GA On Site Search Pt. 2: Reporting & Usage

Onsite Search Reports MenuThis is part two in a two part series about the new GA on site search reports. In part one I discussed the setup.

There is a tremendous amount of information in the new Site Serch reports about ow your visitors interact with your search engine. But it goes way beyond measuring how many searches occurred for a keyword. The new reports actually tie outcomes to searches providing insight into what product sand content your site visitors are looking for. But enough babble, on to the screen shots.

What Reports are Available

First and foremost there is the Usage report. This reports helps you understand if visitors are using site search. If you’re trying to push site search as a navigational tool for your visitors, and only 2% of site traffic is using site search, then your navigation may not be working. You may want to change the visibility of the search box.

Google Analytics On Site Search Usage Report

The Usage report is pretty good, but everyone wants to know what people are searching for. The Search Terms report contains all of the search terms that visitors entered into your on site search. One thing you should know is that GA is reporting UNIQUE searches. This means that duplicate searches, made in the same visit, are excluded. So it is not a count of how many times a term was search for, but rather how many VISITS contained a search for a specific term.

Google Analytics Search Terms Report

Take a look at the narrative at the top of the report. It contains a number of new metrics to evaluate on site search. Total Unique Searches indicates what search terms people are entering. % Search Exits indicates what percentage of visitors are leaving immediately from the search results page. This could indicate that visitors are unhappy with the search results. Time after Search and Search Depth indicate the engagement of the visitor after using search.

Google Analytics does not normalize the search terms. This means that misspellings and similar searches are not grouped together. So the search terms ‘red sox’, ‘red socks’ and ‘Red Sox’ would appear as individual line items. You’ll need to review your data and manually normailze it using filters.

Another really cool report is the Site Search Start page. This report shows where your site searches originated. It identifies the page that the visitor was on when the seach occured. This can help identify issues with navigation or the data architecture.

GA Search Start Pages

Now we know where people started their searches, but what about where they end up? The Search Destination Report shows which pages people navigate to directly from the search results page.

GA Site Search result pages

What’s really cool is if we click on a destination page that is listed in the above report we can see all the search terms that drove people to the page. Here’s what happens if I click on one of the results in the previous report:

GA search reports page terms
There are other reports that do a good job of illustrating how visitors use site search. If you select a search term in any reports you can do a really deep analysis using the analyze drop down. One option is the Search Navigation report. This report shows where someone started their search and where they went after the search.

GA Search Nav report

What about peple who search multiple times? Another analysis option is to use the Search refinement report. This report shows how people refine their search terms during their visit. So, in the image below, visitors began by searching for dog. Then they refined their search using one of the terms in the report.

GA Search refinement Report

Ok, one more thing about the Search Reports. Notice that the standard Goal Conversion and Ecommerce tabs exist on most reports. These tabs provide information about which searches lead to conversions and, if you’re an e-commerce site, the revenue that each generated. Pretty darn cool is you ask me.

GA Search Reports Conversion

What’s Missing

The one report that is missing from Google Analytics is the ‘0 Result’ searches. It’s really important to know what on site searches are producing 0 results. This is an indicator of missing site content. You can artificially create this data by creating an event or a pageview (I suggest event) in Google Analytics. I’ll write more about how to do this in another post. But be aware that the new reports to not contain this data.

In Summary

There is a ton that you can do with the new on site search reports. Not only can you analyze what people are looking for and optimize your content, but you can also identify how visitors integrate search into their visit.

Have fun with these reports!

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    1. says

      Thank you so much for your post. This will be a great edition to the e-book that bought from you. I really appreciate the time that you put into experimenting with all these new GA features. Without your insight and guidance, it would probably take me days to figure out how to use all these features. Please continue writing! I am a fan for you are my GA Guru!

    2. says

      Hi Nhu-Chi,

      Wow, thank you so much! I’m really happy that I’ve been able to help out so much. Knowing that one person has found this information helpful is very rewarding.

      Thanks again,


    3. says

      I have been working through your posts tuning my urchin installation as I go. We use a dated version of syndicated search and I have set up the segment I am using to include site search with the parameter ‘q’, also set to exclude the gubbins – thinking of changing that though. I am not sure if the search is working properly and I see many entries in the site search terms report with “cache” at the front (cache: – what does this mean and how can I stop it ?

    4. says


      I think this probably has something to do with the Google search product you are using. My quess is that there is another use of the ‘q’ query string parameter that is capturing some value unrelated value.

      Thanks for the question,



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