Guide to Using Google Analytics Site Search

Ga  Vizion Interactive

Hopefully your website includes internal site search functionality. If so, are you taking advantage of the beneficial data that Google Analytics reports? It’s fairly simple and quick to set up and will provide all sorts of data points and insights as to what users are looking to discover on your website.

The Site Search data can be located under the Behavior tab and provides an understanding of what users are querying using the search capabilities within your website. Considering organic keywords are now listed as “not provided,” this data will provide answers as to what users are searching for once they land on your website.

Getting Started with Site Search Reports

To set up and configure Site Search, navigate your way to the “Admin” tab located at the top of your screen. Click on the “View Settings” link, scroll down towards the bottom of the page and locate “Site Search Settings.” Click the “On” tab under “Site Search Tracking.” In the “Query Parameter” field, enter the word or words that designate an internal query parameter, such as “search or query.” You can even just use a letter, such as “s” or “q.”  For example, a search results URL may look like the following:

The example below indicates that the “s” is the search parameter.

You can gain additional detailed search data for each category if your search field has a way for people to search within a category on your website (through a drop down for example). If you do, you can enter up to 5 parameters in the category parameter field.  You will then be able to review overall search data as well as category data.
Note: It could possibly take up to 48 hours for data to appear in your reports once you completed the configuration process.

Internal Site Search Reports


The site search overview report comprises of the overall search activity data relevant to the report. Basically, you are presented with a percentage of how many users visited your website and took advantage of the search functionality and the average activity taken place after a query was entered.

Site Search Usage Report

In this report you are presented with a comparison of visitors who took advantage of site search and those who did not. This report is often overlooked, however it gives you the opportunity to correlate the differences between the two types of visitors and review metrics such as those who used site search and converted. You can also see if new visitors are more than likely to use the search functionality or if returning users are more adapt to use the feature.

You will also notice the differences in E-commerce data such as transactions, revenue and conversion rate.  User behavior data is also provided such as bounce rate, pages viewed and the average session duration.

Search Terms Report

This is the money report. It allows you review search phrases that visitors entered in the search box and you can determine what products, events, articles, etc., that users are trying to locate within your website. You can also run goal and E-commerce reporting including the search terms to determine which key phrases result in a conversion.

Examples of information that you can pull from this report:
+        Popular queries
+        The amount of user engagement after a search was performed
+        How many pages users visited after entering a search query
+        How many times users refined their initial search
+        The amount of users who abandon the website after performing a search
+        The number of times a visitors viewed a search results page after entering a search query
+        Search terms that result in a conversion
+        Identify areas of your website that are searched for the most frequently
+        Analyze search terms to identify content gaps
+        Search queries that provide high revenue
+        Determine the correlation between search queries and user demographics

In your initial site search configuration setup, if you turned on the search categories feature then you can also obtain the information mentioned above broken out into each category. You can also evaluate which category was chosen by users while a search was performed, and if users were successful in finding what they were looking for based on the category they chose to initiate the search.

Pages Report

This report informs you of all the pages where a search was initiated. This report can be very beneficial because you can determine where users get frustrated when they can’t find what they are looking for and instead use the search functionality.  If you have a large number of searches being performed on your homepage, you may want to analyze your overall website navigation and determine its ease of use.

If you click on the “destination page” link you will be able to see the see the pages users visited after entering a search phrase including additional data points related to the destination page.

Examples of Using Site Search Data

Buried Content

Do you notice a search phrase that contains an extreme amount of unique searches? If so, where does the content for that search term reside? Is it easy to find off the homepage or is it buried 3 or 4 clicks deep within the website?

For instance, I had a client whose company was hosting an event and they were frustrated because they were not receiving many registrations. After reviewing the site search report I noticed a high number of search queries related to the event. The website did not contain any content associated with the event on the home page and there was no link to the event in the main navigation. I discovered very minimal content relevant to the event 4 clicks deep under the “About Us’ section of the website.

After creating an event landing page, expanding the content, adding a link in the navigation and adding some teaser content on the home page, registrations begin to flood the website.

International Visitors

Reviewing the demographic data along with the search terms can be beneficial. You might find that you have a large number of visitors coming from other countries.

If you find a high number of search queries for some particular content or products you may want to consider creating content in various languages. Think about the lost conversions likely due to the language barrier. If you offer content in international languages, you will give users a better experience and possibly even obtain additional conversions.


Site search reports provided many data points to discover how users are interacting with your website. Users are basically telling you what they are trying to obtain when vising your website. It’s up to you to present that information in the most direct way possible.

Do you have any other ideas on how to utilize site search reports?