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One of the best tools we have for listening to what visitors are saying is through on-site search. In simple terms, ‘on-site search’ refers to searches made through a search box on a website, allowing visitors to submit keywords or search phrases to find information without leaving your site. Think of it as ‘Google for your website’ except that it’s (usually) not powered by Google. On-site search is extremely useful and important for two reasons:

  1. It can help your site visitors quickly and easily find information on your site without them having to hunt and peck their way through your content.
  2. It can be (and should) be integrated into your Web Analytics so that you can review what visitors are looking for. Advanced on-site search analytics integration can tell you not just what people are searching for on your site but also whether they found it or not.

So, it’s great that we can monitor what people are specifically interested in on our website and that we can even understand if they were able to find that information or not. The question is, however, how does this help us with search engine optimization? With on-site search data, we can spot some great opportunities if we see enough searches for the same sort of information each month. But before we spend valuable time and money chasing shadows, we need to make sure there really is something there.

Enter keyword research. They key is to identify keywords and search phrases which demonstrate search demand in the search engines and reveal the associated river of demand, indicating a high level of interest.

Let’s say that there’s a health-related website in Canada, and in their on-site search they noticed that for the past 3 months the search phrase ‘h1n1 pregnancy’ has been searched for 85 times. Not a huge number, but it’s very specific and obviously has some traction – it’s clear that people are trying to find information on your website related to both ‘H1N1’ and ‘pregnancy’. Instead of spotting this trend and automatically writing content, what we want to do here is conduct some keyword research to understand what the level of demand or interest specific and related to ‘H1N1’ and ‘pregnancy’.

We load up our keyword research tools and discover that the search phrase ‘h1n1 pregnancy’ has a search demand interest of 2,900 searches. This tells us that people searched for ‘h1n1 pregnancy’ in Canada 2,900 times. But looking further, we start to see that people are also searching for things like ‘h1n1 vaccine pregnancy’ and ‘h1n1 vaccine and pregnant women’.

Looking at this keyword research we start to discover that people are searching for h1n1 pregnancy and vaccine related information. Maybe they’re trying to find out about the possible effects of the H1N1 vaccine on their unborn child. This represents a need, and since your site is a health-related website in Canada, it potentially is a perfect need for you to fill.

Armed with this information you can make intelligent decisions about what kind of information you need to develop for your website. The thing is, you wouldn’t have even known about it had you not looked at your on-site search data. It really can be a goldmine for identifying opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have been considered. I like to call it that “Eureka!” moment.

Aaron Wolski
Manager of Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
PublicInsite Web Analytics Inc.

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