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You’re measuring site search wrong

Many companies have a measurement problem when it comes to understanding the effectiveness of site search. But that measurement problem often stems from the failure to ask the right question. The question shouldn’t be about customer behavior. The question should be about the customer experience. At SoloSegment we believe that the only customer experience that matters when you’re talking about site search is the success rate. Did the customer find the right content to answer their question on the first click? Unless you start with that point of view, you’re doing it wrong.

You’re answering the wrong question

Many companies we work with have site search metrics that measure all sorts of customer behavior.

  • Did they search or navigate?
  • What keywords did they use?
  • Which were the most popular keywords?
  • Did they get a result?
  • Did they click on something?
  • Did they come back to the search results page?

The answers go on and on. But one wonders what the point is of all this measurement. Sure, some of these metrics have value. High volume keywords that get no results is a huge problem. But measuring these things in isolation doesn’t get at the most fundamental question: Was the customer successful?

Measuring Success

Behavior is the key to measuring customer success. But you’ve got to look at the right behaviors. This is where many management systems fail. Some management systems interpret success as a click on a search result. But what happens if the customer comes back and clicks on another search result? Is that two successes? It’s actually one failure.

What if the customer right clicks on a search result and looks at the page in a new tab? That likely signals that the customer has such little confidence in the search results that they’re already planning on coming back (I’ve done this). The are numerous other examples of where looking at customer behavior in isolation provides the wrong measure of success. The good news is that the customer will tell you, by looking at the right behaviors, that you’ve answered their question correctly.

How do they tell you this?

What would the ideal site search customer experience look like? First, they’d enter a keyword. Second, they’d get a list of relevant results. Third, they’d click on the result and it would be the right answer to the question. Seems pretty simple. If you measure each of those steps correctly, you will know.

There are three measurements that demonstrate a successful site search customer experience.

  1. Did the customer see results from the search?
  2. Did the customer click on a result?
  3. Did they stay there?

If you score customer success using a combination of these measurements, then you’re beginning to get at site search success. It’s a journey for your customers. It’s a journey for you. If those results are not what you’d hoped — check out Why aren’t I getting conversions out of my site search.

It’s all about the customer experience

Good site search, and good conversion in general, is defined by successful customer journeys. They’re trying to do business with you, do yourself a favor and make it easy for them. Just looking at the clicks doesn’t tell a story about the journey. You have to envision what customer success looks like and measure each of the steps that get them to where they need to go. Clicks aren’t enough. You need to go deeper.

To get the most value out of your site search, technology solutions and AI do the trick. Connect with us to learn how we can help.

Author

  • Steve Zakur

    Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.