Sunday, 9 November 2008


Any web analyst knows that spending time evaluating trends in paid and natural search can add value by informing marketing and business strategy. Marketing directors are constantly asking what the most searched for keywords are and how this can inform their

Search statistics that are considered far less frequently but are potentially far more valuable is the results from on-site search.This is a valuable tool for many reasons.

1. Product Development Insight
If customers are searching for a particular product that is not sold on the website then this information is vital insight into consumer demand patterns. This can be used to inform product teams into researching the viability of selling that particular product. For example, a search for Flights to New York on the Easyjet website may give Easyjet an indication of the volume of customers that want to fly to New York with Easyjet. This is vital information that should be used to inform the product development process.

2. Customer Service
If it is clear that customers are asking particular questions via the search box, it may well be that there is insufficient information on the site. The help or FAQ section could be unclear or the consumer may not be given adequate information throughout their purchase. This information can be extrapolated to understand the volume of potentiual customers that do not complete a transaction due to insufficient information but do not use the search box. For example, if a large percentage of customers are asking about product delivery dates, it is worth making this more explicit throughout the transaction.

3. Merchandising Opportunities
The on-site search results pages provide a great opportunity to merchandise to engaged users. Ideally, an organisation would build an algorithm that responds to the users search terms with promotional offers and reasons to purchase. Failing this, advertising can be used to communicate key messages and promotions to users that are conducting searches on site.

4. Information Architecture
If customers are over-relying on the search box in order to find certain products then it may be that they are too difficult to find on your site. Thanks to search engines, web users are comfortable with using a text search box. But if the volume of customers conducting a search on a site is too high a percentage of total visitors, it may be necessary to review the navigation and hierarchy of information to ensure that the most popular products can be found as easily as possible.

The majority of web analytics tools are beginning to offer the capability of tracking on-site search. The Google solution even offers the ability to tie up on site search with Google Analytics in order to gain an understanding of the complete customer search journey.

Curry's on site search has not worked for me for a number of weeks now. Any search that is conducted on their site results in a frustrating session time out page. I believe that there may be a cookie issue causing session timeouts on their site but this fault skews their web analytics and upsets their potential customers. If there are people making decisions on this data, they could gain a very distorted view of how customers are interacting with their site.

For any decisions to be made on the back of on site search information, the first thing is it has to work.

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