Almost every modern website has a search bar to help users find what they’re looking for, be it products or information. Anyone can slap a search bar on a site’s user interface and call it a day – but is that what we want? Don’t we want to know if our search actually helps visitors and, ultimately, our business? “Of course!” I hear you say, but how can we measure the success of our site search?
Today we’re going to talk about how you can check the effectiveness of your site search. To that end, we’ll talk about how to determine success, what site search metrics to analyze, and how to improve your search’s performance. So without further ado, let’s get started!
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What makes your site search successful?
In one of our previous blog posts, we delved into some pretty exciting numbers and site search-related metrics that demonstrate the importance of proper site search on your website. For example, up to 30% of visitors use a site search box if offered, and these users are more motivated than those who don’t use the search, i.e., they’re more likely to buy. However, offering search functionality on your website and then hoping for the best doesn’t cut it. Instead, you’re sure to be interested in how search can improve the customer experience and how you can benefit from that.
There are a few simple steps that can make your site search more successful: knowing your goals, understanding your metrics, adjusting your site search, testing, and re-adjusting your goals to deal with changes. But before you can measure the success of site search, you first need to define what success looks like and how you can track your progress.
Steps for measuring site search effectiveness –
Define goals that your site search should help you achieve
Goals and the associated success of your search solution can take various forms. Every company is different, as are its vocations and purposes. Hence, when it comes to defining goals and measuring progress, there’s hardly a one-size-fits-all solution.
However, after implementing various projects for our customers, we realized that some goals are on companies’ agendas more often than others. Let’s take a look at these goals:
- reduce support costs
- improve the website’s user experience (UX)
- increase sales (overall or for specific products and services)
- improve traffic and engagement
- raise the time visitors spend on the site and decrease bounce rates
We believe that the most crucial goal for any website and site search should be to make users happy. We need to help them find what they’re looking for and provide them with seamless experiences with tailor-made user interfaces (UIs), outstanding UX, and functionality. And if our users are satisfied, our companies will also benefit.
After defining goals for your site search, you also need to make sure that they’re measurable – how else would you know that you’ve reached them? For example, you could say you want to cut help desk costs by 10% in 4 months or increase donations by X in Y time. Of course, you can also set smaller goals – as mentioned earlier, every company and website is different and needs tailored strategies and goals.
Measure and analyze – get to know your site search metrics
Now that you’ve set your goals and made them measurable, it’s time to talk about site search metrics. Which metrics should you look into, where can you get the data from, and which insights can you gain?
Let’s discover the answers to these questions and explore how you can analyze and measure the success of your site search. Keep in mind, though, that it’s okay to feel a little lost at first – especially if you’re new to this world of metrics. We recommend taking small steps, first looking at some more straightforward numbers, and then introducing more complexity into your analysis after a while.
You can view and analyze most metrics in your AddSearch statistics dashboard. We recommend connecting AddSearch to your website’s analytics tool (e.g., Google Analytics) to gain insight into your website’s overall performance and your users’ behavior.
The click-through rate, or CTR for short, is one of the most useful metrics for estimating growth and is often used to measure the success of marketing efforts for a website. Applied to site search, CTR is the ratio of users who clicked on a search result to the total number of users who viewed search results. You can use this rate to find out whether people have found interesting and relevant content in their search. Keep in mind that each click is an indicator that the user is satisfied with their search result.
Low CTRs indicate where your content is lacking, and users didn’t find what they were looking for. Higher click-through rates show where your search performs well and that the results offered are relevant. Head into your AddSearch statistics dashboard to view the CTR for your visitors’ searches and learn about their behavior and interests. You can then use this knowledge to fine-tune your content and provide users with more relevant search results that increase CTRs.
Obviously, your site search should help users find things. However, not every page or information is easily found, which can have various reasons. Therefore, analyzing your content’s findability is crucial to determine the success of your website search. Make sure to look at the following:
Popular search terms
Naturally, you want to know about your users’ interests and needs. This is true regardless of the type of website you run, be it an e-commerce site or knowledge base.
By finding out what’s popular with your visitors, you can create more valuable content and enhance the UX and UI of your website. For example, if users frequently search for “contact,” think about how to make this page more accessible and easy to find. You could then add a “Contact” link to your main navigation, highlight the contact button on the landing page, or add a sticky contact flap to the site’s edge.
View the 100 most popular keywords in your AddSearch statistics dashboard, along with their respective CTRs. If you find that popular keywords have low CTRs, you know you need to take some countermeasures and make the sought information findable!
No hits keywords
If your users get no results for their search, it can either mean that your website lacks content or that something is fishy about the keyword used. You can view these keywords on your AddSearch statistics dashboard and find out which of the two options apply:
Irrelevant or missing content
As described in the previous section, keywords are a great way to understand your users’ interests. Hence, if they don’t find valuable and useful content, it’s up to you to change the situation by improving your website and content. Always keep in mind that empty search results can result in fewer sales, higher help desk costs, and lower user satisfaction. As a result, the numbers you need to achieve your goals are drifting in the opposite direction – and that’s not what you want, is it?
