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Search Analysis

This article describes search utilization across LSA websites comparing Fall 2016 to Fall 2015
by Chris Rockwell

The graph below shows overall on-site searches across LSA websites comparing Fall 2016 (blue) to Fall 2015 (orange). It shows sessions with search was down 21% overall. On the surface, this seems unfortunate as fewer searches were submitted. However, drilling down a bit into the numbers shows searches in the Fall 2016 set were probably more effective and delivered higher value to the visitors.

The first indication is "% of Search Exits" is down 64%. Meaning more people are clicking through on search results as opposed to leaving to search elsewhere without clicking on a single result. More users submitted 'Search Refinements,' indicating they are more comfortable with the interface and are revising their search queries. The numbers also show sessions with search in Fall of 2016 were 77% longer than sessions with search from Fall of 2015, indicating visitors who searched were more engaged in 2016 than the previous year.  Other than the overall reduction in search volume, every other metric shows a positive trend.

Search Utilization: Fall 2015 (orange), Fall 2016 (blue)

Here are some top search terms and how they changed:

  • "Study Abroad" down 13.6%
  • “Courses” down 8.3%
  • “psychology” down 22%
  • “majors” down 54%
  • “apply” down 9.3%
  • “tuition” down 15.6%
  • “advising” up 2.6%
  • “economics” up 5.7%
  • “faculty” up 56.5%
  • “physics” up 24.7% 

I decided to drill into the "majors" search term. It was the 4th most popular search word in Fall 2015 across the websites. But there was a 54% decrease in Fall 2016. I could imagine feasible reasons for the drop. Did the site redesign make it unnecessary to search for 'majors' as often? Or is it possible that there were fewer people interested in LSA Majors during the fall of 2016? Given the top result when searching "majors" is the Majors and Minors page, I might assume fewer pageviews there if fewer people were interested in LSA Majors during the Fall 2016 term.  However, the Majors Minors pageviews were up significantly, 31%. Therefore, I think it is safe to assume people are able to find the page effectively without necessarily searching for it. 

Majors Minors Page Traffic
Fall 2015  Fall 2016
316,839 415,767


Even though the overall numbers for on-site search were down, there is evidence that searches conducted in Fall 2016 had better quality. Visitors refined their searches more indicating more confidence in the tool. Sessions with search were longer indicating more engagement with the results. There were fewer searches for content positioned prominently in the page navigation (e.g. Majors and Minors) indicating a useful set of common links.

Release Date: 01/16/2017
Tags: Web Services; Analytics