Unless you have a very well-known brand where people type your URL to visit your site, then chances are that most of your traffic comes from an external search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. A quick analysis can tell you that, relative to the total number of keywords visitors use to get to your site, a small percentage of them are the ones which are truly driving your traffic. This distribution is called a Zipf distribution: a fat head and a long tail. The long tail phenomenon is brilliantly described by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail.
However, knowing whence your traffic came is just the beginning of the analytical problem. Do the same keywords tend to land on the same pages? Are these the pages that you want them to land on? What happens once they land there? Are they leaving, clicking, buying, or searching?
An interesting aspect to look at is what happens if the user then searches for a term on your site after landing from an external search engine. We find that a couple of scenarios arise most often.
- The Zipf Distributions Match. If this is the case, then you have the general scent of information that a user seeks, but the page where the user landed isn’t scratching the itch and providing the right information. Some actions you can take include:
- Improve the content of your most hit landing pages. Evaluate where your users go subsequently and see if you can cross-purpose the information in a meaningful way.
- Add links to other interesting content on the landing page. Make informational navigation easy by providing more breadcrumbs for your user to follow to get to other content by providing the links.
- The Zipf distributions don’t match. If this is the case, then either your pages don’t provide the type of information that your user thought that he was getting, or the information has spurred other queries of discovery which will lead the user down a path that wasn’t originally anticipated. Here are a couple of things you can do:
- Clean up metadata and navigational clues. Make it crystal clear to both search engines and to the user what the page is meant to accomplish.
- Provide other exploratory links to encourage navigational browsing. Give links that aren’t directly related to the page but may broaden the scope of search through discovery. Allow users to stumble upon (to borrow a website meme) new ideas and content through links.
Taking a look at Google Analytics to see what search terms are used to drive traffic is a good starting point, but it’s not the terminus of your analysis. You also need to look at what happens to the user after landing on a page, and by taking advantage of site search analytics, you can take advantage of additional information that your user is providing about what he seeks from your site.
Do you want to understand how to measure your user behavior and use it to increase revenues? The OpenSource Connections Site Search Analytics service can help you make your website a profit center, not a cost center.