advice jimbeetle - I am going to implement this on a few sites right away.

>you must make sure it has one feature: access to the search logs

I would also add: make sure that search results don't create indexable duplicate content
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Old 09-26-2008   #3
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Re: Site Search Data: Extremely Valuable

Good advice there Jim bob.

Can I add a point, if I'm allowed to be so bold.
If your site is big enough and you then create content on those search terms found with in the log add a top 10 searches or latest search terms close to this term, as this provides alternatives to close variations.

For example if loads of people search for feline at your site, but the person comes to your site and types in cat they may see feline and think arr that's related and click on the term.

The term feline is then searched and different search terms are then showed which gives them more alternatives.

Basically tag your search results and show them via a tagged search as well as a full text search at the same time if that makes sense.

Jaz

Last edited by Jazajay : 09-28-2008 at 07:40 AM. Reason: Spelling.
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Old 09-27-2008   #4
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Re: Site Search Data: Extremely Valuable

Good stuff, Jaz. Yeah, anything you can do to make it easier for the visitor to find stuff can only be a win-win.
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Old 10-08-2008   #5
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Re: Site Search Data: Extremely Valuable

Reading through some of the SMX coverage I ran across Virginia Nussey's (of Bruce Clay), piece on the Advanced Keyword Research Tactics session. Christine Churchill had a couple of other benefits of site search as a keyword research tool:

>Reveals keywords and expressions that visitors are actually using and looking for
>Gives insight into the number of words searchers are using
>Can follow visitor's path and see if site converts
>Useful source for long tail keywords
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Old 10-09-2008   #6
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Re: Site Search Data: Extremely Valuable

No I agree Jimbob,
may I be so bold as to add another couple of points?

1. Mispellings.

This is going on the averge site search results, but if for example some one types in dof instead of dog and doesn't relize there mistake they will get nothing, or maybe 1 or 2 poor hits.

Now say you have data about how many times this is searched in say a month and you see the number is say 100 times, by adding a condition onto the dog search term to correct it to dog if dof is searched (However personally I would do a double search for both and give the user an option to change it) will save you 100 searches a month and will increase your conversion rates.

2. I personally would set up a position checker and save the position in the returned results for each search that they click on or even if they did not click.

Now if you then see a pattern say 100 people search for dog. You then notice that the 3rd returned result is clicked on 73 out of those 100 times you know that the 3rd article is in fact more relevant to more visitors, you then add another condition to the dog search term to return the 3rd listed result 1st as this improves your search relevancy for that term.

3. Measure your site search bounce rate.
a. How many people continue using your site after a good search.
b. How many people continue using your site after a bad search.
c. If a conversion results from the search or not and you have the product.

For example if they searched for dog collars and you sell dog collars but they did not buy afterwards why not?
They want to buy from you, you have the product, so why no sale?

I personally count my site search as more important than SEO and even my design.

60% of people who use your search function will leave after 1 bad search on a average site.
Krug or Neilson cant rememeber which.

Jaz
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