Event Apart: Search Analytics

by August 29, 2007

Lou Rosenfeld’s Search Analytics talk at An Event Apart outlined ways designers and developers could utilize search query logs to uncover insights about their site’s audience and needs.

  • Just about all organizations have search query data but very few use them effectively. Search analytics can be a great diagnosis tool for your site.
  • Benefits: inexpensive, large quantity of behavioral data.
  • Drawbacks: incomplete picture of usage. Difficult to analyze with existing tools
  • A few unique terms are responsible for the bulk of the queries on your site. These are a good place to focus your efforts because they can have a high impact.
  • On the Michigan State University site, the top search terms were "campus map" and "map". If the university didn’t check their search logs, they might not have invested the right amount of effort in designing and developing a useful map.
  • Search analytics can help you decide where you need good experiences and what you need to work on.
  • Questions to start with: What are most frequent unique queries? Are frequent queries getting quality results? What are the click-through rates on results? When do people encounter zero results pages? What are the referrer pages for frequent queries –where do people search from?
  • Who wants it? Specific segments can be understood through IP, cookies, etc.
  • When do they want it? Different searches happen at different times
  • People are giving you the language they use to describe things when they are searching.
  • Query syntax helps you determine what UI might help your users: do they need refiners?
  • Track where searches are started. Are those failure points for the information architecture? What are people trying to get to?
  • Search analytics provides insight into what kinds of metadata would be useful when annotating your content. What qualifiers are people using? Can these be added to pages?
  • Differences between short head and long tail queries may identify different search needs: research, look-up, etc.