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Internal Site Search: An Important SEO Tool

Imagine being able to listen to your customers speak about your specific products in their own words. Internal site search makes this wish a reality!

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SEOs (search engine optimizers) for enterprise-level eCommerce sites commit significant resources to the analysis and optimization of internal site search data. However, SEOs for sites of all sizes can benefit from dedicating time and resources to internal site search.

Depending upon your site’s platform, you may have many tools to gather and analyze internal site search data, or maybe just a few. Either way, it’s a good idea to also use Google Analytics Site Search, then review, analyze and respond to this data on a regular basis.

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Here are the top 10 SEO benefits of internal site search:

  1. You will learn the terms that visitors use when describing your products or services.
    In addition to external keyword research, on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, internal site search data can provide insights that are valuable to keyword optimization.
    As search trends like natural language queries and voice search become more prevalent, you will need to continually optimize the content on your site to reflect how consumers describe what they are seeking in their own words, which may not necessarily be the words you would choose.
  2. Suggestion: Remember that the searches on your site are being performed in the context of your site (including or excluding brand terms), so you may need to adjust the keyword phrases when optimizing content to accommodate for this.

  1. You will gain deeper insight into your most successful search queries.
    By pulling a weekly report of your site search data, you will be able to identify those search terms/phrases that result in the highest instances of successful queries. These queries will tell you the products/pages for which your site is currently optimized for internal search.
  2. Suggestion: Manually review the top 25-50 terms to ensure that consumers are being delivered to the most relevant page on your site when they perform these queries. Also, check your organic ranking for these search terms to identify the pages you need to optimize to rank for these highly relevant terms on external search engines.

  1. You will gain deeper insight into your most unsuccessful search queries.
    The same report for successful searches can be re-sorted to identify failed, or null, searches. These are searches that produce a page with messaging like “0 results found.” These queries will tell you the products/pages for which your site is not currently optimized.
  2. Suggestion: Manually review the top 25-50 terms and categorize these findings into two distinct groups: products that you don’t carry and products that you do carry. For products that you do carry, resolve the issues that are preventing your customers from finding these products which may include creating internal keyword redirects or optimizing content on your site for the specific search term/phrase.

  1. You will identify products that your customers are seeking that are not available on your site.
    As an extension of your weekly review of null searches, you will discover search queries for products that visitors assume, or hope, you carry. A null search result is an opportunity to suggest to marketing or merchandising that your company should offer a new product or service.
  2. Suggestion: Combine internal search data for null searches with external search volume data and competitive analysis for the same terms. This will provide a complete picture to the decision-makers in your company regarding the potential sales opportunities that exist for these products.

  1. You will discover trends regarding the timing of when consumers look for seasonal products or services.
    By reviewing your site search data on a regular basis, you will begin to see trends month-to-month and year-to-year. This will help you to understand the timing of when your customers begin to think about seasonal products and services.
  2. Suggestion: With this vital information, you can plan the launch of related content, as well as coordinate promotional efforts with other digital marketing channels, to drive consumers to your site before and during the targeted season.

  1. You will be able to quickly identify pages that have fallen off your site.
    Regularly reviewing your site search data can allow you to quickly identify important pages that are not functioning properly. Whatever the issue, the site search report will provide clues to these errors that can rescue sales that might otherwise be lost.
  2. Suggestion: If a term is failing that should not be doing so, evaluate what has changed on your site since your last internal site search report. Check that external URL redirects have been set-up correctly, that products have been properly noded to your eCommerce pages, and that internal keyword redirects have been set-up correctly and are not causing a conflict.

  1. You will be able to make informed recommendations to merchandisers and marketers regarding taxonomy and navigation.
    Taxonomy and navigation is most effective when optimized in conjunction with internal site search. The way that visitors search on your site can influence which products are grouped into categories and which pages are grouped in site architecture and navigation.
  2. Suggestion: Include site search as a measure of the success for your site when reporting SEO Metrics.  In addition to proving out the need for keyword optimization on your site, internal site search data can also highlight the need for improvements in site navigation and taxonomy. Compare acquisition and behavior metrics for visits with, and visits without, site search. You can find this data under the Usage section.

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  1. You will understand the pages with the highest exit rates after visitors used internal site search.
    In combination with evaluating your overall exit rates, this metric, particularly pertaining to site search, can help you to identify pages that are not engaging your site visitors, or are not relevant to their search query.
  2. Suggestion: Use this metric, along with Time Spent After Search, to understand which pages need to be better optimized or how site search needs to be adjusted.

  1. You will understand if visitors are quickly finding what they are seeking on your site.
    By using the Search Refinements metric in Google Analytics, under the Search Terms section, you can understand two key metrics related to how well internal search assists your site visitors:

    • Average Search Depth: This metric tells you how many pages a visitor viewed after completing a search query. The more pages that the visitor views could mean that the initial internal search query results page did not match their original intention.
    • % Search Refinements: This metric tells you the percentage of search queries that resulted in subsequent search queries. These subsequent search queries would contain new keywords or phrases than the original search query. This means that the visitor was searching over and over, trying to find what they were seeking.

    Suggestion: Examine your most important products, from a business perspective, to make sure that both these metrics are low. If they are not, then you need to adjust your site search to direct visitors to a different page, or optimize the page so that it can convert at a higher rate.

  1. You will discover opportunities for new blog articles, videos, and other content on your site.
    Site search data can help in content gap analysis for the creation of keyword-rich content that provides information and buying guides on topics that your site visitors are seeking.
  2. Suggestion: Perform an audit of your top site search terms and make sure that you have content that supports these concepts and that the content is optimized for the words that your site’s visitors are using to find this information.

We hope that this inspires you to spend more time delving into your internal site search data. It can provide a wealth of information to expand your SEO analysis and reveal targeted opportunities for greater optimization and higher conversion.

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