Discover EXACTLY What Your Audience Wants With This Clever Google Analytics Hack

By Leslie Samuel
87 Comments

Are you a married man? I am! Happily married now for five years, one month, and seven days at the time that I’m sitting down to write this. In the five years of my very happy marriage, and my dating years that came before, it has become quite obvious to me that, in many situations, guys can’t read girls’ minds. I know, it sounds strange, but follow me on this one.

Have you ever been in a situation where your significant other expects you to know what they are thinking, and you have absolutely NO IDEA that they are even thinking about something? If you are a guy, you’ve probably encountered this at least once in your life ;)

In my Many years of marriage (ok, I know. I’m still a newbie), my wife and I have come to realize that if we want to know what each other are thinking, asking can be a very valuable skill that is often overlooked.

So what in the world does this have to do with Internet Marketing, Online business, blogging, etc? Well, in a past article, I showed how my 5 Question Survey saved me time and resources in product development. It’s a very clear example of how asking your audience the right questions can help you accomplish your goals for your online business.

But what if you could read the mind of your significant other? What if you knew exactly what he/she was thinking without even having to ask? How awesome would it be if you could wake up in the morning, sit at your laptop and get a detailed report of everything your wife thought the day before, and throughout your entire relationship? How AWESOME would that be?

(On a side note: Have you seen the Movie “What Women Want” with Mel Gibson? That’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about.)

Well, unfortunately for you and I, that won’t happen. My wife and I will just have to go through the long, and sometimes painful, process of getting to know each other. Fortunately, for my online business, this is something that’s very easily accomplished – Thanks to Google Analytics‘ Site search Feature.

What Is Site Search And How To Benefit From It?

If you’re a blogger, you probably have a search function on your site. If not, you should definitely add it. It’s an easy way for your website visitors to search the contents of your site. It basically functions as an internal Search Engine. Most WordPress themes have a search function built in, and if yours doesn’t, WordPress has a widget that you can add to your sidebar.

Here’s the thing – most bloggers have site search on their website, but don’t use it to their advantage. Whenever someone does a search on your site, they are telling you exactly what they are looking for, without even intending to do so. However, you will never know what they are looking for if you don’t have a system to report what their searches are. It’s like having the ability to read the mind of your significant other, but not taking advantage of it.

Fortunately for you and I, Google analytics gives you the option to Track Site Search.

How To Set Up Site Search

Before you can track site search on your site, you need to set it up in Google analytics. It’s quite a simple process. Here it goes:

  1. Go to your site and do a search for anything using your site search function.
  2. When you reach the results page, take a look at the URL in the address bar. For example, when I go to my Interactive Biology Website and do a search for the term “Kidney”, the url in the address bar is http://www.interactive-biology.com/?s=kidney
  3. Take note of the Query Parameter. In my case, my query parameter is the letter “s” (?s=kidney).
  4. In your Google Analytics Profile Settings, you will see a Site Search section that gives you the option to Track Site Search. Select “Do Track Site Search” and enter the query Parameter as shown below.
  5. Select the option that says “Yes, strip query parameters out of URL“. This will clean up your reports and make it easier to analyze.
  6. Click on “Save Changes“.

That’s pretty much it. Now you are ready to use your mind-reading powers. However, make sure you use your powers for good and not for evil ;)

How To Analyze Your Site Search Report

Now that you have your superpowers, it’s time to start making the magic happen. Of course, it will take some time for data to start accumulating. Hopefully, you have enough visitors by now and they are actively doing searches on your site. If so, the rest is super easy. Allow me to illustrate by giving an example. Let’s take a look at my Site Search Report.

When I look at the report above, it gives me some very useful details. Not only that, but it shows me that a number of the things people are searching for are very closely related to the content I have on my site. This makes me happy, and gives me actionable data.

