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In Google Analytics Essential Training, Corey Koberg shows how to use the Google web analytics platform to generate and evaluate information about the visitors to a web site, including data on site traffic, user behavior, and marketing effectiveness. This course covers the out-of-the-box functionality, from account creation to reporting fundamentals, and explains how to glean insights from the vast array of data available.
After seeing the amount of information that can be pulled from the internal site search reports, you may assume there's a lot of work to integrate analytics within your own site. But actually configuring you internal site search couldn't be much easier. First step, you need to actually have a site search on your site. If you don't, Google will of course suggest their own, but it's not a requirement. Google Analytics site search reports work with all kinds of different site search engines from lots of different vendors, so don't think you have to have the Google one. Now with that said, if you need one, the Google one works very well and they offer a free version with ads or an ad- free one for just about 100 bucks, which is quite reasonable considering a full- blown custom search engine can run into the six figures or more per year, depending on volume and features.
So it's not a requirement, but they do offer a free and inexpensive version if you want to get up and started quickly, and it does work with Google Analytics. Okay, assuming you have one on your site, the next step is to simply go to your site and do a search. So let's do that. We're going to open our browser window here to the Google Store site, and we've got our internal search box up here. Now again, we're not talking about a google.com search. We're talking about the site search internal to your site. And what we're going to do is type in something here that's easily recognizable to you.
So in our case I'm just going to put my name in there. That's something I can look up. It shouldn't appear in the URL and it's going to jump out at me. Now what we're going to do is go up here to the URL and we're going to look through all this whole string here. And I'm trying to pick out my name there, and what I'm going to trying to do is grab the parameter right before my name that actually holds my name. So in this case q is the name of the variable the name, the name of the query string parameter that holds the variable that was searched on, the search term, which in this case was my name. What we want to do is tell Google Analytics that anytime you see this q here, the thing that's held there, the thing that's immediately after it, is the actual search term.
In this case, I would want Corey Koberg to be the thing that's recorded in my analytics, and so we need to tell analytics that's going to be held up here in this q variable. And the important thing here is it's not always going to be a q. It depends on what your search engine does. So this is why you need to go to your site and check out what your particular variable is. For example, if I went over here to CNN and I did a search here--I'm going to do the same thing, put my name in there--no results for my name, but when I look up into the URL here, I see that the word query. So in this case, it's not a q. It's the full written-out word query.
That's going to be the variable that holds our search term. If I went over here to Yahoo! and I am going to put not up here in the web search but the actual internal site search, if I put it here and we are on sports, I am big Illini fans, so I put in the word illini, and I see here that Yahoo! is going to use a p. p is going to be the variable name that we would have there. So if we're configuring the internal site search for this site, we would use p, as the variable that holds our search value. Now we've figured out what the name of that variable is. We need to go over to Analytics and tell it what that is.
Now I come here to the profile that I want to add site search to. I'm going to click on the little gear icon here. From here, I click on Profile Settings. I'm going to scroll down here to Site Search Settings, and I'd say that I do want to track site search. It's going to ask me what that query parameter is. In other words, what is that variable that holds our search value? For our case it was the q, so I just simply type in q. Now the next question here is whether or not we want to strip out query string parameters or not. What this means that it's going to look at the information it needs to pull out that query string, in other words, the search value that's there, and then it's going to strip it out of the URL for the reports, so that we don't have to see that cluttering those up.
This is mostly a matter of personal preference, whether or not you will see those search parameters in your reports or not. I'm going to go ahead and say yes, because at this point we've already grabbed the information we need to pull that into our reports, so we can just avoid some clutter there and reduce the overall number of URLs in our account. The next question is, do we use categories for site search? This is an optional one down here. I can also include a category parameter. A category parameter is going to be useful if you're the case like Barnes & Noble here, where you've actually have different categories of search. So it's not just a single box, but in this case I could actually select Music, and if were to go do a search such as this, I would see that my keyword is the actual query string parameter that holds the search term that I use.
Store though is the category parameter. In this case I did a search for vampire weekend, but I did a store category. So what I need to tell Google Analytics is that the word that comes after store, in other words what's held in the store variable, is what's going to be the category. So in that case, if I were doing it for Barnes & Noble, and I were doing that setup here in Analytics, I would say the category parameter is store, and it knows that anything comes after that denotes what the category was that was done in the search. Again, this is completely optional and many of you will not have a category, but if you do, it's easy to set that up.
Okay, we apply changes and we're done. That's it. That's all we need to set that up. If we come back here, looked in our reports, went down to Site Search, now when I go back here and actually view the results for this particular profile, I'm going to come down here to Content, to Site Search, click on Overview, and what I see is absolutely nothing. There's going to be no values here, because like almost everything in Google Analytics, it's only going to start from the time I select it moving forward. In other words, it's not going to go back in history and look at the overall different searches that took place before now; it's going to count from right now forward.
Configuring site search is a relatively easy task that opens up a world of reports, and there are some of the best insights we haven't actual customer intent. I highly recommend you take the time to do this for your profiles.
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