Site search data can be a huge resource for web publishers. For a large number of site this is a greatly under-utilized resource. Many sites put a site search capability on their web site, and then forget about it. So much opportunity left on the table.
The opportunity comes from looking at your site search data to see what it tells you about your users, and how they are looking at your site. To illustrate this idea, let’s look at a couple of fictitious examples.
Someone comes to your site looking for your information on green widgets. They land on the exact right page, but they still use your site search tool to type in green widget pricing. This type of thing happens all the time. Users can’t find the information on the page, even though its there. This can be a powerful clue that you need to tweak your page design. Think of it as input into your landing page optimization project.
A second scenario occurs when users come to your page after searching on green widgets, and then they enter “green widget blue widget comparison” into your site search, but you don’t have that information on your page. This can be a clue that you should add such information.
Users are providing you with clues all the time. Another example is the navigation paths they choose on your site. Site search though is one of the most powerful clues, because they are actually typing words into your search box telling you what they are looking for.
Of course, you need to make sure that the percentage of users searching on something is significant. Just because one user does a search on something, it doesn’t mean you should redesign your page around that. But if many users search on something then you should seriously think about what it is telling you. And, if you don’t have a site search function on your site, you should really think about adding one.