The term that is searched most often on my site is “kidney“. Obviously, some of the people that are using my site are looking for information on the kidney. And when they do that search, they don’t find any results. Approximately 67% of people leave after not finding what they are looking for. The average user that searches for “kidney” on my site only spends 1 minute and 25 seconds on the site.

If I were to make a few videos on the kidney, that should increase the amount of time they spend on my site, and that would increase the likelihood of them coming back for more.

The next most frequently searched term on my site is “Action Potential“. Fortunately, I have a bunch of videos on my site that deals with the concept of the Action potential. As a result of that, only 11% of people who do that search leave the site, and the average person who searches for that spends 6 minutes and 39 seconds on the site. Do you notice a difference? I sure do.

So the take home message here is simple: If people are searching for something that is very relevant, but you don’t have it – start making some of that content and increase the amount of time they spend on your site, and the likelihood that they will return (and even share your site).

My Next Steps

Seeing that this gives such valuable info, there are two things that I plan on doing. The first should be extremely obvious. I plan on making more of the content that people are searching for. It’s easy to do, and is very relevant. In other words, it’s a win-win situation.

Secondly, I plan on making a search box that’s more prominent on my website, to highlight the fact that you can actually search for what you are looking for. That will accomplish two things:

Are YOU Reading Your Audience’s Minds?

If not, then you should start. Set up the Site Search reporting capabilities in Google Analytics. Have you done this already? If so, how are you using this information? Let me know what you think below.

Until Next Time!

Leslie Samuel

About Leslie Samuel

Leslie Samuel is a blogger who believes that the internet can change the world. He runs an Interactive Biology website that Makes Biology Fun and teaches people how to grow their online business in his Learning With Leslie podcast. He also runs a Become A Blogger - A blog dedicated to helping people Change The World with their blogs. Follow Leslie Samuel on Twitter.

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87 Comments

  • I was just looking at the site search option the other day, but had no idea what it really was. I have just implemented it on my blog, so I’ll have to see what the search results are.

    I’m hoping that it will help me come up with future blog posts.

    Thanks for the information.

    • Glad to see that you implemented it. Make sure to come back and let me know if you got any cool ideas for blog posts ;)

  • This is a detailed post Lesle. Google analytics is very vital and can reveal some hidden details about search terms. I also make use of Alexa search to determine the exact phrases that are sending me much organic traffic. Tracking is very important to marketing on line and without it, it’s like building a house without a foundation.

    If you ask me, your guest article is superb and I encourage you to keep delivering such articles. God bless you.

    • Thanks Michael. Glad you enjoyed. You are very right about tracking. Without tracking, it’s hard to know how your site is REALLY doing. One thing though – in the past, I’ve bogged myself down with trying to track a ton of details about my site. I spent too much time in Google Analytics, lol. It’s good to track, but don’t do it too often like I used to do ;)

    • Hi Leslie,

      Great post, always finding ways to control a site, this refresher on a topic makes one go back and take a second look to check they are on the right path. Good insight and ideas – totally agree with Michael.

      Keep up the great articles.

  • Very nice post Leslie – i followed your instructions and have started tracking the search now. From where would the report be available on analytics?

    Thanks for sharing

    regards

    Malik Mirza
    http://wisdomfrmobooks.com

    • Yes, it would be available on analytics. You have to go to “Content” and then “Site Search”. Then you’ll see all of the details.

      All the best!

  • Now they do have a couple of plugins that do bout the same thing but I will say use Google Analytics for the long run.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • I agree with you there. Google Analytics is becoming the standard. And it’s Free – so why not use it? :)

  • Yes i use this way you told but i lack in checking stats of my site because i kept checking the latest trends and searches accross the internet by using keyword tools.
    However a good tip thanks:)

    • It’s good to have a balance of checking what’s out there and checking what’s going on at YOUR site. I don’t check my site search VERY often, but every once in a while, I get in there and get an idea of where to go next.

