Introduction to site search analytics by SearchBroker

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This paper is about the challenge of using analytics to drive your findability strategy and measure how well its achieving on its objectives.

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  • 1. Site Search Analytics 1 Site Search Analytics 1 Site Search Analytics White paper by SearchBroker - Colbenson John Tomlinson This paper is about the challenge of using analytics to drive your findability strategy andmeasure how well its achieving on its objectives.

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ContentsIntroduction ....................................................................................................................................................................3Putting the customer first ..........................................................................................................................................3The long neck or the long tail? ..................................................................................................................................5Search analytics to drive SEO........................................................................................................................................5Site search is different ...................................................................................................................................................5Findability: the foundation of conversion..............................................................................................................6Findability..........................................................................................................................................................................6Search analytics: the long neck .................................................................................................................................9Content or search terms?...............................................................................................................................................9Calculating opportunity ...............................................................................................................................................10The findability ceiling ...................................................................................................................................................12Search analytics: the long tail..................................................................................................................................14Step one: create clusters .............................................................................................................................................14Step two: low findability analysis...............................................................................................................................14Step three: take action.................................................................................................................................................14Low findability due to no content..............................................................................................................................14Low findability due to non-indexed content..........................................................................................................15Low findability due to customer behaviour...........................................................................................................15Low findability for other reasons............................................................................................................................15Step four: dont stop.....................................................................................................................................................16Conclusion......................................................................................................................................................................17 3. 3Introduction People have one thing in common: they are allunique.This means that people will search in lots ofdifferent ways, and your onsite search enginemust be able to deal with it.This paper is about that challenge. The challengeof using analytics to drive your findability strategyand measure how well its achieving on itsobjectives.Putting the customer first The proper place to start is with customer-focussed search analytics.This means going through all the words (terms) and phrases (queries) and working out what people aretalking about.Putting each terms or query into a graph, with quantity of searches on the vertical y-axis and each searchterm (in quantity order) on the horizontal x-axis, you get something that looks a bit like this: 4. Roughly speaking, about 80% of your searches will fall into the top 20% of terms (we call this the longneck), and then the other 80% of terms will be spread across about 20% of your traffic (the long tail).This "long tail" is a broad range of search queries that tend to be a mix of words and phrases that willusually have poor findability rates (ie. they dont connect the customer to any site content).The tactics for dealing wth the long neck are differentfrom those of the long tail but which is moreimportant? Where should you start? 5. 5 The long neck or the long tail? Search analytics advice is usually focussed on the importance of the "long tail" in driving conversion.Whilst the "long tail" is important, please be aware, a lot of this advice is focussed on Search EngineOptimisation (SEO) and not on internal site search.Search analytics to drive SEO The argument runs that using high volume queries like "TV" is less effective in driving conversion than amuch more specific - but much less common - query like "LCD smart HD TV Samsung" for example.This makes sense, the more specific the search is, the more likely it is that the customer will connect tothe data they are actually looking for, and the more likely it is that the customer is clear about what theywant and serious about finding it.Many of us search this way. We try a fairly general query then, when faced with too much genericcontent, we refine the queries getting more and more specific until we find links that connect us directlyto the content were looking for.The challenge of SEO is to get seen in external search engines like Google. In this case, the long-tail is agreat source of data to help you focus your advertising, make use of key words that convert, drive acontent marketing strategy, and other useful techniques for attracting valuable traffic.Site search is different It is not the same challenge in site search. In site search the customer is already on the site, so the sameargument simply doesnt apply and a different approach is needed.In site search, the challenge is to ensure that the customer makes the right connections to the rightdata.We may see a "long tail" query like "Samsung HD Smart LCD TV" with findability at zero, but this is muchless likely. If this is a product (or product type) you stock, then if it is not connecting it is probably due todata quality or design issues rather than search. If you stock other types of HD TVs, a good search engine- even a poor search engine - should make that connection!The long-tail in site search is often more idiosyncratic: variations on terms, common mistakes or off-catalogue items that you havent indexed. 