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5 Ways Internal Search Data Can Improve Your Ecommerce Business

Every day on just about every ecommerce website, shoppers are using on-site search. These customers dutifully type in detailed search queries using the very keywords that describe their shopping intent. Smart businesses will listen and use internal search data to boost conversion rates and profit. 

Internal site search data—that your company probably already has—is pure, first-person customer gold. It can help you develop better landing pages for promotional campaigns, show you new product lines to carry, or even streamline your site. In fact, there are at least five ways internal search data can help you build a better business.

No. 1: Improve Landing Page Conversion Rates 

Campaign landing pages are meant to be the solution to a problem. They are the destination at the end of a customer's journey. They are the place where conversion happens.

If you're running pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns, as an example, an optimized and successful, ad-specific landing page could boost conversions more than 115 percent, according to Quick Sprout.

Optimized and ad-specific campaign landing pages begin with an understanding of who your target customer is and what that customer wants. To answer these questions, many marketers will develop customer personas, digital profiles, of their best customers and site search data can help.

When you monitor the search path your customers take on your own website, you learn the specific keywords high-converting shoppers use to find your products and which specific products or information best satisfies their queries. This information can help guide the keywords you choose for your PPC ads and the associated landing pages.

No. 2: Identify Product Opportunities 

Not every site search returns a result. Sometimes shoppers visiting your site will look for products they think you should have, but which you don't actually stock.

These—call them failed or null—site searches can be a strong indication of customer demand and an opportunity to try new product lines. How would your business have responded a few months ago if you suddenly started to get dozens of site searches for "fidget spinners?"

Each month or each quarter, look for the single most popular search term that returns a null or zero result and try to find a new product that would satisfy it.

No. 3: Generate Content Marketing Ideas

Content marketing seeks to create, publish, and distribute useful content with the aim of attracting customers. It is, perhaps, at its best when it helps a customer solve a problem or improve some situation.

In the book, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype, Jay Baer tells the story of a presentation Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens gave in 2009.

Stephens had just shown the audience Geek Squad's YouTube channel, featuring fix-it-yourself video tutorials meant to help people solve common computer problems. 

"Let me get this straight," an audience member asked. "You're in the business of fixing stuff for money, but you have dozens of videos that show people how to fix things themselves? How does that make business sense?"

Stephens' answer essentially described why content marketing works.

"Well, the reality is that our best customers are the people that think they can do it themselves...you have to realize...that eventually everybody is going to be out of their depth. They won't be able to do it themselves, and at that point whom are they going to call? Somebody randomly out of a phone book, or are they going to call Geek Squad, whose videos they've been watching over and over for six, eight, ten, twelve minutes with our logo in the corner?"

Geek Squad found initial success answering common computer questions. In a similar way, the search queries your customers use on your site and on your blog will help you identify specific problems or challenges they're facing. Those problems and challenges can inspire your content marketing, giving you an nearly endless supply of ideas.

As a specific example, imagine an online appliance store that frequently has site searches for a dryer heating elements or dryer thermostats. Obviously, these customers plan to fix their dryers themselves. But how did they know they needed a heating element or thermostat? And how did they learn to replace it?

Odds are good, they started with Google searches for "dryer not working" or "clothes not getting dry" and found articles or videos that led them to believe they needed a replacement part.

The online appliance store is benefiting from content via Google but might be able to get even more traffic and sales if it developed its own, helpful content.

No. 4: Refine SEO & SEM

Keyword research is a vital part of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). Digital marketers frequently use third-party keyword research tools to discover the terms shoppers choose when they search for a particular product.

These tools look at searches generally, using data from search engines. This is good, but you can do better. Site search data can tell you the terms your most profitable, highest-value shoppers use when they search.

These keywords are the most relevant and specific terms you can use for on-page SEO or your SEM campaigns.

No. 5: Remove Navigation Obstacles or Problems

Site search is very good for business. Published reports suggest that shoppers who use your website's search are far more likely to make a purchase than are shoppers who used only site navigation to discover a product. Our own Workarea platform data shows that users of site search convert on average 216% more than other visitors.

This is, perhaps, true because shoppers who search may have a better idea of what they want and, therefore, relatively stronger buying intent.

Sometimes, however, shoppers use site search because they feel unsure or confused, and it may be your site's fault.

Examine the pages on your website which generate the most initial site searches. On these pages, are their opportunities for you to remove obstacles, solve navigation problems, or otherwise help your customers convert more quickly. If so, each barrier you remove could result in additional sales and profit.

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Internal Search Insights for Your Ecommerce Business 

There is a significant difference between a metric, like how many times shoppers used a particular keyword in site search, and drawing an insight from a metric. To do the latter, you will need a process.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Irfan Kamal suggested these four steps for data-centered marketing.

Collect – none of the opportunity to improve your ecommerce business exists unless your internal site search properly captures user search behavior. You have to collect site search data before you can use it.

Connect – some site search data will be helpful in aggregate and some will be specific and actionable. You'll need human intelligence to connect data to your campaigns and site improvements. 

Manage – we call it big data for a reason. Don't let site search information overwhelm you. Use systems, key performance indicators, or even algorithms to manage your site search data.

Analyze and Discover – work collaboratively with the marketers and merchandisers on your team to review site search data. Collectively, you want to find the keywords and key insights that will improve your business.

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