  • Now it is posts like this that make me love reading other peoples blogs. Original and helpful as well. Great stuff, thank you

    • You’re very much welcome. Glad to know you found it helpful. Stay tuned for more helpful content :)

  • Thank you, Leslie, a lot of things one might be looking face to face but you really do not know its functions as it enhance your blog growth. You guys in Entrepreneurs Journey are doing great for identifying these great tools. The other day I read Ama write up and it was indeed awesome tips. This site is a real resource for any one that want to grow his/her online business.
    Well-done!
    Alphonsus

    • Thanks Alphonsus,

      Glad to know that you are finding so much value in the content here. The writers are really trying to provide value to the community, so it’s good to know when things are working.

      All the best with your online business.

  • I’ve been doing something on a simpler scale from what you have pointed out here Leslie. I already take advantage of the search data thats coming from the search engines themselves but not from my own site once they land on the site. I can totally see though how that would be even more beneficial than just the keywords coming from the search engines. It would be even more powerful if you could connect the dots in Google Analytics between how they got there, and their movements on the site, etc but unfortunately we are limited and only on occasion am I able to see that if its a 1 keyword search deal.

    -Jean

    • Actually, that can be accomplished using Google Analytics Funnels. I’m absolutely amazed by all that they offer for free. I’ve set up funnels to analyze how people get to my site and what percentage of people go from page 1 to 3, or 2, etc. It’s pretty awesome.

      • Humm Analytics Funnels you say? I had never heard of that one actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if others had not either. I am thinking that might make a great post for you in the future, or anyone else that has experience with it for that matter.

        -Jean

        • Will definitely put that on the to do list. It’s quite amazing what they do.

  • this is a great post leslie. I was unaware of the power of google analytics. I will definitely follow your advice and implement this for my website.

    • If you do implement it, come back and share what you’ve learnt from doing it. I think it would be cool to hear from more people, especially if it gives you actionable data.

  • Thanks Leslie,

    That definitely looks like an interesting way to do it, currently I mainly look at the stats on my Blog(s), and in the visitcounter where they come from, to get an idea about what my audience wants, also the ‘Most Popular’-widget on my blog is a good indication showing me some of the most popular posts on my blog.

    Only on some of my blogs I also have a Search (within my blog) Box, and once in a while actually get a report about it via email. I usully hardly ever look at and only file it. Only since most of the searches that where in those reports usually where from myself, I made it a habit to not analyse them anymore.

    So I haven’t looked at those reports in a long while. I did however alway’s keep filing them, and since I now also seem to be getting a little more traffic lately and also actually get readers that write their Comments, I wonder if they might possibly also already have used the search this blog box. So I might already have a ‘Goldmine of info about my Audiance’ without even knowing:)

    ‘Thanks for reminding me to look at what
    my audiance wants, Searches can give a great insight!’

    All the Best,
    To your Happy - Home Business – Inspiration,
    HP

    • To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time looking through the search analytics. I just have it set up and once in a while, I check it for ideas. It’s good to have access to it, so good to set it up.

  • It is really amazing how much ideas one can get from analytics. I have found several phrases which were good enough for an article title, all I had to do is writing up the post. It is certain that my site visitors have been a great help creating the content.

    • That’s awesome. Glad it’s working for you. Now just to take action :)

  • Thanks Leslie! I had no idea the purpose for the search button. I just added it to my site and updated my GA account thanks to your article. My clients ask for it all the time on their websites, however it didn’t make sense for mine. So glad I took the time to read your article.

    • Glad you took time to read it too Tiffany :)

      Yeah, I usually have the search feature enabled on every website by default, but never realized how powerful it can be until recently. It’s good stuff!

  • Thanks for this. Very clever stuff! I just updated my account and site thanks to your article. Appreciate it!

    • Awesome Jamie. Let me know if you get any good data from it.

  • Excellent tip Leslie. For my niche websites, I also use the search query feature in Analytics that show the top terms/phrases for which your website was found. Thanks for this.

