In order to understand search engine efficiency on a site, the following metrics are taken into consideration:
- Proportion of website users using search: Do your average users systematically beging their visits by using search, or do they start navigating your site and use search functionality only in case they cannot find what they're looking for?
- Search queries per visit: That measures the total amount of search queries a user makes. Ideally this should be no more than one visit, which would mean users search once and locate what they wanted. Too often, website records much more than one search query per search visit.
- Search results page abandonment rate: A user that leaves your website right after getting to the search results page without clicking on any result is a symptom that he/she has obtained an irrelevant or poor search engine result.
- Click-through rate: Total number of clicks on the search results page, divided by the total number of search queries. Actually this measurement can also be computed as (1 - abandonment). A click-through rate below 50% (often found on old-fashioned, keyword-based search engines) is an indicator that search engine should be revamped.
- Conversion Search to Sales: How many of the users that search on your website end up buying your product or service? how many of them become a valid lead? Measuring this information is a key element to understand the value of search, and carefully measuring how much investment should be put on improving the search experience.
- Percentage of search with no result: We have measured many customers having 60% of their search queries not being answered at all. This is catastrophic when it comes to conversion and click-through ratios: how can I possibly buy your product if you apparently don’t have it or it's difficult to find?
- Top 100 search topics: Just taking a look to your top 10 literal keyword search queries is not enough. The effect of long-tail exists in every search engine, including your website search. Often 80% of search queries have been searched only once, or just a few times. You must me prepared for a huge variety of words and expressions found in all human languages to express a few concepts. A keyword-based approach to search is no longer valid to obtain the maximum return from your website search box.
Total number of search queries or online user questions. This will give us an accurate information on how successful our website is. Often small changes in size and position of the search box will have great impact on the total number of search queries and the proportion of users performing a search.
Clickthrough rate gives a crystal clear view on the efficiency on search. Natural Language or Semantic Search engines will have much greater Clickthrough rates than old-generation keyword based search engines. Also, creating contents based on demand as a part of the process of updating the website will lead to a continuous improvement of the clickthrough, as this image shows.
Some keyword based search engines register answer levels below to 40%. This has a terrible impact on click-through, and therefore on conversion rate, as clickthrough will be necessarily lower than answer level, and conversion rate a lower value than clickthrough.
You must measure and understand these behaviors if you want to improve your website and search experience based on what people search. Demand-based, and search-effective websites will be, in the long term, the only ones that will lead to great user experience and profitable online businesses.
Author: Jordi Torras // CEO inbenta