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Four Things You Can Learn From Your Users Searches

If you don’t already know what your users are searching for on your website and finding – or more important not finding – you are missing out on a lot of valuable analytics. We already discussed earlier how you could setup tracking of your search results.

If you haven’t already setup tracking of your search results, please do so before reading this article any further!

When a user arrives on your site, this person will first browse your front page to find the desired content; Product, Information, Pricing, Term & Conditions etc.

In case the user can’t find what he is looking for, the user will begin searching (the pattern might be a bit different for women who browse sites more than they search). By searching the users is implicit requesting the content/product, and this is telling you a lot about both your site and your users, and you can collect these insights to improve your website.

The search patterns can be broken down into four areas; trends, bad branding, new markets/products and bad structure of your website. All four patterns can tell you how your customers act on your website, and if you improve these you can help convert more users to buying customers, or perhaps lower the amount of support calls.

Trends

Google Trends can help you get global visibility into search trends

People’s search-patterns change all the time, but some changes are seasonal.

You probably know of Google Trends which can tell you a lot about the global search trends on Google, but your website might be different.

If you are a company with a webshop that sells clothing, it is obvious that people will begin to search for summer clothes when spring is about to arrive, and you as the business owner or marketer will therefore begin promoting shorts just before spring blossoms (just to get ahead of the competition). If you on the other hand are a public municipality you might find an increase of searches in the spring on how the citizen can dispose his garden waste and where the nearest facility can be found.

To improve the experience for your visitors you should therefore begin to highlight the opening hours at the garden waste facility on the front page.

Tip 1: Remember also to highlight the opening hours on your search results page, so when people search for your phone number, it will display a banner on top of your search results.

Tip 2: If you are showing a phone number you can optimize for mobile phones by using href=”tel:+4535294680″. Thereby you can just click on the link to make a call to the phone number. It makes it lot easier, and people don’t have to remember your number to give you a call.

Bad branding

If you are a F500-company, your audience might know who you are, and what your key selling points are, but it might be different if you are running a small or mid-sized website. If you sell expensive shoes and you experience 100 searches for flip-flops you might have a branding issue.

The branding issue can arise from multiple sources:

  • Wrong impression through bad user-experience. It could be that your vision and your branding is not as obvious as you might think. You could do a survey among your peers to hear what they think of the design of your site, and which words they would use to describe both your brand and product. It will make it clear if the words coincide with your idea of your brand.
  • Wrong source of users. This could be an Adword campaign, which is targeting too broadly. Look into your analytics to see where your customers are coming from, to see if you have sources of traffic which looks odd.
  • Lack of knowledge of your brand. If you are new and not well know yet, you could fall into this trap. Good story telling about who you are and what you do can over time help you solve this. Note that this is a long term issue, and not something which can be solved by just a redesign of your website. This needs to be something that is worked on from all departments in the company, from the design of your flyers to the way you speak in customer service, to the LIX number which your website speaks to the users.
  • It could be from sites linking to you wrongly. Look in your analytics tool to spot where you are getting referral links from.

New markets or products

What if you knew exactly what your customers are actually looking for?

With your Google Analytics or Siteimprove Analytics account you can tell how they navigate around your site, but if you start to track your searches, you will start to actually know, what they are looking for.

Let’s go back to the examples where you run a successful high-end webshop selling shoes; If you suddenly get a 100 searches a month for ‘Louboutin’ – which is not in your catalogue – you might want to consider selling them as your audience has begun to search for this exact product. Since your potential customers are doing a search for this particular brand, they are requesting the item, which puts them in the later buying stage. In the case of the webshop you don’t actually need to import the shoes to test if they are worth selling, hence you can simply make the item, and just have it out of stock. If people are still ordering it, get some in stock and sell them.

Bad structure of your website

Usually a bad structure of the website will show in the analytics. If you get a lot of searches for contact or phone number even though you have it on the front page, then it might be time a good time to start highlighting it. People search if they don’t find what they look for and if they are searching for information which you do have on your front page it might just not be visible to them.

If many people search for ‘contact’ you might want to do either/or a combination of the following:

  • Try to enhance the text size of the section.
  • The color of the text might be difficult to read. Make sure that you have a good contrast between the text and the background.
  • If the contact form is on the footer, you might move the contact box to the top of the page.

The conclusion is that you should use the search patterns to optimize your front page.

The majority of users should be able to find what they are looking for from browsing the front page. Lots of searches towards the same keywords might show that the information is highly valuable to your visitors, so think about adding this or a link from your front page.

Checklist:

[    ] Look at trends every month to see if you should begin promoting different products or content on your front page.

[    ] Look at the search results to find searches for products or content which are out of place. Trace the searches using your analytics tool to see if you e.g. have referral link the wrong place, or if your ad campaign might be targeting the wrong audience.

[    ] Look for UX issues where users are searching for content you have on your front page.