    • Yep, that’s also a good tool to use. You can see what people search for to get to your site. Then you can see how long they stay there based on what they searched for and taylor some of your content to that.

  • good stuff leslie, i use google analytics myself because its really accurate.

    • I agree. After looking at all the other stat tracking services out there, G.A. seems to be the most accurate.

  • I love google analytics, really enjoy seeing what kind of stuff people type in

    • Yep, it’s like unleashing your mind-reading powers ;)

  • I was hating Google Analytics due to the 24hour delay, but this hack rocks! I’m back to using it now. Thanks!

    • Actually, it’s not really a 24 hour delay. You can actually change the date to include today’s date and see what has happened so far today. Not sure how close it is to instant, but it does appear to be relatively accurate even for the current day.

  • Great Stuff!

  • Hi Leslie,
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful usage of google analytics. It would be really important from a webmasters point of view to know which words and phrases are resulting in queries. Google analytics has surely made things easier.

    • It sure has. And to think that it does so much for free. That’s one of the reasons why I love Google :D

  • Leslie
    I got to this post a little late as I was going through my reader just now. Cool post. I’ve been thinking of dumping my search bar to create space for more “profitable” content up top, but this is a great way to use it…WHO KNEW?
    Thanks
    Mark

    • Yeah Mark, I wouldn’t dump it. It is actually something that’s valuable to your readers, and as you can see from this post, it’s also valuable to you, if you actually use it.

      All the best!

  • That is really interesting, I will have to set that up. That is really valuable information and you would be stupid not to want to know what people are searching for on your site.

  • Great post Leslie… I’m really not into using Analytics… but now, I will surely pay attention to it… I will definitely be taking your advice… Thanks for sharing…

    • Oh Treb, Analytics is VERY useful in more ways than what I mentioned in this article. It can get time consuming if you focus on it TOO much. But it’s always a good thing to use to help you see where your online business is at. I’ll be working on a few more Google Analytics tutorials, because they really come in handy.

  • I didn’t know that you can do this thru google analytics, I will certainly try to use this tip and learn what my visitors are searching in my site

  • This is pretty cool Leslie. It’s like doing a mind reading trick. Really very cool. This would be really helpful for my business blog by giving me an idea of how useful my site is for my customers and to other potential customers. Thanks for sharing.

    • Not a problem. Glad you found value in it. It’s definitely good to know what your customers are thinking, and this is a very easy way of finding that out.

      All the best!

  • Haven’t really used analytics as i’ve been focusing on webmaster tools. Will try it out now though as it seems i’ve been missing out! Thanks

    • Webmaster tools definitely has it’s benefits – like for split testing and all that. But Google analytics gives so much more info in my opinion. It’s the best tool I’ve found (free or paid) for getting data about how people are interacting with your site.

  • Leslie, thanks for the quick tip…already changed it in less than a minute….now I just have to wait and see what comes back….

    • Yep, it’s a very easy hack and gives good info. Let me know if you get good data from it :)

  • I had no idea I could do that in my GA, Leslie – now set up and running… Thanks for the tip!

    • Not a prob Ana. With your traffic level you should be getting good info pretty soon. Let me know how it goes.

  • Nice post Leslie.I use google analytics and It’s an amazing tool.

    • It is amazing indeed. I just love how much Google gives for free. Good stuff. More bloggers should follow their model :)

  • I often look at the search strings for my blog and think… “I really should find some content to address these search queries”… but never really do anything about it. I really should write of find some content … otherwise it kind defeats the purpose of writing a meaningful blog. Otherwise you end up writing about stuff that you “think” others want… Nice article.

    • You don’t HAVE TO write based on the searches, but it definitely does give you a good idea of what kinds of things your audience wants you to write about. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it defeats the purpose of writing a meaningful blog, because most meaningful blogs probably don’t use this strategy. But it does give useful data.

  • Hi Leslie,

    How do you set up the Google custom search engine side of things? What you explained was how to activate a site in analytics. Any help?

