On-site Search As A Crystal Ball

Last session of Day 2. We’ve almost made it! This time Daniel Shields (Wicked Business Sciences) and Phil Gibson (National Semiconductor Corporation) are talking about On-Site Search as a Crystal Ball. This should be fun.

Daniel is up first.

What makes site search important?

  • 65-70 percent of clients’ visits originate from the search engines. This means they’re possibly predisposed to using searching navigation
  • Users engaged in search are almost 1,000 percent more likely to convert [A thousand percent? Really?].
  • More easily identified search cues lead to 30-35 percent more searches being performed on a site. More searching activity promotes most algorithms built into commercial site search solutions.
  • Simply, more searchers = more engagement = more data = more opportunity for success.

What Should You Measure?

First, are you measuring at all? Are you using Google Analytics? Site Search is now part of their package as of last July. Omniture offers eVars, S.props and Custom Links to help gather all the angles. Other solutions?

You should be measuring clicks, engagement indicators, action-ability, behaviors, and conviction.

What Data is Useful? Words, clicks and correlations. Basically, all of it!

Qualitative data helps breed understanding of what intent the majority search-engaged user are trying to accomplish.

Quantitative data provides a clear sense of the specific items or subject users are interested in and provides statistical support for new products, investing in search terms, rethinking SEO, taxonomy and silos, etc.

Site search helps you to grow your business by making you aware of your content and telling you what terms to bring into your search marketing campaign. It works as a personalization application and helps with URL analysis, SEO and internal crawl development, new product suggestions, landing page optimization, behavioral targeting, etc.

How do I Capture Search Terms?

Google Analytics

  1. Identify how your search solution outputs data with regard to the search.
  2. Edit your reporting to include site search metrics
  3. Place appropriate URL parameter into text box
  4. Identify if you are or are not eCommerce
  5. Wait a day to see if it works.
  6. Check to make sure you placed tags on the target results
  7. Wait another day to confirm that it is now working


  1. ID how your search solution outputs data with regard to search
  2. Allocate an eVar in Admin together data with FULL Subrelations
  3. ID and tag script execute event
  4. Prepare S.Code
  5. Run tests to see if it works

Phil is next.

Phil says the audience is graying and getting older. I guess I’ll just be over here trying not to snap my gum too loud.

He says he’s got all kinds of search tools but he’s focused on dialects and terms. People in his business have their own concepts and terms that mean certain things. They do a lot of visual search and general navigation search.

They created WEBENCH – it’s an online design and prototyping environment. You can choose the part, design it, analyze the design and build it. Anyone in this room can turn the knob in any direction they want.

He spends a lot of time talking about the company he works for and what his customers/engineers are looking for.

What do Engineers Notice? What are the headlines they’re looking for?

  • Lowest input bias current
  • Low-noise 1.6GHz Clocking Family
  • New High Current Flash LED Driver for Handhelds
  • New Technology for suppressing background noise
  • Synchronized signaling

Once you have those headlines you can use them for:

  • Direct Navigation
  • Exact hits: Straight to the answer
  • Prioritize: Highest margin parts first
  • Targeting 3 Options for Visitors
  • Review by Key Parameters – Money spec
  • Refine/Reduce – Narrow choices
  • Ask for satisfaction – Survey, Respond promptly
  • Convert to FAQs

To do that they monitor general trends in their statistical data. They focus in on the Top 100 queries on the site and their top accounts. What do their power users search for? What are the differences between what the power users look for and the general population? Drive actions on what you find. Review overall experience every three months.

People will type in terms you have no idea about. It shows you what you’re presenting to users.

Metrics Reporting: Drive Actions

  • Leads to Field Sales
  • Statistics to Product Lines
  • New Concept Keywords to Content Creators
  • Google Referral Monitor: Top keyword referrals, keyword insertion assignments, source document tuning
  • Critical actions as a result of observation
  • Recognize common mistakes and correct them
  • New Concepts: Concept creation, friendly URLS for spiders, page title adjustments, h1 title adjustments, h2 section title adjustments
  • Training & Trend Reviews with Product Lines: Keyword concept reviews, integrate into new launches, and reinforce one topic per page.


  • Satisfied Customers Engage More
  • Clear return for your efforts: Repetitive improves over time. Deep understanding of your content and your audience.
  • Improve brand perception and customer satisfaction
  • Big opportunity cost if you DON’T

Question and Answer

What kinds of things are you tracking?

Dan: The number of searches performed. We column out all the data that we have and take a look at it with number of times it’s been executed, number of card editions that they’re getting, the orders that exist after a card edition and the amount of revenue that’s collected for each term. They pass all that information into a scoring system.

How are you dealing with the long tail of search terms?

Dan: In essence, everything is long tail until it gets lumped into some kind of segment. Every instance is individual until you see a pattern. We take it in stride. We see that we have particular terms that may only appear once and awhile. We may throw them into some of our campaigns, but we don’t pay too much time.

How are you bucketing them?

Dan: Mostly it has to do with finding two or three like terms within a phrase, and then trying to find columns of data that are related to subcolumns of data.

In the case of multiple search terms, do you look at assist keywords?

Dan: They’ve isolated negative keywords, stop words and information seeking keywords. They’re starting to cater the search results so that the info searches are also there but not in the product searches results. They’re segmenting their search results to match the intent of the user.

What’s the tool you’re using as far as the site search that lets you customize it?

Phil: Theirs is homegrown. They also use Google Analytics. From a site search standpoint they use IBM’s search engine. They write a lot of scripts on top of that. They’re doing a lot of parsing of the incoming message.

So you’re getting API results and then writing scripts on top of that?

Phil: Right. They look for frequent hits.

At what frequency are you monitoring the onsite search data? You said you gleaned some insights, how long does it take to make changes?

Phil: Daily. They can make changes daily but they have real jobs. We have monthly meetings. We try to give them a short, prioritize list of things to do and give them that once a month. Site search drives the other actions around the Web site. It’s incredibly important. He spends 45 minutes a day himself working on it.

To Phil: You mentioned merchandising the search results. Are you using the right pane for promotional purposes within your site

Phil: Yes, for our own products, not for other people’s products. We promote things up.

Dan: There are a lot of solutions that have similar things built into them.

You mentioned that you’ve done studies about the placement of search. Any conclusions?

Dan: The contrast is very important. People generally go towards the most intense call to action on the page. What we did was run a lot of multivariate tests testing the intensity of the colors leading to the call to action itself. They started with a pastel blue and went to a neon, glowing off the page blue. They found that it has to jive with the theme of your site, but contrast is very important.

How do tell a company that the call-to-action is more important then their logo?

Dan: Data. Analytics transcends the Internet. You’re looking at what somebody wants and what realm of the world they want it in.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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3 Replies to “On-site Search As A Crystal Ball”

Very nice commentary! I believe that site search can provide some great insights – its all too often overlooked. I actually did a recent post all about the secrets of site search. Tells you why you need one, who to choose, and what to look for. Would love to know what you all think…

Keep up the great work Lisa/Bruce!

Rich Page

A general comment: THANK YOU for these terrific updates from eMetrics. They are helping me decide whether to attend in the future, plus are giving me food for thought NOW.

Wow. This is live blogging. Lisa, I’m blown away to see this in action, and think your effort is outstanding; I honestly don’t think I could do it.

I’ve enjoyed your commentary so far, and look forward to hearing all about tomorrow’s sessions.


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