Analyzing Your Website Data – Onsite Search is a No-Brainer

October 4th, 2010

onsite search analysisDo you feel like a reporting squirrel (a term coined by Avinash Kaushik) that does nothing actionable with your web metrics because no one else embraced data-driven culture within your organization? I felt that way in the past, but not so much lately.

Data-Driven Culture
I am very proud to be a web analyst (part of my many roles at ActiveState) so I can help improve site conversions and increase site traffic. Recently our marketing team has been stepping up and fixing many actionable areas (website improvements, SEO, conversion funnels etc.) based on my monthly data analysis and recommendations. This is totally awesome that we are embracing a data-driven culture as a team – more so now, since our new website launched! I cannot stress how important it is to have team members to see the value, understand the priority and pitch in with content -  it is a collaborative process.  One thing I want to stress though, is the web analyst has to evangelize and educate the team on how to become data-driven…and don’t give up -  if it is you who wears that hat!

So where can you start?

Onsite Search Analysis is the Simplest Starting Point
Let me introduce you to onsite search analysis. It is simply reviewing what your site visitors are searching for on your site and analyzing if you are fulfilling their needs.  It is so simple – yet I know many site owners don’t do this analysis nor act on it. I cannot tell you how great this analysis is to help you understand what your site visitors are looking for. It can also give you answers to how to branch out new pages on your site or even how to merchandise your products/services (what info is missing), which in turn can help you with increased inbound traffic via the search engines (help with your SEO efforts). It is a win-win for onsite optimization and possibly SEO.

During my monthly website compilation and analysis, I realized that we had a top recurring keyword “expect” in different keyword combinations (such as: “expect”, “expect for windows”, “expect download”,”tcl expect”, “activestate expect”, “install expect package”) which amounted to over 500 searches for the month. Holy cow, that’s a fair amount of searches!

So, I asked myself: Where were these visitors going after they did an onsite search for these combinations?

Well, I hopped on over to our website and went through the visitor experience. The following is what I saw:

Onsite Search Analysis

And the top 3 pages served up in our search results page had pretty outdated results – ouch!:

  1. is a very old Press Release from 2004
  2. is an old Press Release from 2005
  3. is an old Blog Post from 2006

And when I dug further with path analysis from the search term to these pages, they all had high exit rates. Which tells me, that the site visitor didn’t find what they were looking for because they should have downloaded one of our products. Expect is a package that is within one of our language downloads (ActveTcl) and not a separate product, which was in the past. The old blog posts from 2005 and 2006 had very dated information and did not cross-reference to relevant and current info which seemed to be missing on our site for Expect.

So what did we do?

We Served up a Relevant Page to Fulfill the Visitors Onsite Search Demand
We created a brand new page that had relevant and updated content which also lead them on a path conversion (to download ActiveTcl). At first, our marketing team wanted to ignore this action item, maybe because they didn’t see the value (I had to convince them more). But after the second month, I told them that this search term is not going away, we need to serve up a page that is relevant. Sold, done deal – let’s do it!

So we created a brand new page:  www.activestate.com/activetcl/expect:

onsite search new page

Then Analyze and Tweak the Secondary Pages in the Search Results

We went back to the older or not-so-relevant pages (the two releases as well as the blog post) and cross-promoted (linked) to the new page just in case site visitors landed on them. For example on the blog post, we added a link right at the end of the blog post (#1 below screenshot) and posted a comment with a link to updated information (#2 below screenshot).

Updated pages connected

Before and After Analysis:

Before:
Originally, most of the traffic from “Expect” search terms was split between the top 3 outdated pages. The site visitor was trying to find out what happened to expect and if it is still available. For the visits to the next page, approx 50% exited. By reviewing the pages myself, the visitor may have not been successful on finding out the status of Expect and if it s still offered by ActiveState at all- so they left.

before onsite optimization

After Adding the Brand New Page:

After we created the brand new page, we had a higher percentage of the searches for expect (54.5%) that went on to a single page (the new page). So that tells me that the page is indexed fine and visitors are choosing it from the search results – it’s more relevant and has a stronger scent path.

after onsite search analysis

Then 24% of the visits that came to the new page exited, but the rest went on to other pages. The number one page they went to is ActiveTcl page (44%) and second to ActiveTcl download page (14%) and then (25%) converted to a download.

I would say that this actionable item from analyzing onsite search data was a great success and dead simple. We herded the bulk of the “expect” site search visitors to a newly created updated page and lead them on a path to conversion (Download ActiveTcl), which was not necessarily a path that was offered via the outdated blog posts or the press release.

Have you had some successes with onsite search analysis and actions that increased website conversions? Feel free to share below.

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