On-Site Search Analytics – Window to Content & Conversion Optimization


“Search” is about SEO and SEM right? Yes, but that’s not all…


External search optimization strategies are certainly important in bringing customers to your site; once on your site however, a customer’s digital experience then shifts to the interaction with the content and  around finding the right content at the right time in the right context.


Did you know:
70% of all e-commerce site activity starts with on-site search


Once on your site, “search” becomes about removing friction. On-site search is about helping visitors find the right content and take the right conversion action, presumably a try/buy transaction.


Onsite Analytics:
(Friction Free) Search / Find / Convert


A couple of my colleagues at IBM, Stephan Lacasse and Rhett Daniel, have authored a great whitepaper on on-site search analytics. I think this is very important so I thought it would be helpful to share their recommendations and provide some additional context to help everyone working around digital experience, digital marketing and content management.


On-site search strategy starts with asking questions about your users search data.


These questions can help you better guide them to what they are looking for, what they think they are looking for and what they want, but aren’t sure what it’s called. Now, one thing I want to emphasize here is that although the whitepaper is presented in the context of a commerce (shopping) site, these practices are directly applicable across a number of consumer, business and enterprise level digital experiences.


Some key questions to start with

1. Do you know how your customers’ search results are performing?
2. Do your search results directly lead to conversions?
3. Are you able to determine whether your product on-site search is
 returning relevant results for your shoppers?
4. Do you have an on-going process in place for improving on-site search


Did you know:
1/3 of searchers on e-commerce sites are unable to find what they are looking for and abandon the site

With on-site search analytics, what Stephan and Rhett call “searchandizing,” you get a much better understanding of the following dimensions.

  • What search terms cause the most hits (and misses).
  • What exact search terms resulted in users clicking through and completing a transaction.
  • What search terms led users to what they were actually looking for (but didn’t know what to call it).
  • What filters are your users using to most successfully find what they are looking for.



Takeaways and Application

The takeaway is this: with these analytics insights, you can better tune and adjust your your content construction so that you more effectively guide your users to what they want to buy.

In the web transformation I am working on, we are really focused on on-site search analytics and I am finding the data insights incredibly useful in guiding and iterating content creation, UX design, content architecture and building specific landing pages.


Listening for signals of unmet needs


Another key takeaway is the notion of ‘search misses’ – what are your customers looking for unsuccessfully? This can tell you what is frustrating your users and if your content is actually aligned with what they are looking for. The key thing here is in spotting missed opportunities – products or offers they are looking for that you don’t have. I look at it another way… This data can be incredibly useful in listening for signals of unmet needs – what do people need and want that we might offer. We have used these findings to feed inputs to product management teams to inform their market and solution opportunity research. We have also used this to identify and build new content journeys that we hadn’t originally considered. If you take the time to look, the insights can jump off the screen.


In their whitepaper, Stephan and Rhett go into specific terms and dimensions of on-site search analytics you will want to know, including:

  • Search misses
  • Search term click thru
  • Search relevancy scores
  • Search term spelling recommendations
  • Search usage (navigating away from search results)
  • Search facets

I would encourage you to check out the full Whitepaper here.

I hope you find this information helpful.

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