How to Use On-Site Search for Lead Generation and SEO

Tracking how visitors use on-site search can lead to all kinds of SEO riches.

on-site searchUnderstanding what people search for on your site can highlight a hole in your regular navigation. Or, it may also simply suggest a seasonal content nugget you need to highlight on your home page. Say, for example, you are an accounting firm, and you notice that come March or so, there is an increase of searches for “year-end forms” – if that’s not a part of your permanent menu structure, then perhaps it’s time you add a “featured link” to these forms on the home page.

In fact, you may want to create a full-blown call-to-action (CTA) for this content just for the season that people are searching for it! Either way, ensure you have a solid, easy to use uncluttered landing page as well. For particularly high-value content, you may be able to require an email address in exchange for the download and up your conversion rate very quickly!

If not, then a quick route to a useful giveaway also makes for happy prospects who will click around some more, and come back again soon. If it’s free downloads the landing page should have a clear CTA as well. Users who like what they find are more likely to voluntarily subscribe for future notifications.

If finding important information, and moreover, seasonally relevant information, is difficult then, after one or, at most two, failed search attempts, users are likely to leave your site in search of faster, better answers elsewhere. On the other hand, the quicker they find what they are looking for on your site, the more likely they are to click through to your call-to-action and convert!

Analytics and On-Site Search

analyticsYour analytics package will give you lots of data that can help you get users to their objective faster.

As you can see in this screenshot, Google Analytics, for example, will let you know the percentage of visits that used search; the exact number of visits that represents; how many users exited after searching; how long they spent on the site after searching; the depth of their search, and so on. The better you can refine these results the happier your visitors will be, and you will see a conversion lift from this improved experience.

The two best ways to improve these numbers are:

  1. 1) Ensure that your search function works well. Test if often, with seasonal and complex terms. Try it with common misspellings, and vague or general terms and see how long it takes to get to useful content.
  2. 2) Tweak your site menu — or if necessary, your site architecture — to make it easier to navigate to hidden, important content.

These are not simple tweaks, but they ARE important.

On-Site Search and SEO Ranking

In addition to simply improving the user experience with the goal of increasing conversions, Google has been making it increasingly clear that its algorithm is getting progressively better at including the user experience as an important SEO ranking factor. At the recent SXSW conference, at session hosted by Danny Sullivan of, Matt Cutts, Google’s chief web spam fighter, said, “we don’t want low-quality experience merchants to be ranking in the search results.” This was in reference to e-commerce, but all web site owners should understand – the more the ranking algorithm can measure and weigh the user experience on any site, the more it will do so for ALL sites. And bad on-site search = bad user experience. Good on-site search and good navigation improve it

If Your Platform Does Not Offer On-Site Search Functionality

If your platform does not have on-site search capability, it may be time to look at what else it’s missing and consider an update. But in the short run, you can see if Google Site Search or Google Custom Search can work for you. One is free and other is not, but both are strong alternatives if you need a quick solution.

On-Site Search and You – Summary

On-site search has become an important secondary navigation tool. People use on-site search a lot, especially when the main navigation does not immediately help them understand how to find what they are looking for. Fix both – your on-site and your primary navigation. Get your users to the results they need, and more of them will get to the results you want: your call-to-action.

If you’d like help setting up your analytics and on-site tracking, give us a holler. And as always, contact us for a free, complete, SEO audit.

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