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7 Ways to Use Internal Search Data for Optimization

Internal site search data is amazing for SEO, growth driven design, and content creation ideas. Here's how to do it.

Ally Bootsma

Ally Bootsma

Inbound Marketing Expert

Internal site search is important to your website. For ecommerce sites, up to 30% of visitors will use the site search function on the site and it is reasonable to assume that if they’re looking for something specific, they’re further down the conversion funnel. Making sure you deliver good, relevant search results will increase your conversion rate.

Is your site search working for you?unsplash-search-bar

At the very least, you should be tracking internal searches via Google Analytics. Site search isn’t enabled by default but is incredibly easy to set up. I won’t walk you through that here but Google Analytics has a support document that will guide you through the process. While you’re in GA Admin, make sure you have a filter set up to exclude internal traffic.

Now you have site tracking in place, let’s get to the goods:


Design Assessment: Is Search Being Used to Compensate for Navigation?

Is site search used a lot on your site?

It might mean that what people are looking for is not easy to find. Consider adding top searched products and categories to the home page.

Is site search barely used on your site?

It might mean that your search bar is hard to find or doesn’t work as expected. Try doing a few searches to make sure it’s working. Does it search automatically when you hit “enter” or do you have to actually click the search button? Double check that all searches are being logged in analytics as well.

If you still feel that site search is being underutilized do some A/B tests on your search bar and make some growth driven design changes that facilitate your buyers journey.

What are people searching for?

This one sounds obvious: the search report tells you what people are searching for on your site.

What’s not obvious here is that it also tells you what people are searching for that you might not have expected. Keeping an eye on the search terms that people are searching for gives you ideas for:

  • New categories
  • Featured products
  • Blog posts for inbound marketing initiatives
  • Different terms or phrases for your products/categories
  • New product offering and business opportunities

What results are you showing? Are they relevant?

When someone searches your site, what are you showing them? This usually depends on your CMS & database. Is it set to match keywords in the product names? Descriptions? Reviews? Can you change the sort order or priority of products?

This is one area where standard site search platforms can fall short. Being able to specify if your products should sort by added date, individual product priority, consumer rating, or other metric is often more valuable to the user than just a strict keyword match. In other situations, the keyword match relevance is absolutely the best way to order search results.

You need to look at the searches on your site, check what your search results look like for those searches, and then assess the relevancy of those results. If your internal site search is not delivering amazing search results, tweak your platform. If you can’t tweak it, you might want to re-evaluate your search platform and consider moving to something a bit more sophisticated such as Nextopia.

What aren’t you showing?

Common typos can prevent your products from showing because you’ve hopefully spelled them correctly on the site. In this example for a furniture retailer, the search term “dinning table” is showing no results because it’s a misspelling. Updating the keyword database to have “dinning” = “dining” can resolve issue of a searcher getting a “no results” page as well as any other possible “dinning” errors.

Also take a look at the bounce rate of your queries. Those search keywords that have high search exits are good places to start to make some website tweaks. Adding and improving content on those keywords can help to keep those searchers on the site.

If you’re noticing lots of traffic searching for things that you don’t offer, dive into the “Source” for that traffic. Some times this can be an indicator for poorly chosen paid search keywords.

Improve your website pages

Now that you’re starting to see some of the different keywords people are looking for to find your products, you can update your product names, descriptions, and other important page elements. If you notice that people are looking for “tiara helmets” but all you have on your site are “helmets with crowns”, you might want to make some revisions to your products to include the keyword “tiara”. Your site search gives you all that glorious info on what people want to see in your product descriptions. 


Improve your inbound marketing

Let’s say that you notice that your site search is littered with searches for “tiara helmets”, “Elsa helmets”, “girls princess helmet” and other searches of that sort. This demand can be further leveraged to improve your inbound marketing initiatives.  Write some blog posts! Share on social media! You know there is some demand for these items so generating content and links to support them can go a long way in getting more website traffic to your site.

Improve your paid search initiatives

  • Add keywords – keyword variations, new keyword phrases, and even new adgroups can be developed by mining this search data
  • Remove keywords – keywords that aren’t generating search results, that have high bounce rates, and that are generally under-performing could be removed or their destination pages reassessed
  • Add negative keywords – some keywords are just not relevant and you don’t want to pay for them. Add those ones in as negative keywords to make your budget go father.

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