Misspellings and synonyms
The second possibility is that users misspelled the keyword or used a synonym that may hamper your site search effectiveness. From this, you can, in turn, learn how users describe things when searching. Use these insights to upgrade your content and website search accordingly.
Low traffic pages
Not all pages on your website are equally important. Some of them may contain similar content but are of different importance to your visitors or company. Let’s say you have a blog post on “How to price your home-made products” and a “Pricing” page for your online service. Both content pieces are about pricing, but while the blog post sure is valuable to your users, your pricing page is more important to you, since that’s how your business makes money.
If you find that business-critical content isn’t getting the attention you want, you need to investigate why. Looking at your AddSearch statistics and connected website analytics tool helps you discover which search result items users click. Your “Pricing” page may not appear at all or gets displayed at the end of the search results. By analyzing search data, you can get to the bottom of this mystery and take action to turn the tables.
Last but not least, analyzing result quality can give you helpful insights into your content and your site search effectiveness as well. For this, you need to look at and combine different figures of your site search and analytics tool. Hence, determining result quality can be a bit tricky to grasp and handle at first.
Result quality helps you to answer questions such as “Was the clicked content helpful for the user?” or “Did the content offer what the user was looking for?”. First, you need to look at the keywords that led users to specific pages and then see what they actually did on this page.
Conversion and consumption rates help you answer these questions. A conversion takes place when the user purchases an item, clicks the main call to action on a page, etc. If you want to measure the relevance of, let’s say a blog post, you need to look at its consumption rates. How long did the user stay on the page, and did they scroll to the blog post’s end? Clearly, you can’t say for sure whether the user actually consumed the content. However, this method is still more reliable than pure guessing.
If you find that these rates are rather low, you should investigate the reason for this and take the appropriate steps to present users with more suitable search results in the future.
Can you improve site search to achieve your goals?
Definitely! Start by Evaluating your site search data to identify what’s working and what isn’t. For example, maybe your latest product isn’t getting the visibility it deserves; take that as a signal to put into action a keyword or promotion marketing strategy to boost the visibility of the product in search.
Let’s examine a few common problems and improve your website search so you can reach your goals. Again, what you should do and how you should do it depends on your goals, business type, and the findings of your analysis.
With AddSearch, you have various options to tweak and enhance the functionality of your on-site search. We’ve dedicated an entire blog post to this topic, so go and check out How to Optimize Your Site Search to learn even more!
Test and improve design and UX
In our experience, improving your site search’s UX almost always benefits your users and your business. Make sure your search bar is well accessible and that it delivers search results as quickly as possible.
Add autocomplete functionality to your search bar to offer users relevant search results even faster.
The great thing about this measure is that you can usually do it quickly without investing a lot of resources. After all, you’re not redesigning your entire website, just a small – but essential – part of it. To see how things are going, we recommend conducting A/B tests to find out which design gives your visitors a better experience.
Boost and pin essential content
If you discover that some of your business-critical pages aren’t clicked as often, you can pin them at a desired position in the search results. The higher up you place it, the more likely visitors will click it!
If you need to boost categories or larger sections of your website, you can add more weight to those areas and less weight to the parts that are not essential in the search results.
Our search tool also offers you the use of promotional banners that help you guide your visitors to exclusive offers, event registrations, and the like.
Enhance your content and your site search capabilities
As discussed above, monitoring the most popular keywords can help you better understand your users. You should then go ahead and use this knowledge to refine your website’s content accordingly and present visitors with more valuable search results. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your users’ search behavior to see how your changes affect their experience.
To avoid zero-results pages, you can add synonyms and incorrect search queries (with typos) to your site search tool. Again, this is a continuous process, so keep an eye on these keywords!
Some final advice on how to measure the success of your site search
You should now have enough information at hand to start measuring your site search’s success. Before you start, however, we have some final advice for you.
First, you may be wondering how often you should analyze your search data. The answer to this question depends on your website type. For example, it makes sense for an e-commerce website to measure once a week or even daily. In general, however, we recommend adjusting the frequency with which you check statistics to match the search volume. If the search volume is high, you should free up some time at least once a week to measure the success of your site search. Otherwise, at least once a month should be enough. Also, if you’ve just tweaked search settings or enhanced content, make sure you monitor your users’ behavior for a while and see if your actions pay off.
Also, think of the process as an endless loop:
- Define measurable goals and refine/adapt existing ones
- Analyze site search metrics
- Enhance your content and your site search’s settings
- Monitor and analyze the impact of your actions
- Check your goals
- Start over
If you are new to the subject, don’t shy away from experimenting and taking small steps. Over time, you will get a better sense of the expected results and understand the interplay between the different analysis metrics. Besides, if you’re not sure, go and ask for help! Your company’s SEO and marketing experts are usually quite familiar with the parameters used and certainly can give you a helping hand.
If you need further help in how to measure the success of site search or want to know how you can use AddSearch efficiently, contact us, and we’ll help you get started.