Activate Search Tracking: Another Change To Google Analytics Anyone Can Do (and everyone should)


By: Drew McManus

In: Metrics & Analytics, Web Tech

Knowing what visitors are searching for at your site is one of the most useful metrics you have to tweak content, adjust navigation architecture, and improve conversion but by default, Google Analytics (GA) does not track visitor searches. So even though you may notice the default menu item for Site Search via your Reporting admin panel, don’t be surprised if you pop in and see a metrics big goose egg staring back at you.

Activate Search Tracking 00
“What the what Google, where’s my search data?!?” no worries, activating site search is a breeze…

Activating Site Search

Activate Search Tracking 01

  1. Go to your GA Admin panel.
  2. In the “View” column, select “View Settings.”

Activate Search Tracking 02

  1. Find the “Site Settings” section and toggle on the “Site Search Tracking” button.

Inputting Necessary Query Parameters

At this point, you’ll want to open a new browser tab or window and go to your website. Once you’re there, perform a site search using your default search tool (it doesn’t matter what you search for). What you’re looking for here is the query parameter in the search results URL, GA needs to track your search data.

Find the query

  1. The query parameter is located between the question mark and the equal sign; typically, it is a single letter such as “s” or “q” and in the example above, it is the former. However, it’s perfectly fine if the query parameter is a complete word such as “term, search, or query.”

Activate Search Tracking

  1. Enter the query parameter.
  2. Click the “Save” button.

Give it a 24 hours or so to take effect but once it does, you’ll notice those Site Search admin panels in the Reporting menu will begin producing some metrics fruit you can turn into sweet, sweet #GoogleJuice.

  1. It’s worth mentioning here that if you have a complex search functionality that includes the ability to refine site searches, you’ll want to consider activating this option. You’ll need to enter the internal query category variables; GA has more info on what those are and how to enter them into this field via their Set Up Site Search

That’s it, pencils down.

When combined with activating demographics and interest reports, you have two very powerful and infinitely useful tools at your disposal to begin converting data into action.

Drew McManus
Drew McManus
In addition to my consulting business, I'm also the Principal of Venture Industries Online but don’t let that title fool you into thinking I'm just a tech geek. I bring 20+ years of global broad-based arts consulting experience to the table to help clients break the cycle of choosing one-size-fits-none solutions and instead, deliver options allowing them to get ahead of the tech curve instead of trying to catch up by going slower. With the vision of legacy support strategy and the delights of creative insights, my mission is to deliver a sophisticated next generation technology designed especially for the field of performing arts. The first step in that journey began in 2010 when The Venture Platform was released, a purpose-designed managed website development solution designed especially for arts organizations and artists. For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, lead a team of intrepid arts pros to hack the arts, lead an arts business incubator, and love a good coffee drink.
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