Articles in The 'search-engine-traffic' Tag


April 1 2008

Site-Search Usability: General Thoughts

by Jordan Sandford

Have you ever considered optimizing the usability of your site-search? If so, first consider why visitors would use the search box on your site. I can see two general reasons why they would use it:

  1. Right when the visitor gets the urge to find some content, they have already decided that using a site-search, opposed to clicking and reading around, will find that content faster.
  2. The user tried reading around and clicking to find that content, but gave up because they couldn’t find that content (fast enough) so they started using the site’s search feature.

There are three types of visitors when it comes to site search: search-dominant, browse-dominate and a blend of the two. Search-dominant users think they can get better results faster from searching the site. The fact that visitors have less time to look through all the potential websites to which Google points them and the ever-increasing amount of content in them supports why this type of visitor is becoming more prevalent all the time. The second visitor type is probably motivated to click and read though a site more than searching because they know where to find the content and think they can do so fast enough for their needs. Maybe they value the experience of exploring or perhaps they’re just ‘Feeling Lucky.’ The third type probably thinks they can find some content faster using a site-search and other content faster by browsing.

Sometimes, when new users come to your site, they’ll use the search feature, and in becoming familiar with the navigation on the pages to which your site-search directs them, they will become better at knowing where to find content on your site in the future. Therefore, returning users may use the site’s search feature less than new users. This probably means that your site’s overall usability and information architecture is effective.

My colleague, Joe, blogged about an increasing phenomenon in which users who have arrived on your site from search engines will then use your site’s search box, but will often search for terms so broad, it defies your understanding. He said that users may be using more precise (‘long-tail’) searches on Google to find your site and using broad search terms once on your site because they expect that it’s Google that needs the more precise search term. This makes sense because Google has billions of pages in its index and your site may only have 50 total pages.

In order to optimize the usability of your site-search, you have to get in the visitors’ heads. Sometime this is extremely difficult. This difficulty can be overcome, however, by reading usability reports and any psychological reports remotely related to this subject.

So, when you consider site-search optimization, realize that search engine traffic to your site (SEO), your own site-search and your site’s navigation are all inter-related. When you adjust one of these items, another one may be have to be adjusted in order to give your site the best usability possible.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Assume the user may want to use site-search on your site, especially if it’s any larger than a typical ‘brochure site.’ Therefore, be conscious of this and provide this feature.
  • Always seek to create a better site-search experience for your users by comparing the terms searched for against the results your website returns. Secondly, since you know the content of your website well, analysis of site-search usability will probably be much more reliable if you use small-group testing methods composed of those not familiar with your site.
  • Learn and use your analytics services.
  • Don’t assume that all visitors arrive on your site from the home page. Also, don’t assume that your home page receives the most traffic (you can validate this for your site using analytics services). Place your search box on every page, in a standard location (usually top right or top center) and make the search box stand out some way.
  • Always analyze your site-search analytics (and adjust your site as necessary): compare percentages of visitors that use site-search with those who do not; see if visitors are leaving your site right after they see the search results, or if they stay, how long they stay; compare the amount of pages site-search users view (known as depth) with that of the site’s visitors’ average depth to see if your entire site needs work or the just site-search’s relevancy of results needs your attention. Feel free to come up with additional areas of site-search usability analysis.
March 27 2008

Where are all these people coming from?

by MoreVisibility

So you’re getting a lot of traffic to your website. That’s great! A good amount of your website’s traffic is converting. Awesome! You’re even getting some returning visitors to your site, and they are buying things, too! What could be better than this? (Of course, you could say “Winning the Lottery!”, but that’s not realistic).

The first question that comes to mind about your website’s traffic is usually “Where is the traffic coming from?”, or some variation of that. This is something that we all want to know, whether to satisfy our own curiosity or to properly optimize your cost-per-click campaigns. Using Google Analytics, let me show you a few different places where you can go to find out the origins of your traffic.

1. The “All Traffic Sources” Report
This is normally where most everyone goes to know where people are coming from. It’s found underneath the “Traffic Sources” section (obviously). Now, you need to understand that, by default, Google Analytics groups all traffic in four separate categories, or, “mediums””:

Direct – Usually represented by (direct)(none), this is all of the traffic that either types in the URL of your website by hand, or accesses your website via a bookmark. Copying / Pasting your website’s URL and clicking on “Go” or hitting the Enter key also counts as direct traffic.
Referral – A referral is any visit from any website that links to yours. Usually appears with the name of the website or IP address (Example: myspace.com / referral)
Organic – Any traffic originating from an organic search engine listing. As of this post, Google Analytics automatically recognizes 39 different websites as search engines, but this number is always changing. (Example: google / organic)
CPC – Traffic that originates from a pay-per-click marketing program, such as Google AdWords. You’ll see it listed as “google / cpc”. Note: you will need to have your URLs coded with Google Analytics URL Tracking on all of your non-Google AdWords Paid Search campaigns in order to see them listed as “cpc”. Otherwise, they will be lumped in with the “organic” listings. Visit the Google Analytics URL Tool Builder Page to learn how it’s done.

2. The “Referring Sites” Report
This report is one of my personal favorites. I really like to look at this report, so I can see who is either linking to me or referencing me in a blog or message board. This report is also found in the “Traffic Sources” section, and it will list any website which you have received at least one visit from. The best part about this is that if you click on any website listing, you can see the exact page where your link is found, and you can also click on the small “double-window” icon next to the full page path to go to that page, to see your link on their site.

3. The “Search Engines” Report
Finally, you can use the Search Engines report to view your total amount of search engine traffic. You can also click on the “paid” link next to the segmenting tool to view all paid Search Engine traffic, or you can click on the “non-paid” link to view all organic / non-paid Search Engine traffic. Clicking on the name of the search engine that’s listed there will allow you to segment that search engine by keyword, so that you can see which search terms are responsible for bringing you traffic.

These three reports are a great start for you to start to see where all of your traffic is originating from.

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