WebSideStory Ties Site Search to Web Metrics

WebSideStory’s new site search tool is more closely integrated with its Web analytics product, allowing marketers to alter search results and site navigation elements based on visitor metrics.

WebSideStory Search 4.0, released today, can be configured to use data from HBX Analytics to determine the ranking of search results. A marketer could choose to move a product with a higher conversion rate to the top of the results page, for example, or a publisher could feature a popular content page. “Google has a reputation for good results in part because it incorporates popularity of pages into its algorithm,” said Steve Kusmer, SVP and GM of WebSideStory’s search and content solutions. “By using a metric like page visits, which reflect a page’s popularity, it will lead to better results.”

The technology, which WebSideStory calls Active Ranking, can use any metric available in HBX analytics through one of the product’s APIs (define). It can also import data from outside applications to change search results based on sales data or other metrics.

The Active Ranking mechanism can also be applied to the product’s site navigation features. The product can be used to create dynamic site navigation based on the index created when it crawls the site. Sites can create navigation based on product or content category, brand, price or any other data that’s indexed.

The product is especially attractive to e-commerce sites as they tend to be able to measure results more easily and thus will quickly see the ROI, Kusmer said. Commerce sites are also more likely to have well-structured data, making site search more accurate. In addition, e-commerce sites can benefit by using the product to merchandise a page, serving up results with the highest conversion rates, margin levels, or other criteria.

“The whole goal is to increase sell-through rate through search,” Kusmer affirmed.

WebSideStory’s client Brooks Bothers performed a 2-week A/B test that pitted the search product as configured by WebSideStory’s professional services team against the same product with Active Ranking enabled.

Active Ranking led to a significant uplift in sales, according to Lillian Posner, director of e-commerce for Brooks Brothers. “Based on early results, WebSideStory’s new site search product has already increased our sales due to site search by at least 25 percent.”

Since the product keeps an up-to-date index of a customer’s site, that index lends itself to being used for other purposes to eliminate redundancies, such as site navigation features. WebSideStory today added the ability to tap into the index to create exportable files for Google Sitemaps feeds and shopping search engines.

“Since they already have processes in place to ensure their site search is correct and up-to-date, it makes sense to tap into that same valuable data for other things,” Kusmer said.

Most shopping search engines accept data from merchants in the form of feeds, often generated by clients’ search engine marketing firms. At launch, the shopping search feeds can be exported to Google Base and Froogle, chosen because they allow free submissions, Kusmer said. In coming months, WebSideStory expects to launch feeds for other sites, which charge a per-listing fee.

Google Sitemaps, launched last June, is a tool for Webmasters to suggest to Google which pages of their site are most important and how often they’re updated. The tool could potentially give marketers a better shot at having important site pages indexed more frequently, though Google makes no promises as to what, if anything, it will do with a Sitemap.

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