    Thanks!

    • I’m not 100% sure what you are asking Toki. I didn’t explain how to activate a site in analytics in this post. I explained how to get search data from a site that you already have analytics on (or that you can put analytics on). Setting up Google Custom search engine is a totally different topic.

  • Thanks Leslie, that information is gold… I have set it up and can’t wait to get the data in the next few days.

    Cheers
    Ian McConnell

    • Make sure to come back and let me know what you found Ian. That would be awesome.

  • That is such a cool application of GA – thinks. (Curious about how s=kidney, though!)

    • Not sure what you are curious about. Can you elaborate?

      • Aha – went back and re-read your post. Now I get it!

        • Cool. Glad you were able to figure it out. All the best!

  • Very useful indeed, nice way to give our readers what they looking for.

    Can be used to “spy” on the competition too and find what their readers are looking for in the most successful blogs on your niche and add that to your “things to write about” list.

    • You’d have to use something else to do that. Google analytics only gives you access to sites you have control of. Do you know of another way of doing this to see what your competitors’ subscribers are looking for? That would definitely be interesting.

  • Excellent tip, I still miss Yaro a little bit, but you guys are doing a great job here. Keep up the good work!

    • Well glad to know you are enjoying what we’re doing Eddie. And don’t worry, Yaro’s still around ;)

  • Great stuff Leslie. It’s strange how things come back. I remember (and I think I wrote about this somewhere very deep in the archives of this blog) about using the site search as a research tool to figure out what topics your visitors want.

    Back then it was before Google bought Analytics, so I was using a third party search engine tool that you could put on your website. You could then look at the keyword results and see what people were looking for. Analytics provides even more data with things like bounce rate and time spent on site, which you highlight very well in the article.

    Great tip!

    • Thanks bro,

      It IS funny how things come back. It’s good to know that the principles continue to be applicable after so much time.

      It’s funny, I didn’t know Google bought Analytics. I thought they created it. Learn something new everyday!

  • Great tip…just update my blog analytics…

    Cheers,
    Jorge

    • Awesome. Let me know if you get cool actionable data Jorge :)

  • I have a site search installed on my blog but I have never thought that this could be used as a advantage thanks for this article….

    • I’m amazed at the amount of “hidden features” there are in Google Analytics that I never knew about. It’s pretty awesome. And FREE! Can’t complain about that one.

  • Hi Leslie,

    Thanks a lot for this post, I am now on the loop concerning Google Analytics Hack.

    Thanks for putting this together mate,

  • Leslie,

    Great post! Setting up the function as you described is an effective way to be responsive to the needs of people visiting our websites. I was not aware of this functionality so I appreciate your detailed explanation.

    Regards,

    Robert

  • AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!! I have always removed the search bar… but now – it will be going straight back to the top of the sidebar! x

  • I learn something new every day.

    In the old days of my website endeavors I utilized some of the free third party search functions available. The main problem I found was the limits to reporting capabilities. I then switched to Google’s Adsense (related) search function, but it really didn’t benefit me.

    I like the idea of being able to pinpoint what my visitors really want. Once I implement Site Search I imagine it will be very useful. So a big thank you to you !

  • Does this also apply to bloggers? I think there’s a fine line between bloggers and internet marketers nowadays…

    - Jack Leak

  • A very good article and a useful case study!
    I had never thought of this use, while using Google Analytics for my website, for a long time

  • For me. I don’t have a blog, but my own site. I don’t want to spoil the look of it with a google search box.

  • Thanks for the info Leslie! I have Google Search on my site but haven’t taken advantage of the intel that can be gathered from it, until now.

  • Thanks Leslie, I’ve only just come across your post but this is really useful. I’ve been wondering how to find out exactly what my visitors are looking for/expecting when they come to my site. This will help massively. I’ve been using Google analytics for ages but obviously never tapped into much of its potential. Thanks again! Cassie.

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