Google’s empire is built on top of the insights search data provides. Let’s take a page out of Google’s playbook—let’s use search query data to grow your eCommerce business.
The Power of Search
Search is equivalent to someone walking up to your front door and telling you exactly what they’re looking for.
That differentiates search data from every other metric you might investigate.You don’t need to divine users’ intentions. No poring over visitor flow graphs or looking at bounce rates and average time on page. Just read what they tell you.
It’s not that other metrics are unimportant, but if you overlook your search data, you’re missing out on a great opportunity for easy, valuable insights.
Two Types of Search Data
You have access to two distinct types of search data:
1. Terms from major search engines like Google or Bing
2. Terms from your site’s own search functionality
These sources each reveal different insights. Data from major search engines tell you where you are today—what keywords you’re already ranking for. Use reports from major search engines to optimize and refine existing content. What they don’t tell you is what opportunities you’re missing out on completely—what conversations you’re not a part of.
A recent week for BranchLabs’ Google search query stats. Data you gather from users of your site’s search is different. It’s a view of what questions people have for you specifically. You can gauge what topics people think you’re an expert on—regardless for if you have content on it or not!
In addition to helping refine and optimize existing content, your site’s search query data can provide market insight and new content ideas, something search data from major engines can’t.
Tactics for Using Search Data to Generate Leads
The rest of the article details how to use this data to build and refine content—how you can use it to speak your customer’s language and rank higher in search results.
I’ve repurposed the list below specifically for eCommerce, but originally it came from an excellent article by Benjamin Spiegel about general strategies to leverage your site’s search data. I definitely recommend giving it a read—it’s got some great insights too.
1. Optimize Existing Content
For higher visibility in search results, use the same vocabulary as your target market. Even more important than being found though is being understood. Using your market’s lingua franca is the only way to get there.
Luckily, search data is an excellent way to discover what your customers want in their own words.
Plan of Attack
For content: Take a look at the terms people are searching for on your site. Does your content use the same language? If not, it’s time to make some tweaks.
Find places—ideally near the top of the page—to include a few relevant search terms. The goal is to reassure visitors they’re in right place and to keep them engaged.
Don’t force the language if it doesn’t fit, but chances are you can make one or two terms work in the first paragraph without keyword stuffing.
Check that your metadata contains relevant terms. Page titles are a great place for them, as are descriptions.
Metadata is important since it’s often used to populate search results pages. Using customers’ language here will confirm your content is what they need when they’re looking through search results.
For Product and Category pages: You might see people using a search term synonymous with a product you already offer. E.g. breathable jacket vs. ventilated jacket. If you’re not including that synonym on your pages, there’s a high likelihood that it won’t be found on your own site’s search—search engines on sites aren’t nearly as robust as the major search engines’.
The takeaway here is to include important synonyms in descriptions and category pages. They’ll boost the likelihood of getting picked up by your search engine and improve recognition by searchers.
2. Generate Ideas for New Content
Search data from your site is a great place to come up with new ideas for content. Unlike search data from major engines, you see every search query used, whether or not it turned up results.
That means you can uncover popular searches that return no results.
Explicit questions like “How to iron a dress shirt” are excellent candidates for new content if you don’t cover them already. People are telling you how they view your brand—what questions they expect you to have answers to.
Less obvious candidates for new content are searches for technical terms. If you have proprietary technology in the products you sell, or use uncommon trademarked names, chances are some customers will investigate further. Setting up a glossary for commonly searched words will help your brand become a trusted authority in your field.
Be sure you’re surfacing content and products in your search results. You’ll rank on major search engines either way, but you want to cater to users who need more information before they buy as well as those who are ready to purchase.
Plan of Attack
Look for popular searches on your site that yield no relevant results. Dig into the pages that people initially made these requests from. Does it make sense to add some information about the search term there and then link to a page with more information?
It’s worthwhile to create unique informational pages for many searches. Focused informational pages are great for long tail search terms and they serve a clear customer need.
3. Improve Existing Content
Do your logs show a bunch of searches for content you already cover?
That may indicate visitors aren’t finding your content where they expect to. Double check you’re surfacing the right content on pages users are searching from most often.
Search data can also tell you if you need to improve content. A big indicator you need to improve content is if customers search for the same topic while they’re on a page that covers that topic. Assess bounce rates and average time on page metrics to assess content quality too.
Plan of Attack
What pages do people start searching from most often? Are people searching for similar things from that page?
If there is a clear trend on specific pages, try adding more (or better) information about the topic to the page. If you can’t fit enough information in, link to a deeper page with more content.
4. Market/Product Research
Finally, you can use search data to inform your market research.
Are people searching for a product category that you don’t carry on your site? If you’re looking to expand, these categories might be good opportunities.
Also take a look at commonly searched products you do carry and investigate their conversion rates. Occasionally it’s the case that many people are looking for something you carry—e.g. king-sized bed sheets—but their conversion rates aren’t very good. That might mean you’re not carrying the right product for your customer. In this instance it might be you need to stock a product with a higher thread count, or offer different colors.
Plan of Attack
Similar to the “Generate Ideas for New Content” section above, look for product-related searches that return no results. These categories likely have potential to convert well, should you decide to carry them.
If you’re seeing many searches for a product you do carry, but low conversion rates, consider the different factors at play. Maybe the product is too expensive. Maybe you’re not communicating its benefits properly. Maybe it’s not quite the right product. Dig into the potential reasons, talk to your customers, come up with a hypothesis, and test a solution out.
Assessing Search Data
So, these are great questions, but how do we answer them?
The good news is that we’ll answer those questions in our next post on SEO. We’ll cover the following:
Accessing search data from GoogleSetting up site search tracking with Google AnalyticsHow you can slice and dice your data to answer some of the questions posed above