Make sure your internal search results deliver

three_step_search

This post is the second in a series on how to use internal search data as a basis for continuously optimizing your website.

In the previous post “Improve your website based on internal search data”, we established the link between web governance and website search, and we introduced a way to check-up on your current search function. Now, we will dive a little deeper into whether your website delivers what your visitors are requesting.

Identifying shortcomings in search results

There are three good indicators to use for identifying the content deserving your attention:

  1. Search terms that return no results to your users.
  2. Searches where users moved on to page two of their results.
  3. Searches where users left the site after seeing the results.

If possible, also check the search terms that have been searched for more than five times and identify categories of searches that did not give satisfying results. Categories might be searches for employee names, abbreviations and technical terms.

“By comparing the most frequently searched search terms to the terms on your front page, you can get inspiration for both content and layout.”

Once you have determined the topics where the users expect information that is not on your website, decide whether you want to integrate website content about these topics. Alternatively, you can set up a page that explains that the information is out of the scope of the site with a link to the authoritative source for the topic.

By comparing the most frequently searched search terms to the terms on your front page, you can get inspiration for both content and layout.

If a term is sought after by many users, or if users have to do multiple searches to find specific content, that information is too difficult to reach. There might be no link at all to the information on the front page, or it might be hidden behind a term that users do not associate with their information need.

Search topics are seasonal

By pairing the hints above with an understanding that search topics change with the seasons, you can always be one step ahead when it comes to delivering search results your visitors expect to find. Note that we use the word ‘seasonal’ in a broad sense: Search topics not only depend on the actual annual seasons, but also major news events, the stages in your visitors’ budget year, and much more.

In order to accommodate the fact that search inquiries change over time, follow these steps as a guide towards initiating your annual cycle in search:

  1. Examine the most popular search terms for each month.
  2. Fill these terms into a spreadsheet where you place the months side by side. Remove plural endings, synonyms, etc. for cleaning the data.
  3. Sort the terms alphabetically for each month. This will create an overview and help you distinguish between the terms to see if they appear in several months or only in specific months.
  4. Ensure that those terms that are specific to a given month or quarter are easily identifiable.

Having this overview allows you to supplement your monthly/quarterly check of search terms with a check of the terms that are expected to be relevant next month/quarter.

With a good internal search engine program, you can create search term rules and quick links if the results for a search are not excellent. Doing this helps ensure that the users find exactly what they’re looking for, and keeps your content up to date and ready for SEO.

The next post in this series outlines how to have success with your website redesign by relying on search data.

To get started with diving into your website’s data, watch our on-demand webinar: “3 Necessary Activities & Skills for Effective Web Analytics.”





Watch Webinar on Skills for Effective Web Analytics




Other entries in this series

“Improve Your Website Based on Internal Search Data.”

“Achieve Redesign Success by Relying on Search Data.”

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by Aske Denning
November 19th
2015

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