5 Ways Content Can Respond to User Search Queries

You might already be tracking user search queries on your website, but are you focusing on the right things?

Louis Rosenfeld

Probably not, according to Louis Rosenfeld, founder of Rosenfeld Media and author of Search Analytics for Your Site: Conversations with Your Customers (Rosenfeld Media, 2011).

Rosenfeld says too many companies are missing what people are really interested in. They’re “wasting information and focusing on the main page,” while their useful, older content stagnates. He say that site search analytics (SSA) is one of the most effective ways to measure the impact of your website’s content.

Instead of focusing on the surface, Rosenfeld says companies should see their sites like “Google sees the web.” Meaning, user search terms, even misspelled ones, should quickly and painlessly take your site visitors where they want to go.

Here are our top five tips, taken from Rosenfeld’s recent presentation at OglivyOne Worldwide:

1. Reconcile different audiences

You know your target audience, and you might have a broad fan base. So the real question is, how do you appeal to everyone?

Start by compiling the most common search terms. There are bound to be some similarities across categories; those particular users are on your site for a reason.

Next, Rosenfeld recommends focusing on “what’s commonly important to all audiences.” How they write their query can give you a good sense of their “tone and voice,” search-wise.

Which brings us to the next tip…

2. Get to the point

Terms that look sophisticated on your main page might seem like mysterious gibberish to a majority of your audience.

You’ll want to check if there’s a “disconnect between the content and the main page,” he said.

If you notice that the most popular search queries are actually accessible through the main page, your audience just didn’t get it.

“Save the brand by killing the jargon,” Rosenfeld urges. Simplify those basic terms, and save yourself the trouble of launching an expensive campaign to “educate” the public.

Think: “online class,” instead of  “internet academy.”

3. Read their minds

SSA requires logical guesswork, too. Once you’ve deduced what users are searching for, it’s time to predict the future.

By anticipating your user’s needs, you’ll open up a useful section of dusty archives.

After all, your main goal shouldn’t just be creating quality content for your audience, but also “doing a better job of getting them to that content,” says Rosenfeld.

Try adding links that will redirect users from one interesting part of the site to another.

4. Anticipate changing needs

As you continue to use SSA to track users, you’ll find that searches could vary by day, month, or even season.

Look for patterns that emerge, keep track, and watch for those trends to reemerge in the future. Rosenberg attributes these changes to the “dynamism” of users.

“One of the nice things about SSA is that it reveals seasonality,” Rosenberg adds. “People want different things at different times.”

In fact, he says, things like seasonality “should be affecting  your main page  including things that are important and should be consistent there.”

5. Stay current

SSA’s not a one-time quick fix. It’s a tool you should use regularly to maintain relevancy with your audience. The more you watch for things like unexpected searches, misspellings, surprisingly popular pages, and seasonal changes—the deeper issues you’ll uncover.

Not only will unexpected searches “indicate failed content,” which will let you know what’s working at all times, but at the same time, you’ll get a better sense of what does work. It’s about building a better relationship with your clients, offering better content, and avoiding a costly site redesign.

Once you get the hang of SSA, don’t forget to explore. Site search analytics aren’t one size fits all  you’ll need to discover what works best for you.

“Literally play,” Rosenfeld says. “I’ve given you starter questions  [now] generate specialized questions.”

Images courtesy of SFC/shutterstockDiego Cervo/shutterstockMichael D Brown/shutterstock