How to improve your eCommerce SEO strategy using your internal site search data

Updated on 30 Oct 2023 by Leonie Farrar

Is your SEO strategy falling short? Or maybe it’s working well but you want to further optimise it. There’s one place that has a wealth of valuable data that many businesses skip over. Your on-site search can provide you with insights into your customer behaviour that you can’t get elsewhere.

Once you’ve tapped into this wealth of data, you can build on your SEO strategy in a way that will give you the competitive edge. After all, if customers are looking for something on your site, they’re further down the sales funnel and have a higher intent to buy - you don’t want to miss out on those conversions.

Want to talk to a specialist about your SEO strategy and how your internal site search data can help you? We’re just a call or a message away. Find out how to contact us here.

How to gather your site search data

To be able to use your on-site search insights, you first need to make sure you’re tracking the data. Sometimes Google Analytics (GA) automatically tracks internal site search data, but this isn’t always the case. To check whether your data is being tracked or not, login to your GA account and go to admin. Select data streams on the right hand side and select the web data stream you’re wanting to check. Here you’ll see an option for enhanced measurement, this needs to be turned on. Underneath the enhanced measurements option is a gear symbol. Click this symbol, ensure site search is turned on, and that the right query parameters are defined in the advanced settings. Make sure you press the save button in the top right corner to save these settings.

You’ll need to wait at least 24 hours after setting up site search tracking before you can access your data. After these 24 hours, you can create an internal site search report by going to reports, then engagement, then event. Type “search” into the box and click view search results to view your report.

How to boost your SEO strategy

Create new category pages

One reason that your customers might be using the site search functionality is if they can’t find a category page for the type of product they’re looking for. But not all customers will do this. Some customers will simply leave your site if they can’t see a relevant category page.

Using your site search data to identify what categories customers want will allow you to create the categories your customers are looking for. This will make it easier for your customers to find what they’re looking for and will hopefully reduce your bounce rate. It’ll also give you the opportunity to optimise the new category pages to rank on the SERPs, ultimately drawing in more organic traffic to your website.

To know what category pages to create, look for keywords that are often searched for (for example, lamps) or popular searches for products that could be grouped together under a category (for example, trilby and cap could be grouped under the category hats).

Don’t forget that category pages don’t have to just be certain types of products like dresses and tops. If you’ve got a lot of searches for a certain colour, pattern, or size, you could create category pages for these too.

For example, within the clothing category menu on Yours Clothing, you have the usual categories of different types of clothing. But you also have categories for different sizes, popular trends, and types of fit.

Update your keywords

As well as identifying search terms that could be used to create new category pages, on-site search data can also help you update the keywords you use for your current categories, product names, and throughout your copy. There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language and often there are multiple words for the same thing. Although you may have used one word to describe a category, your website users might be using synonyms or different spellings to search for that category.

Look through your popular site searches and see if there are any synonyms or different spellings that are commonly used. If there are, this could indicate that you might be better off using different keywords for your category or even your product names. However, don’t rush into changing these keywords as the synonyms people are searching might not be as good as the keywords you’re currently using. To discover what keywords you are best to use, we recommend conducting some keyword research (using tools like Ahrefs or Semrush).

Once you’ve identified which keywords will work best as your main category and product names, other common synonyms and spellings that you’ve identified in your keyword research and your internal site search data can then be used in your category descriptions and product descriptions. This will allow you to get the best results from the main keywords while also generating some SEO performance from the synonyms.

For example, there are multiple ways of spelling barbecue, including barbeque and BBQ. Online gardening retailer, Internet Gardener, has used a mix of these keywords to cover all the spellings. By focusing on the keyword barbecue for the main category and using keywords like BBQ and barbeque as secondary keywords, Internet Gardener has optimised their site for all three spellings.

Avoid zero results pages

If a customer searches for a keyword and no results are found on the website for that keyword, a zero results page would be shown. When customers are presented with zero results pages, they’re likely to leave your site rather than trying to find the product a different way. The last thing you want is to lose business and revenue just because your site search produced a zero results page instead of the products your customers could’ve bought.

But why would site search show a zero results page if you sell the products? This could happen if the searcher uses synonyms or different spellings, but it can also happen when the searcher misspells a word. You don’t want to be missing out on customers just because they’re searching for couch instead of sofa or they’ve spelt chandelier as chandiler.

Using your site search data, you can identify these commonly misspelt keywords (as well as synonyms and different spellings) and use them to improve your customer experience and SEO. How? You have a couple of options.

The first option is to add common synonyms, spellings, and misspellings to your product listings in the backend. Doing this will allow relevant results to be shown instead of a zero results page. For example, when searching for “tabel lamp” instead of “table lamp”, Dunelm produces the same search results page.

Another option for misspelt words is to offer a ‘Did you mean …?’ suggestion on the results page or add an autocorrect or autofill function to your site search bar. For example, Yankee Candle has an autofill function to make it easy for customers to select a product or search term by just typing the start of a word.

Check you’re not ranking for irrelevant keywords

Are people often searching for products on your site that you don’t stock? This could just be because customers are checking if you have a product they want while buying another product on your site. In this case, you have nothing to worry about. But it could also mean that you’re ranking for the wrong keywords. For example, if you sell jewellery but people on your site are searching for handbags, you could be ranking for the keyword accessories. Some of this traffic will be valuable but some of it won’t. Therefore, it’d be better to rank for narrower keywords other than accessories that are going to bring in more relevant traffic.

We recommend starting by using a keyword research tool (like ahrefs) to check if you’re organically ranking for any irrelevant keywords. Once you’ve identified any irrelevant keywords, editing your metadata and on-page copy to have less of a focus on these keywords and more of a focus on valuable keywords will help put you in front of the right target audience.

But it may not be your organic keywords that are the problem. Instead, it may be that the traffic is coming from targeting the wrong keywords in your paid search campaigns. To check if this is the case, you can audit your paid search campaigns to identify any issues and edit any irrelevant target keywords.

Highlight your popular searches

You want to give your customers the best shopping experience possible. So why not give them the products they’re looking for straight away by highlighting the most searched for products or categories on your homepage. Being able to find the product they want on the home page instead of having to look through a menu or use the search bar will improve the customer experience, making your website users more likely to convert.

Clintons is a great example of this. One of the main reasons that people visit the Clintons website is to look for birthday cards. Therefore, on their homepage Clintons has highlighted birthday cards with a selection of products and a CTA linking to the birthday cards category page.

Generate content topic ideas

Our final top tip for using your internal site search data to improve your SEO strategy is related to content ideation. Producing relevant content on your site can help boost your SEO as the keywords used and the authoritative backlinks generated gives search engines a better understanding of your website. But to get this result, your content needs to be valuable and relevant. That’s where your on-site search data comes in. It sounds obvious but your website users are interested in the products and keywords they’re searching for. Give them more of what they’re looking for by creating useful content around these keywords.

For example, the internal site search data for Fancy Dress World shows that the top most searched keyword over the last 30 days was Barbie. This indicates that a blog post on the best Barbie costumes could be useful for customers and could improve SEO by producing content that ranks for this topic in the SERPs.

Ready to boost your SEO strategy?

Make the most of the data that’s readily available to you, especially when it provides such useful insights into your customer behaviour as on-site search data does.

If you have any questions or want some advice, our specialist SEO team is on hand to help, simply get in touch.