Understanding Site Statistics: Searches


Published on March 13, 2006 at 6:46 PM EST
In the Discussions category.

Some people want a steak, some chicken, and others want a tofu burger. Learn to give the people what they want!

For most of us, logging in to view our web site’s latest statistics is nothing more than a way to stroke our ego: “Numbers are going up!” If you dig a little and think about what you’re seeing, though, you’ll find that you’ve got some valuable data, telling you exactly what you need to know to make a super-site!

Understanding Site Statistics is a short series to help you learn how to pick out some great details about your visitors and your web site’s health. Try answering some of the following questions about your web site.

Any statistics tool should be able to give you good data, but I’m mostly using SlimStat and Mint, as I wrote in Monitoring Site Statistics.

In this series:

Searches

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A lot of your site’s visitors probably come from search engines, like Google. Monitoring what they are searching for—and finding—can offer some good insight.

First, the most obvious question: are they finding what they’re looking for? If the answer is yes, that’s fantastic.

The more interesting answer is “no.” Why didn’t they find what they were looking for?

  • Was their search too broad? You probably can’t do much about this.
  • Is it a mystery? I’m not kidding, a few weeks back somebody got to this site by searching for “buffalo juice.” They landed on the Alternate Template Collection. These results make me laugh, but certainly aren’t helpful.
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    More likely than not, however, their search has something to do with the page they landed on, but it just wasn’t quite what they needed. Keep track of these—are there repeat searches for this same topic? (Both Mint and Slimstat offer the ability to see recent and repeat searches.) This is an opportunity: writing about these topic will likely increase your readership. People are already landing on your site because they think you’ve got valuable information.
  • Does your site have the information the searcher is looking for, and they just landed on the wrong page? If this happens enough, consider adding a link (or a more prominent link) to the correct page.

Something I like to do is to try searching for that term myself. In the Google Toolbar I enter the same term that brought them to my site. This lets me have a look at the “competition,” see where I rank in the results, and perhaps more clearly understand what the visitor was looking for.

Local Searches

Movable Type has a search capability. Are your visitors using it? If not, consider its placement and prominence. If they are using it, evaluate it in the same way: are they finding the result they want? If not, why not? Is this an opportunity to write an entry on that specific topic?

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You can view local searches by checking the Activity Log in Movable Type. Mint offers the Local Searches Pepper which will show you recent searches as well as most common—very useful for seeing what is being searched for most!

Summary

Most sites get a lot of traffic from search engines, so working to better meet that traffic’s needs is worthwhile. By simply monitoring what is bringing visitors to your site, you can build more content to attract that audience.