6. This is why search analytics always starts with the customer.It is vital to use the customers own language to drive how the search and category navigation functionsdeliver. If you dont, youll be building connections from a business perspective, not from a customerperspective.This is why the head of the graph, the long neck that are about 80% of the traffic, becomes hugelyimportant: thats where the customers are and in site search analytics, thats where you need to start!Findability: the foundation of conversion Before discussing the specific approaches you should take when dealing with the long neck and long tailof site search, we need to define the term findability.Findability is mapped on the vertical y-axis of the graph where each term or query has a findability valueassociated with it. This is driving the analytics process, and so we must understand the term to be surewe are building our methodology on solid foundations.Findability The term "findability" is a cumbersome and inelegant word, but one that captures an important concept.The first formal definition is often credited to Peter Morville:"the ability of users to identify an appropriate Web site and navigate the pages of the site todiscover and retrieve relevant information resources"(Peter Morville, 20051)He wasnt the first to use the term, but his definition is most widely accepted.This definition includes two ideas: The ability of the website and its content to be found by customers searching externally. The ability of the content of the website to be found by customers internally (i.e. already on thesite).1Source: http://findability.org/ 7. 7The first part of the definition is now the field known as SEO: (Search Engine Optimization). This is abouthow to ensure your site ranks in Google and other major search engines, and has become a vital tool foronline organisations and a complex science with its own devoted experts.The second part of the definition is the focus of this paper. Can people who are already on your siteactually find what theyre looking for?This is increasingly important as big data becomes ever more commonplace, and especially so in e-commerce. The ability of your e-commerce customers to find your products is the different betweenmaking a sale and losing a customer.This is why we at Colbenson define "findability" as:"the measure for how easily your customers can make the right connections to your data"This is findability, and it is the fundamental component of online conversion. Can your customersconnect to your data correctly - if not, theyre not going to buy anything.This also goes beyond site search.Findability is not just about how onsite search works, it applies generally to how your customers connectto your data. This could be via promotional advertising, category navigation, social media or any otherchannel.How customers make these connections will vary from sector to sector and from business to business. 8. This is why findability is such a useful concept, it doesnt focus on the tool (e.g. the onsite searchengine), it focuses on the outcome: customers making the right connections to your data, or, to put itanother way, it focuses on conversion.Reducing Site Search abandons increases Conversion 9. 9Search analytics: the long neck In site search, 80% of your customers are at the long neck; thats where you need to be!The great thing about long neck search terms is that they are predictable. It doesnt take too mucheffort to scan through the top bundle of search terms used, see whats happening, and create a plan forthe kind of connections you want to see made between customers using those terms and your sitecontent.The best way to convert the long neck is by creating promotional links to either successful searches orhigh-performing content. Or both.But what links should we create?The best way to decide is to let the customer decide by using A/B Testing on various different solutions.A/B TestingA/B Testing involves trying two or more options and randomly applying these to your customers atthe same times of day. You can then compare which is the most successful at building connections.Content or search terms? A search engine like Google will link you to popular search terms by suggesting popular searches as youtype. This is called Google Suggest. In this case, the search is still performed and a page of results shown.The customer needs to browse these results and select the content they want.This is great when there is no obvious standout link between the term and the content. 10. If there is a strong relationship between a search term and site content, you can bypass the search andresults process and directly suggest that content to the customer is the autocomplete space. This meansthe customer clicks and is taken directly to that content.A great example of this is Apple:Be careful with this, you can overdo it, and end up thinking all of your customers want to make the sameconnections to the same content. You must always allow the customer to feel in control of the search,and allow them to make the connections they want to make.Calculating opportunity A useful way to measure this is to consider the concept of opportunity. This process allows you toprioritise your actions when managing site search.OpportunityOpportunity is the measure of what youre not converting how many opportunities to sell are youmissing because your search is not making the right connections.Sticking with the TV example from earlier in this paper, if we have a "long-tail" item like "telvision" thathas a findability of zero, and a frequency of 5, then we are potentially missing out on 5 connections andtherefore have 5 opportunites. 11. 11At the same time, if a thousand people are searching "TV" and this has a findability of 20%, then thats800 people (1000 x 80%) not making connections to your products.Looked at this way, you have a much greater opportunity to make an impact on your overall conversionrates if you work out why people are not finding what they want when they search "TV" than connecting"telvision" that had only 5 incidences.The calculation for working out the number of opportunities (o) each search query presents us with issimple: the number of incidences (n) multiplied by the percentage not found (1-f%):o = n x (1-f%)There is a problem with this method.We are assuming that it is possible to get a findability percentage (f%) of 100%.Sadly, we must reluctantly accept that there is a ceiling somewhat lower than perfection for mostqueries. Some individual queries with very low frequency (usually pointing at specific content) may haveunusually high findability, but this anayisis uses he more numerous terms found in the "head" of thegraph.This will vary from industry to industry, and from sector tosector, but it is rare to see 100% findability - especially if yourresults page (or autocomplete) has so much information thatcustomers need not click on anything to get the information! 12. The findability ceiling To estimate your findability ceiling, first isolate your top search queries. These should be the top ten (orso) that have the best findability percentage, but that have a similar success rate. It neednt be exactlyten queries, but you should be able to see a number of queries that cluster at the top with similarpercentages.Now you need to drill down on the part that is not converting.Staying customer-focussed, there are only two things thatcan be happening if the customer is not connecting tocontent. Either they are (a) giving up and abandoning thesearch, or (b) they try again and search with new terms oruse filters to refine the results.This is shown in this diagram. The green channel showsconversion, the red is abandonment and the yellow iscustomers trying again.Let us...