How to use Google Site Search data to optimize your content
As an industry, we talk A LOT about search data, but we normally focus on the keywords people are using. before they come to your website, whether it’s checking monthly search terms in our keyword research tools or using Google Search Console to see which phrases drive the most clicks to our websites.
Unfortunately, it often stops there, but taking into account people’s search habits once they reach your site will ensure that you get the most out of that traffic. Here are some ways to use this data to improve your website content.
What is the Site Search feature in Google Analytics?
Google Analytics collects a wide range of data about visitors to your website, including the terms people enter into your site’s search bar. To see this, navigate to the “Site Search” section of Google Analytics, which is found under “Behaviour” in the left menu, and select “Search Terms”:
Set your dates to the preferred time period, although it makes sense in most cases to look at a long enough period to get a representative idea of what people are looking for.
If you don’t have any data, chances are you haven’t set up site search. It only takes a few minutes to activate it, and Google has a little guide on how to do it. here.
Why is GA Site Search data useful?
Any insight into user behavior is valuable, but site search data is particularly valuable because it can help inform everything from decisions about site navigation and structure, to keyword research and content ideas:
Suggestions for new pages
If people are frequently typing the same phrases into your site’s search bar and they’re relevant to what you do, but you don’t currently have a dedicated page for it, this might inspire you to think about it.
For example, the Browser Media site doesn’t have a page specifically dedicated to link building, but if it were one of the most common phrases in our search function, we might consider branching it into its own page. . so that we don’t lose visitors who might not immediately understand that we are relevant.
Alternatively, you may find that people frequently search for pages you already have. This could be an indication that visitors are having trouble finding them.
For example, we have an SEO page on the Browser Media website, but it’s not in the main menu or in the “What?” section (you can find it in the footer), so if a lot of people were looking for SEO and our SEO page was struggling to get traffic, we might consider making it more prominent.
A caveat to this is that people are lazy. Often people look for what’s right in front of them, even if it’s very visible and clearly marked, so take this data with a healthy dose of common sense.
I find it particularly useful to examine site search behavior after a website redesign or major site structure change, to ensure that no important pages or information have been inadvertently hidden.
As you start to scroll down the list of search terms, you might start to find more niche phrases, which might not justify you creating a whole new page on your site, but could indicate that this is a topic of interest and might be worth blogging about. post instead. Or similarly, it can be something to consider for social media or PR campaigns.
Experimenting with different time periods can help you determine if people are searching for certain phrases at different times of the year, which can be helpful in planning blog content.
Understand the language used by your customers
As with any keyword research aid, site search data is also useful for better understanding the language used by your customers.
When we work in any industry, we get used to industry terminology and jargon very quickly and it’s easy to forget that customers are often not familiar with it, or that’s all simply not the language they are using, so going through the queries entered by people who have actually reached your site is important to ensure that you reflect that language in your copy.
Site search data ensures that you best serve the people you worked so hard to get to your site in the first place, plus it’s completely free, readily available, and easily exportable, so it makes sense to review these terms regularly.