Google Analytics and Online Marketing Expert

Google Analytics Site Search for Analysis & Insights

Site Search

The Site Search reports allow you to understand what people are searching for once they have landed on your site. The reports show you what people have searched for using your own internal search solution.

This is a fantastic place to understand what people are looking for and can give you great insights to inform your navigation design, content strategy and even the products and services you are offering.


Take a moment to think about what this report is showing you – people are actually taking the time to tell you exactly what they are looking for. They have plugged in a search term into your search solution looking for information. These keywords people are searching are valuable for analysis and you can use this report to find quick insights for your organization.

If you have a website with more than a handful of pages you should consider adding a search solution. It will help people find information on your site and you will get the added benefit of actionable insights. The CMS you are using might have an inbuilt search option, or you can use Google Custom Search to add a search solution to your site.

Site Search Usage Report

The usage report shows you the number of people using your search solution, along with engagement and conversion metrics.

If you are looking after a website with thousands of pages or a large number of products, then your search solution will be a critical component of getting people to the most appropriate content on your site. If you see a small number of people using your search options, then you should review the placement of your search input box, potentially people might be having difficulty even seeing that they have an option to search your site.

If you are running an ecommerce site or focused on another type of goal, then you also want to ensure that people are converting after they have performed a search. Select the appropriate goal or ecommerce option to the right of ‘Conversions’ in the report table to compare the conversion rate of people using and not using your search solution. If people are less likely to convert after searching, then you should check that your search is providing relevant results and that it is easy for people to use.

Search Terms Report

This is the best report to use if you are getting started, it will give you fast insights into what people are looking for and help you improve your site. The report shows you the actual terms that people have searched and these terms are presented by the overall number of people searching for them.

Some people love clicking buttons and this includes your ‘search’ button, so if you see the keyword ‘search’ or ‘(not set)’ these will be for people who have searched without taking the time to enter a term.

Take some time to review the terms people are using, you might just have a handful of terms, or you might have thousands of terms. Start by identifying terms that could be used to help you produce new content. For example, if people are searching for something that you do not currently have on your website, this is identifying a content gap that you can fill. You might also identify terms that could help you inform the product or services you offer.

People are looking for this information, so why not give it to them?

If you click on a particular term in the report you will see the ‘Destination Page’ for the the term. The idea is that you can analyze the particular pages that people navigate to after performing a search, but unfortunately this report is one of the few reports inside Google Analytics that has been broken for a long time. Instead of seeing where people go, you will see the URLs of your search results pages which is not very useful at all.

Understanding Post-Search Navigation

So although the inbuilt report is broken for ‘Destination Page’, there is a way to understand how people navigate from a particular search results page. Start by navigating to the ‘All Pages’ report under ‘Site Content’ within the ‘Behavior’ section. At the top of the report click on ‘Navigation Summary’, you will find this just to the right of the ‘Explorer’ tab.




This report shows you basic navigation paths through particular pages on your site. Next to ‘Current Selection’ you will see one of your pages displayed in blue.

Click the page and perform a search for your search solution in the popup window that appears. You will need two things to do this, firstly you will need to know the query parameter for your search solution, if you don’t know this then you will need to checkout how to set up Site Search and the configuration options and then come back.

Secondly, you will need to be using a reporting view where you have not selected to strip out the query parameter from your reports, again you can find details within your Site Search configuration. If you have stripped out the query parameter, then switch to an unfiltered view or this is also a good time to create an unfiltered view, so you have a raw set of data moving forward.

All going well you can now search for your search query parameter in the Navigation Summary Report. For example, if your search results page for the term ‘contact’ has a URL like /search.php?q=contact then you can search for ?q= to find all your search result pages.




Now just click on the particular search result page you want to analyze. The report will update and you will see two columns below the page icon. The column on the left shows you the pages where people started their search. The icon in the middle represents the search results page you are analyzing and the column on the right now shows you the pages that people went to from the search results page. You can now view the navigation for different search terms by clicking the ‘Current Selection’ and choosing a different search results page.




Using this technique you can understand post-search navigation paths and also compare the pages people navigate to against your search results. If people are regularly navigating to a page that is lower down on your results page, then this page could potentially be promoted at the top of the results page to improve visitor navigation.

Identifying Post-Search Issues

You can then review the search terms report for terms that have a low level of engagement after the search has occurred. By identifying terms that have a lower ‘Time After Search’ or lower ‘Search Depth’ you can find pages that are not delivering on the expectations of people searching. It could also be that your search solution isn’t returning the most appropriate results for the particular term. If you do identify terms with a lower level of engagement after searching then try searching for the term yourself and see that the experience is like. This can help you tune your search solution to provide better results for your visitors.

Look for pages that have a higher ‘% Search Exits’, this shows you the percentage of people who are leaving your website from your search results page. A higher percentage of exits can indicate that your search solution is not providing the results people were looking for, you can then check the results pages for those terms and potentially tweak your search for better quality results or even add promoted suggestions for important terms.

Pages Report

The Pages Report shows you the particular pages where people start to search. You can drill-down into a particular page to see the terms that people use when they begin searching from the page. This can help you identify potential navigation issues or even content that could be included within the page. If lots of people are searching for similar terms from a page then you could consider including relevant links alongside your primary content, for example in the right hand column, in the menu or even in the footer of the page.

Site Search Best Practices

It’s important to not just review the reports in isolation, make sure you open up your site and use your search solution as you are analyzing the reports. This way you will also be able to understand if your results are relevant to what people are searching for and better understand the experience. Testing out your search solution is also important because you might find that particular terms that you see inside Google Analytics reports end up returning no results at all.

You can use the Search Terms report to help you identify potential keywords for your paid search campaigns and organic SEO.

Don’t forget to come back to the reports on a regular basis to review what people are searching for and ensure your onsite search experience remains a good one.