Use Site Search to Improve Your Website and Your Business

Setup site search GA4The eclectic tastes and expectations of consumers can be hard to predict. While every business sells a defined group of products and/or services, consumers’ perception of what that group should include is often slightly different. Knowing what people are really looking for allows businesses to sell more because they can offer appropriate inventory and design better experiences for customers. Major brands like Coca-Cola and Target invest huge sums of money to fund consumer studies to glean this valuable information, but for small businesses, that’s not an option. The good news is that two common web tools may already be built into your website that can help you mine this valuable information.

Include a Search Feature on Your Site

All of the major Content Management Systems include a simple way to add a search feature to your site. This is a helpful tool for visitors if your site contains a large volume of content and if it’s linked to your analytic tools it can show you what visitors are typing into that search field.

Think about it from the standpoint of your customers. They get to your site and don’t want to spend a lot of time digging so they type in the brand name or service they are looking for into the search field. If they don’t find what they are looking for on your site they may leave and if you are not tracking what they typed in you will never know why. More importantly, if you see a large number of visitors looking for a product or service that you are not currently offering, this is what is commonly referred to as an opportunity.

Site Search 

In Google Analytics (and others), there is a feature called, Site Search. By default, it is not active because not all sites include a search feature, but once it is set up, it allows you to monitor and track in-site search queries to start building a dataset. For instance, it can provide the geographic area of the search, the amount of time the user spent on the site after their search, and much more. Sometimes it can reveal a desire for a brand you are not currently carrying, or for a more extensive selection of examples of your work. Regardless of your industry, the data provides a powerful snapshot of real consumer behavior.

Another Important Reason to Install Analytics

If you have a website and you don’t have any analytic tool installed, you really need to install one now. Without it, you are working blind. The amount of data it will provide across the board is an incredible marketing tool and the addition of Site Search just adds greater insight to understanding your website, and visitors. It’s simple to set up and will start generating results immediately.

So set up Site Search today and see what your customers will start telling you.

If you are unfamiliar with the setup Google created a simple tutorial to set up site search in Universal Analytics here: Site Search Set-up.

Site Search in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Site Search on GA4 is already preconfigured in GA4 properties. To check the settings and adjust for your site follow these steps:

  1. In GA4, go to the settings for the property you want to enable site search.
  2. In the Property Settings section, click on the “Data Streams” tab.
  3. Find the data stream for the website you want to enable site search for, and click on the “Edit” button.
  4. Scroll down to the “Site Search” section.
  5. Enable the “Site Search” toggle, and enter the query parameter that identifies the search terms in the URL. For example, if the search terms appear in the URL as “?q=search+terms,” you would enter “q” in the Query Parameter field.
  6. Save your changes.



GA4 Search Setup

Once you have set up site search, GA4 will automatically track the search terms that users enter on your website. You can view this data in the Site Search reports in the “Behavior” section of GA4. These reports will show you which search terms are being used, how often they are being used, and how well they are performing. This can help you understand what your users are looking for on your website, and make improvements to your site’s search functionality.

UPDATE: If you are using GA4 you will not find the search terms in the data reports. It’s in the data collection, but there is not yet a widget that displays the terms that people used on your site when they used site search. I found a great setup tutorial that works around this shortcoming by setting up a custom dimension in GA4 over at Analytics Mania called:  How to Find Search Terms in Google Analytics 4.

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