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The Value of Internal Site Search: Looking for Alternative Data

  |  August 21, 2013   |  Comments

If it feels like there's a need to tap new sources of data, then harness the power of internal site search as an additional search intelligence resource.

As more and more Google users create Google accounts and take advantage of personalized search, the "not provided" (or term "unknown" in Google Analytics parlance) percentage continues to grow over time. As a result, SEOs find themselves searching for additional sources of data to help guide optimization efforts.

One effective and possibly overlooked resource is through your site's own internal site search. Of course it's not the same as getting the information directly from Google (external), but it can be valuable in understanding how users and by extension the search engines interpret your site. Understanding this information can help guide future optimization initiatives.

While results vary site to site, as shown, term "not provided" can consume an overwhelming percentage of a site's keyword profile.


How to Leverage Internal Site Search

Analyzing internal site search data makes it easier to understand what visitors are searching for after they are already on the website. With that information, just as a site owner would analyze keyword data generated by the search engines, they can start optimizing specific pages to offer precisely what the visitors are looking for.

If a site lacks this functionality, then the first step is to set up and implement the internal site search itself. There are many solutions available. Before selecting or building a site search tool it is important to consider some factors like budget, platform, capacity, and maintenance. Those factors will help guide a decision to use an off-the-shelf product, or to perhaps custom-build a new one.

Keep in mind, there are some important design factors to consider during implementation. For example, the search box should be located above the fold somewhere easily seen and found. Also, ensure that it is included on the 404 page as a primary element of the page to recapture visitors who may have lost their way.

The data collected from internal site search can help site owners understand visitor behavior and improve site conversion. For example, if users are searching a particular keyword phrase or set of phrases, but not converting well, then a site owner needs to assess the situation objectively and determine: a) are those keyword phrases valuable to them? If multiple users already on the site are using them to conduct searches, then it seems likely that those keywords have potential value. And then b) if they need to create new content geared around those keyword phrases or optimize existing content to better meet the users' needs.


Another great use of site search is to optimize landing pages that are receiving more traffic but are not converting well. Often visitors use the internal site search to reach the exact content they are looking for when they land on a page that doesn't meet their expectations. The primary goal should be to designate a targeted landing page based on what the visitor searched for to improve retention.


The ultimate goal of any website is to convert a visit into a prospect and eventually guide that prospect to a desired transaction. If it feels like there's a need to tap new sources of data, then harness the power of internal site search as an additional search intelligence resource.

Would you like to share your own experience with internal site search? Please share your feedback via the comments.

To learn more about the not provided update, see here.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Crispin Sheridan

Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.

Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.

A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.

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