Google Site Search Plus Sitefinity Equals Understanding Visitor Intent

Craig Holdheide  |  Aug 18, 2014  |  Comments

I have helped manage several web sites in the past decade and in every one of those sites there was one common trait that was needed, the ability to measure and analyze how the site was working for our visitors.  Were our visitors finding what they were looking for or were they digging through navigation and trying multiple searches to find a specific piece of content?

In this blog post I will discuss how you can start to understand your visitors purpose for being on your web site and how you can measure it with Google Analytic's on the Sitefinity CMS.

What is Google Site Search?

Just to be clear, I want to mention what Google Site Search is not.  Most people think this tool gives you the ability to put a Google Search on your own web site and they would be wrong.  If that is what you are looking for, then you need to head over to Google Custom Search Engine using the following URL https://www.google.com/cse.

So now that we know Google Site Search is not a custom search engine for your web site, what is it?  In its simplest form, it allows you to track what people are searching for on your own web site.  Most web sites these days have their own search box, giving visitors a simple way to wade through all of the content and find exactly what they are looking for.

Once Google Site Search is setup you can start to track the keywords your visitors are using on your own web site.  It is also important to mention that Google Site Search is part of Google Analytic's (GA), so if your already using GA then you will feel right a home with the reporting.  We will see more about this later.

You might also be wondering how Google gets these keywords from Sitefinity.  That's pretty simple.  If you do a search on my own web site and look at the URL you will see something similar to the URL below.  In this case I searched for the word "sitefinity".

Search URL in Sitefinity

In this URL you will see two query-string parameters that are important to us.  This first is "indexCatalogue" which determines what index catalog Sitefinity will perform the search against.  The second parameter is "searchQuery", which is the actual search you are querying for against the web site.  This information will be used by GA to help track the search queries.

Why Should I Setup Google Site Search?

Okay, you know what Google Site Search is now, but why should you care to setup this feature?  It turns out there are two main reasons why you need feature.

The first reason is that you will be able to understand your visitors intent.  This will give you incite on why the visitor is coming to your web site by telling you what they are looking for.  This type of information can be really hard to extract from visitors and the best part is they are telling you in there own words what they want.

The second reason why you need to setup Google Site Search is to understand the navigational efficiency of your web site.  If you know that people tend to search for certain types of content you can now optimize your landing pages to fit those needs.  This can also help you adjust navigation points across your web site.  

Remember, the main reason why people are searching your site. If they could find the content on your home page or landing page they wouldn't need search, so it is important to continue reviewing this data and adjusting your site to ensure the majority of your visitors can find what they want quickly.  Overall, this just leads to a better site experience and in the end that's what your visitors want.

How to Setup Google Site Search in Sitefinity?

Prerequisites

There are prerequisites you should be made aware of before you configure Google Site Search.  

First, you must be using Google Analytic's Universal.  I think you can also do this with the previous versions of Google Analytic's but the screens are slightly different and besides, you should move up to using Universal because of all the great new features.  If you are not sure whether you are using Google Analytic's Universal just open the admin section and see if it gives you an option to upgrade to Universal.

Second, I am assuming you have already added the Google Analytic's code to your master page template or on you main page template in Sitefinity with a JavaScript widget.  If not, do this now before continuing with this blog post.

Get Google Site Search Configured

  1. Log in to Google Analytic's (https://www.google.com/analytics)
  2. Once you log in, click on the "Admin" tab at the top of the page.
  3. Select your account, property, and view from each of the drop downs 
  4. Click on the "View Settings" link under the VIEW column (last column to the right 

    Login to Google Analytics

  5. Under the section "Site Search Settings" change "Site search Tracking" to ON.
  6. Set the Site Search Tracking Query parameter to "searchQuery"
  7. Change "Site search categories" to ON.
  8. Set the Site Search Categories parameter to "indexCatalogue".

    Google Site Search Settings

  9. Click Save.

View the Site Search Report in Google Analtyic's

Now that Google Site Search is setup, and some time has passed, you can start to view some data in the Site Search report in GA.  To see all of the site search reports just do the following...

  1. Go to the Reporting tab in GA
  2. On the left hand navigation, expand the Behavior node, expand the Site Search node, and click on Overview.

Here you can see how many sessions performed searches, how long users stayed around after performing a search, and so on.  There is a wealth of information to be found here so start exploring. 

Google Site Search Overview Report

One other thing I would like to also mention is that you get an added benefit of seeing which search catalogs are getting used the most since the category parameter was set in the GA admin.  Just go to the bottom of the site search overview page and click "Site Search Category" and you can see which catalog's are used the most on your web site.  In my case I only have one index catalog but imagine if you had a search index catalog for products or news.  If one index catalog was getting used more than another, you could more accurately determine which search index catalog to provide by default.

Site Search Categories

Conclusion

Overall, with Google Site Search setup on your web site you will be able to start measuring what keywords your visitors are using to find your content.  Just imagine if you knew the top ten keywords that drove visitors to your web site.  That's a powerful concept that will pay dividends back to you in the future.

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