The importance of site search

How important is internal site search to an e-commerce site? Rather than using “quite important” as the conventional wisdom answer, I thought I’d drill down a little to get some practical information. As usual, the example here is a Yahoo! Store using our implementation of Google Analytics, but the general information applies to other platforms and tools as well.

Lets see if we can ask some good questions and hopefully come up with some good answers.

Choose your Top Content report and filter the results so that you only see the URLs returned by the site search. In the case of the standard Yahoo! Store, you can type in “nsearch” in the Find URL field to find them.


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First impressions:

  • Site search gets 2.73% of unique pageviews. This may not sound like a lot, but you will find that this number will land the page in the top 10 of the most trafficked pages. I am sure that some of you will a much higher proportion than this.
  • Site exits are lower than average at 8.76%, i.e over 90% of visitors visit at least one other page.
  • Look at the terms visitors were searching for. Do you detect any trends? Or do you suspect that visitors have trouble finding content using the navigation?
  • Drill down on these individual results and segment according to source. Are you sending visitor from a PPC ad to a landing page that is not relevant, so that visitors use site search?

A lot of interesting information can be gleaned from this report. But we can do even better than that. It is even possible to see a report of the site search terms that resulted in zero results. In other words when a site search returns “Sorry no results found”.


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What does this report tell us?

  • Are visitors searching for brands/products/information that you don’t carry/have? They sure do in this particular example.
  • Exit rate is much higher than above and $ Index is lower. To be expected, but still “good” to see that you have real data to support this hypothesis.
  • The bad news: a whopping **16 searches yielded no results! **Ouch.
  • But the good news is: this is real actionable information because you can update your product catalog and provide the type of information your visitors are looking for.

So, keep track of your site search analytics and in particular the zero results site search report. If you have a Yahoo! Store and would like to get information on how to set this up, drop me a note.