Analyse your own site search with Google Analytics

Why analyse your own site search data?

  • What people use your search feature for says something about your navigation, homepage and overview pages. If those are all perfectly fine, chances are that very few people will use your search feature.
  • Insight into what people are searching for on your website. Which words do they use? Do they use other words than the ones you’re using? Are there typical spelling errors lots of visitors make? Are they looking for things that aren’t on your website? Etc.

3 ways to analyse your site search data

  1. Your content management system or search software has a built-in tool to analyse the search feature. In that case, you are very lucky. Unless of course it’s a crappy tool.
  2. You’re best buds with the IT crowd and they’re more than happy to make you a tool to analyse your search data.
  3. You use Google Analytics to analyse your website’s visitor behaviour. If that’s the case, do read on. (If you don’t have Google Analytics yet: make sure you do.)

Can you ‘hook up’ your search feature to Google Analytics?

  • Enter a search query on your website, for example using the word ‘test’.
  • Check whether the url of the search results page scontains your search query. (As shown in the examples below.)
  • If it doesn’t, you’re in trouble. Go visit your friends at IT or call your web builder to fix this. That shouldn’t be very hard.

How do you hook up your search feature to Google Analytics?

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account and click on the name of the site of which you want to hook up the search feature. (This step is only necessary if you have more than one website.)
  2. Click on the link ‘Edit’ on the right side of the page.
  3. You’re now on the page ‘Profile settings’. Click the link ‘Edit’, in the top right corner of the block called ‘Main Website Profile Information’.
  4. At the bottom of the page there’s a subheader ‘Site search’. Select the radio button ‘Do Track Site Search’.
  5. More options will then appear. In the ‘Query Parameter’ field, you need to type in the parameter that’s directly in front of the search query in the url of your search results page. In the example of The Web Usability Blog that’s the letter ‘s’. In the example of Flemish Brabant it’s the letter ‘q’.
  6. Unless you use faceted search, you’re done.
  7. Don’t forget to save your new settings.

How can you check if it works?

  • Click on ‘View reports’ in Google Analytics. There’s a navigation on the left now where you click on ‘Content’. After that, click on ‘Site Search’.
  • If you see numbers and graphs, you’ve succeeded.
  • If you don’t, read the instructions again…

What can you do now you’ve hooked up your search feature to Google Analytics?

If you know what people search for on your site, you can turn that knowledge into a profit. Read all about in our article ‘Analyse your site search to increase ROI‘.


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  • http://gettinghiredstayinghired.com Pam

    You have helped me a lot. I am a newbie trying to learn SEO. Thank you for always providing valuable articles and tips.

  • http://www.agconsult.be Els Aerts

    Thanks, Pam! We’ll try to keep up the good work. ;-)

  • Bryan

    Hi, great article thanks so much – sticky one though….what happens in the following scenario:

    - you have a single url with subfolders http://www.yoursite.com/sub1 etc
    - for each sub folder you have a separate profile set up in analytics
    - you want to analyse in site search for each of these sub folder sites
    - however, the url variable query is on a different url even though the query paramater is consistent:
    eg: insite search url does not run off of http://www.yoursite.com/sub1/ but rather off of: http://www.searches.similarsite.com/pages?term=blahblah&silo=userdefined

    Is this inherently a set up issue or can site search per profile be set up?

  • http://www.agconsult.be Els Aerts

    @Bryan: The answer to your question is very simple: I haven’t the foggiest. :-) Sorry! Good question though. If you find out the answer, feel free to share.

  • steve

    And what if we use faceted search? What then?
    Thanks