3rd party site search engines and tracking

No doubt it’s a good strategy to look for and implement the best tools to grow your online business. Having a site search engine on your e-commerce site is pretty much compulsory if you sell more than a handful of products. You should be able to get some very actionable insights from visitors using site search with your web analytics solution, such a zero results search terms.

But here is the challenge. Functionally, site search should be an integral part of your main site, using the same look and feel. Technically however, the site search may be hosted on a completely different domain if you use a 3rd party hosted site search service. For example:

main site URL:     www.yourdomain.com
site search URL:  yourdomain.sitesearchdomain.com

There may very well be fabulous site search tools out there that are quick to implement and perhaps even responsible for improving conversion rates, but from a web analytics perspective being on two separate domains presents a big challenge.  Most analytics vendors use 1st party cookie tracking  (and rightly so), but this implies that you cannot track visitors across domains. So if a visitor comes from a search engine via an organic or paid search, uses the site search to find the product and then places an order, you will lose the original referrer information. Not good. It may even be the case that your web analytics solution attributes the sale to the site search domain. Also not good.

Fortunately there is a way to solve this:

1) Ask the site search vendor if you can use DNS to have the site search pointed to a subdomain of yours:

main site:  www.monitus.com
site search:  search.monitus.com

2) Also tell your vendor that you want to place web analytics tracking code on the site search page.

You will probably have to do some modifications to the web analytics script to allow tracking between subdomains, but this is much much easier than trying to track across different domains.

Anyway, just something to consider when you evaluate a site search tool.