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What are your web site’s top 10 searches?

Like the weather, everyone complains about Web site search, but no one does anything about it. Or so it seems. Forrester Research famously titled a report on the subject “Must Search Stink?” a few years back, and I am not sure that Web site search is any more aromatic today.

Some things that can improve your Web site’s search facility are hard to do, which is why search so often does cast a foul odor. But there is one exceedingly simple thing that every Web site can do to improve their search—track their most popular searches.

Perhaps you already know that concentrating on improving your most frequently-searched keywords is the easiest way to improve your Web site’s search results, but many people don’t. Time and again, Web site owners know that their search facility is spewing poor results, but don’t know where to start. So how do you do it?

Start by figuring out what your most popular searches are. Some of you may know exactly how to do this, but many may not. Most sites do it using one of two methods:

  • Use your site’s Web metrics system. Most Web metrics packages can monitor input into applications, such as your search application, or they can analyze the URLs of your results pages—most search applications use URLs that contain the search keyword (such as this result for the keyword “websphere” for the ibm.com search facility: www.ibm.com/Search/?q=websphere&v=14&lang=en&cc=us). In the ibm.com URL, what follows the “q=” (query) parameter is the keyword entered by the searcher. Most Web metrics packages can extract that parameter from the search results page views and count how many of each occurred.
  • Instrument your search application. On the off-chance that your metrics package does not easily provide the counts that you need, you can add code to your search application to tally up each keyword, perhaps to feed into a report generation program.

Once you have the number of searches for each keyword, you can sort them so that you see which ones are the most popular. What you’ll find unfortunately, is that your top queries don’t cover a high percentage of searches. Your Top 1000 queries may account for just 10 to 20% of all search volume.

Regardless, that’s the place to start. You probably can’t start with the Top 1000, or maybe even the Top 100, but surely you can look at your Top 10. Perhaps your ten most popular queries make up just 3% or 5% of your total queries, but it is the right ones to work on first.

What do you do with those popular queries? Start simple. Manually execute each query and eyeball the results. What does the #1 result look like? Is it the page that you would direct that searcher to on your site if you were asked where to go? We’ll begin to discuss what actions to take in the next few weeks, but your place to start is with the most popular queries on your site. Find out what they are.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide.

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