Creating and Using Site Search Funnel in Google Analytics

In this article, I will show how to create a site search funnel in Google Analytics and then use it to understand the users’ intent and optimize your website for traffic and conversions.

Through my site search funnel report you can get following insight about your website users:

#1 How people found your website (i.e. Source/Medium of the traffic)

#2 The web pages through which people entered your website (i.e. Landing Pages).

#3 The web pages from which people started a search on your website (i.e. Start pages)

#4 What people searched for, on your website (i.e. Search Terms)

#5 The web pages people saw after clicking on one of the search results on the search result page (i.e. Search Destination pages)

#6 What people did on your website after landing on the ‘search destination’ pages. For example, did they make a purchase or did they leave the website?

Note: I have written this article under the assumption that you have site search tracking installed for your website in Google Analytics.

Look at the site search funnel report below:

From this report we can conclude the following:

#1 Users visited the website directly before starting a search on the website (because ‘Source / Medium’ = direct / none)

#2 Users entered the website via the homepage (because ‘Landing Page’ = /)

#3 Users started their search from the home page (because ‘Start Page’ = /)

#4 Users searched for the keyword ‘tag manager’ (because ‘Search Term’ = tag manager)

#5 Users saw the page with the URI: /youtube-video-tracking-via-google-tag-manager/ after clicking on one of the search results on a search result page (because ‘Search Destination Page’ = /youtube-video-tracking-via-google-tag-manager/)

Look at the site search funnel report below:

From this report we can conclude the following:

#1 Users visited the website via Google Organic Search before starting a search on the website (because ‘Source / Medium’ = google / organic)

#2 Users entered the website via a search result page: /?s=client+id (because ‘Landing Page’ = /?s=client+id)

#3 When the landing page is a search result page, Google Analytics sets the ‘Start Page’ to ‘(entrance)’.

#4 Users searched for the keyword ‘client id’ (because ‘Search Term’ = client id)

#5 Since Google Analytics sets the ‘Search Destination Page’ to ‘(exit)’, it means users exit from the website after searching for ‘client id’. Most probably they didn’t find what they were looking for.

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Let us go one step further and see how many people actually searched for ‘client id’ on the website:

From the report above, we can conclude that approx. 84 people searched for the keyword ‘client id’ before leaving the website.

If people are searching for this keyword and then leaving the website then there can be only two possibilities:

#1 People are not finding the content they are looking for as the content does not exist on your website.

#2 People are not satisfied with the search results they are getting.

So if you do not have content on ‘client id’, maybe you should create articles on this topic.

If that is not the case and you have got a lot of articles on ‘client id’ then you need to make your internal site search results better.

So that people can easily find out what they are looking for.

Let us go one step further and deal with an ecommerce website, where people are searching for a product and then leaving the website:

From the report above we can conclude that approx. 682 people searched for a product before leaving the website. 

Clearly they couldn’t find what they were looking for since they left the website. Sales is $0.

Can you see the correlation between unsatisfied searches and sales here?

This is a very bad situation for an ecommerce website. If you conclude that the majority of your potential customers are exiting your website after making a search for products then it means either your site search tracking is broken or you don’t sell the products they are looking for.

If people are searching for products which you do not sell, then you need to analyse the performance of your marketing campaigns.

Maybe your ad campaigns are not doing a very good job of bringing the right target audience to your website.

Now let us look at the bigger picture:

From the report above, we can conclude the following:

#1 People found the website via Google Paid Search (Google Adwords)

#2 They entered the website via a search result page (because of this ‘Start Page’ = (entrance))

#3 They didn’t find what they were looking for, so they left the website and didn’t make a purchase.

It is common for PPC marketers to use search result pages as landing pages for their ads esp. for ecommerce websites.

However, when the landing page does not satisfy the users’ queries, people often leave the website from the landing page without browsing any further.

If this is the case for your website then you need to look at the ad copies you are using and the people you are targeting.

Maybe your ad copies are not relevant to the landing page. Maybe you are not targeting your actual customers.

Clearly something is wrong with your marketing.

Alternatively, you can sort your site search funnel by ‘Revenue’ and then filter out the keywords which are resulting in a lot of sales on your website to find profitable ‘search terms’:

You can then either create more contents around these keywords to increase the probability of generating more sales or make a product listing more prominent on the website.

If a lot of people are searching for a product then it means the product is in demand but also at the same time is hard to find on your website.

If you display this product more prominently on your website, you can increase its chances of being found more easily, which could result in more sales.

These are the kind of insights you can get by creating and using site search funnels in Google Analytics.

Download this custom report in your GA account, in order to create and use the site search funnel I used throughout this article.

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Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of Optimizesmart.com

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers' purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

He has over 12 years of experience in digital analytics and digital marketing.

He was nominated for the Digital Analytics Association's Awards for Excellence. The Digital Analytics Association is a world-renowned not-for-profit association that helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

He is the author of four best-selling books on analytics and conversion optimization:

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