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Analyze your Search and Browse audiences in Google Analytics
Use Google Analytics to segment search and browse audiences, analyze their performance relative to each other, and to market benchmarks.
Why should you do it?
When monitoring KPI data across user journeys, it is useful to leverage analytics from multiple platforms and combine the insights into a single representation of your ecommerce platform’s performance. Google Analytics is a common tool of choice to segment search and browse audiences, analyze their performance relative to each other, and to market benchmarks.
Analyzing search and browse audiences in Google Analytics
Analyzing search and browse audiences in Google Analytics can be performed in just four steps:
- Find the URL parameters or events that differentiate your search and browse experiences in the user journey.
- Create two segments in your GA account, one for users whose sessions contain search (your searching audience), and one for users who’s sessions do not contain search (your browse audience). These audiences should be mutually exclusive and total to 100% of sessions.
- Run your GA overview reports for the intended timeframe for Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and eCommerce, and collect the data by segment.
- Benchmark your performance based on your industry, and focus on the areas where conversion lags its potential.
We’ll be using Google’s Analytics demo environment, built from the analysis of their public-facing swag store, in combination with a public example from Algolia customer Lacoste in these steps. GA has multiple versions. Since most of us are still using Universal Analytics, and haven’t yet migrated to GA4, screenshots are from the universal analytics account. The same principles apply in GA4. Open the links and follow along!
Determining the parameters you will use to build your reports
The first step in building out your segments is to determine what happens on your site when a user performs a search. Do you throw an event? Does the URL string change? Are parameters added? Let’s look at two examples:
First up, Google Merchandise store. Pretend we’ve just performed a search for “shirt” and landed on this page. Notice anything? The URL has changed to include “/asearch.html”.
Somebody should probably tell google this search isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, by the way. Those don’t look like shirts.
This parameter will be present no matter what the search term is (unless it redirects). That means we can use it to identify the segment of users who have landed on this page, which is a mostly perfect proxy for anyone who completed a search! Note: the goal here isn’t perfect accuracy. We’re building heuristics for comparative performance of these audiences. You can get to an even finer level of detail by using events that occur every time a user performs a search instead, but that requires code.
Next, let’s take a look at Lacoste…
On the Lacoste site, the parameter that is added is “#query=”.
Your site may use different url components, but it’s likely that you’re using a similar structure. Again, you can work around the url strings if your site is throwing search events that capture every time a user performs a search.
Creating your segments
Now that we know what makes a search experience unique, we can use that to build out mutually exclusive search and browse segments. Click “add segment” from any page in google analytics, then click “new segment” and let’s get started:
Using the “conditions” tab, replicate the logic above. Insert the unique component of your search results URL ONLY, and make a mental note of the % of sessions represented by this group (in this case, 5.9%). We’ll use that number to check our totals.
Save that segment, then either copy it or create another. The only difference between this and the previous audience is that we’ll be changing “include” to “exclude.”
Our two segments (5.9% and 94.10% of sessions respectively) are mutually exclusive and total to 100%, so we can move on from here. If not, make sure the url component you’ve added is exactly the same for each, and make sure one is set to “exclude” and one “include.”
Note that the user counts will usually total to >100%, as we’ve used sessions, not users, to differentiate experiences.
Running your GA Overview reports
Now that our segments are done, the rest is easy. Click the “Conversions> Ecommerce” tab in the left hand sidebar and add the two segments you created to the report, as well as “all users”. Change the dates of the report to the time period you’d like to analyze.
First and most important: the eCommerce report.
The ecommerce report pulls the key revenue metrics for your business, Revenue, CVR, Transactions, and AOV.
What can we learn here? Even though search represents 6.27% of sessions, it pulls in 15% of google’s merchandise revenue. Transactions tell a similar story. For your organization, I’d expect AOV to be higher as well… usually by a factor of about 1.5X.
Next, we’ll take a look at the audience overview report:
The audience overview report contains details on users, sessions, pageviews, session duration, and bounce.
Google’s data here is illuminating many of the broader trends we’d expect. Bounce rate falls by a factor of >6 when a user performs a search. Session duration goes up by >3x. Pages/session doubles.
Next, let’s take a look at acquisition. Navigate to Acquisition>Overview
The acquisition overview shows your conversion and bounce rates by web acquisition channel.
Here, we get a look at the comparative bounce and conversion rates by channel. Note how much higher the conversion rate is for the audience who search. Paid conversion is 3X higher. Looking for a way to make paid dollars more effective without raising the budget? Get them to perform a search.
Finally: the behavior overview report.
The behavior overview gives you the metrics you need to understand what happens after a user lands on site. How long do they spend there? Bounce rate and exit rate are also reported here.
Here, we find details on TOP, Bounce, and Exit rate. Note: Everything's better when search is involved.
Pulling it all together
As a summary for your future to-do list, here are the steps above in list form:
1) On any GA Page, Add Segment > New Segment
- Insert the unique component of your search results URL ONLY
- Save segment, copy or create another (change filter from include to exclude for the second)
2) Navigate to Conversions > Ecommerce
- Add the 2 segments you’ve created to the report and “all users”
- Change dates to the time period desired
- Stats: revenue, conversion rate, AOV
3) Navigate to Audience > Overview
- Stats: Users, sessions, page views, unique users, etc
4) Navigate to Acquisition > Overview
- Stats: Bounce and conversion by channel
- Bonus: check out how much more efficient your paid dollars are when they drive users to search!
5) Navigate to Behavior > Overview
- Stats: time on page, bounce, exit rate
You’ve identified your audiences, created your segments, and run your reports. To drive this analysis home, look at benchmarking.
We recommend pulling the relevant data into a simple format like this one for ease of communication. Once there, note the differences between your organization and the market.
- What portion of your sales come from the search audience? If it’s below 25%, you’re missing opportunities.
- Do users who search convert at least 2x as often as browse? If not, you likely have a relevance issue.
- Is browse converting below average? Industry standard for retail hovers between 2-6% depending on the industry.
- What is the AOV impact of a user performing a search? Are related or complimentary products being suggested? Are results personalized?
- Is the bounce rate too high for searching users? Typo tolerance or relevance issues are often the main culprits.