Article

Sahil Merchant
Sahil Merchant 1 May 2018

Search Analytics: Your Secret Weapon

The goal of modern marketing is to offer visitors the right content at the right time, usually to create some type of desirable behavior. A search query is the purest form of a potential customer expressing what their particular interest is- the path to relevant content and meaningful engagement can be paved with search queries, and the analytics that stem from those search interactions.

Let me begin with a question: what’s the difference between knowledge and information?

In the digital age, information tends to exist primarily as ones and zeros. It’s a culmination of raw data and facts. Knowledge on the other hand is the combinational results of analysis and experience. Essentially, we often have access to all the information we need- but how that information is understood and processed transforms it into useful knowledge. We live in an information rich society, so a dearth of information is not an issue- what IS a growing concern is how we parse and synthesize huge quantities of information. That’s where search engines reveal their true potential. Search exists not merely to find raw information to answer our questions, but to structure that information to provide us with actionable knowledge. People thought “Big Data” was the answer, but “Big Data” is merely the raw material to which we apply our questions. Search provides the answers.

Primarily due to the power of search engines, the future of the internet is inexorably moving from an information highway to a knowledge highway, yet most organizations never think twice about their search experience. A search query is the purest form of a potential customer expressing what their particular interest is. Your search solution can make or break that knowledge journey, either leading them down a path to greater engagement with your organization, or frustrating them and causing them to drop off your site. Which brings us to the biggest engagement challenge of all- Relevance.

You may hear your customer, but are you listening?

The goal of modern marketing is to offer visitors the right content at the right time, usually to create some type of desirable behavior. The path to relevant content and meaningful engagement can be paved with search queries, and the analytics that stem from those search interactions. When search is employed, large quantities of information is processed to deliver relevant results, and the users’ reaction in aggregate can be analyzed to reveal trends and insights into your customer’s behavior, as well as the health of your content strategy and website. Search queries give you a picture of your customers’ likes, wants and desires. Relevant behavioral data can paint a vivid picture of what your visitors are interested in finding. In short, your users are speaking to you through the medium of search.

Insights based on analytical trends are invaluable because it’s difficult to hide from numbers, especially since they’re so easy to compare. When an engaged audience responds to a piece of content, you have solid numbers to continue this story and engage with them further. So, why should your search strategy be any different? Making smart business decisions often requires the retrieval of easy to understand data- this data can usually be gleaned from your analytics. Understanding what your customers are seeking on your website is valuable. Having relevant statistics on your searches and content trends can either make or break your initiatives as a company. If utilized properly, the incredible advantage search analytics gives you over your competitors, is insight into visitor engagement- knowing exactly what your customers can and cannot find, and then rectifying those gaps in your content strategy.

Getting started with search analytics

The daunting volumes of data being generated by search are often a major stumbling block for marketers searching for coherent insights. Focusing on a core set of actions or metrics is a good step towards gaining a holistic analytics overview of your search data. Here are four key things to focus on.

Stay actively engaged- use your dashboard: Your search platform’s dashboard is your central hub for a complete overview of your search and insights. Get into the habit of visiting your dashboard regularly to keep track of what your website visitors are doing, and acting on your search analytics. Integrating your search data into your overall web analytics data is also recommended in order to gain a more holistic view of what your customers are up to.

Pattern analysis- keep up on your words with/without results: When it comes to search results, it’s a matter of finding the correct terms that resonate with your customer base. By keeping track of what they are finding, or looking for and not finding on your site, will give you the opportunity to refine your content strategy to meet their needs, as well as your overall business strategy based on how these terms are trending.

Failure analysis- analyze ineffective searches: “Ineffective searches” are cases where the user did not click on any of the search results delivered to them. This could indicate that the results delivered by your search platform were not what the visitor was looking for. This is a great opportunity to consider adding additional content related to those search terms and manually boosting content you feel is important.

Intelligent assists- deploy machine learning: Especially in the case of larger sites with huge volumes of pages, visitors and queries, synthesizing data to gain insights can be extremely difficult. With the help of machine learning however, data sets that a human being could not possibly parse become accessible and transparent.  A customer-centric search implementation should capture and cross-reference relevant queries to deliver analytical results that give you insight into your visitor’s behavior. This should be a self-learning system that continues to automatically increase the relevance of your search, and is able to predict customer needs and deliver deeper insights over time.

Interrogating your data to get the full story

With a comprehensive search analytics tool, your site essentially receives ongoing wide-ranging health checks. Almost more important than what is performing well for you, these analytics will also inform you where you may be falling short. For example, if large enough volumes of your customers are trying to find specific content or products that you do not offer, you may choose to alter the course of your entire business in light of these customer engagements. By making data-driven decisions based on real-time analytics you’ve received, you can decide to generate new content, modify or completely remove material, or take other steps to positively influence your customers’ experience. 

Your search analytics have a story to tell. Take advantage of these numbers as you look to shape the direction of your search strategy, and let these numbers form the narrative of your website.

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