11 lessons you can learn from your site search data

The terms that customers type into your site search function can help you to gain an understanding of user behaviour and can be used to optimise your site. 

In this post I’ll look at some of the ways this site search data can be used…

What are your top site search terms?

The most popular site search terms used on your site provide an insight into the products and services people are looking for.

If you stock these products, you could optimize search results to ensure they are displayed more prominently.

For example, using auto-complete, you could show the bestsellers as Kohl’s does here. This makes it easier for customers to find items fast.


Inform buying strategy

Data on top site searches can be really useful for buyers, who need to know when demand changes and how to judge demand for products not currently stocked.

How can you improve merchandising?

Knowing the top search terms helps you to understand your most popular products, but there is a deeper level of insight that can also be useful for merchandisers.

For example, if you sell televisions and the most popular search term is ’32” Sony TV” then this tells that this products should perhaps be displayed more prominently in site search results and on category pages.

Identify unsatisfactory site search results

Poor results could mean no results returned for searches, which should be avoided where possible. It could also mean too many results served up.

For example, a search on Amazon for a MacBook charger returns 1,693 results, many of which are irrelevant and simply make finding the right product hard work for users.


This problem of too much choice for the shopper can be ‘fixed’ by providing effective filtering options, or by displaying the top rated or best selling products most prominently. This is something Amazon could improve, at least for this specific search.

Improve timing of PPC campaigns

Knowing when people are searching for particular products can help to identify trends and patterns and give your site a competitive advantage.

For example, knowing when customers begin to search for Christmas gifts can help retailers make decisions on when to stock certain items.  It can also inform PPC campaign timing.

How deep are customers clicking?

Click depth provides an indication of the relevance of site search results and how deeply visitors go into the results.

For example, if they’re clicking through to pages four and five of your site search results, does that mean they’re struggling to find what they’re looking for?

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Where are users clicking on your search results?

You will most likely see the highest number of clicks on the first page of search results and in the first few results.

If this is not happening, it’s another sign that results aren’t as relevant as they could be.

How many people are using site search?

What percentage of visitors are using site search? This will vary between types of site, but if you have a benchmark to compare yours with, you can identify possible issues.


If too many are using it, does this mean your navigation isn’t as good as it could be? Conversely, a low percentage of site search usage could mean it needs to be more prominent.

The screenshot above shows the usage of ClickZ s site search. Not a high percentage, but it does tend to be lower for publishers.

Which are the most valuable keywords?

Understanding the value of keywords used from the search box i.e. which are converting most effectively can directly inform PPC strategies. It can also provide other marketing teams with more focus when planning their campaigns.

How site search can help SEO and PPC

The keywords that people use on your site could be terms that you aren’t currently targeting via SEO or PPC.

If so, analysing site search data is a great way to find more relevant terms to target.


Also, the keywords that people use to search within your website are likely to be the same terms they use on search engines. Adapting to the language people use to search can make your campaigns more accurate.

Are visitors finding what they want?

Looking at data on the proportion of search exits (users who leave the site after viewing site search results) can tell you whether or not site search is delivering relevance. .

In summary

Taking the time to understand and analyse the search activity going on within your website can make a real difference to the effectiveness of your site search function, and the performance of the site in general.

Site search users tend to show a greater propensity to purchase, so it’s important to ensure the experience matches expectations.

Just as importantly, it can be used to inform and optimize other marketing efforts, most obviously SEO and PPC.

I’m sure there are other things to look for beyond those I’ve outlined here. Let me know in the comments…

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