KPIs Search Analytics

Are you watching the ‘broken’ parts of your site?

In web analytics, we all can get a bit too focussed on how our/the site is doing in relation to the KPIs that you measure against. But are you watching the ‘broken’ parts of your site?

I do, and here’s some suggestions on things to look for:


Most analytics programs gather error reports. They typically they are configured to report out on 404 errors (a page not found) and list the URL or page name requested and often the referring link/URL where the request originated. You can track other error types easily as well. For example, in HBX, all you need to do is pass a different value to the hbx.mlc variable in the page error code (e.g. /error/404 or /error/500) to distinguish between the types. You could even write code to pass custom variables such as the time the error occured.

You can also eliminate a lot of these errors by running a link check on your site occassionally. The free W3C link checker is an option and there are also many tools on the market that do the same or better.

Failed Keywords

Looking at your ‘failed keyword’ reports (keywords/phrases typed in your site search engine that did not return a result) can be quite interesting. As Hurol Inan writes in Search Analytics – A Guide to Analyzing and Optimizing Website Search Engines “the nature of keyword errors might be diverse, but common types include hitting the search button without entering a keyword, misspellings and mistakes in using notations such as + and -” and “examining frequently occurring errors, [can help you] figure out ways of dealing with them; for instance, modifying the search help text or associating frequently misspelled words to their content items etc.”

Indexing of error pages

Another worthwhile option is to look at your favourite search engine and see how many error pages are being indexed. if you know how you title your error pages, you can do this using the allintitle: and site: search options. For example, looking at we can see that they have 174 ‘404 error pages’ listed in Google. No reason for that, and easy to clean up. Saves page rank headaches as well.


Tracking funnels and forms can not only help highlight abandonment points but may also flag server-side issues causing users to not complete. Take a bit of time too to ensure that your forms are being tracked correctly. For example, a couple weeks ago I noticed a discrepancy between the actual number of form submissions and those being tracked in my analytics tool. A bit of investigation and problem was resolved.

What are some of the ‘broken’ parts you are watching? What are you doing to make your site experience the best it can be?

KPIs Search Analytics Web Analytics

Learn more with Hurol Inan

I just picked up Hurol Inan’s two books Measuring the Success of your Website and Search Analytics. Hurol offers them in either PDF or print versions and has a sweet deal if you buy both online. I’ve been a big Hurol fan for sometime now and these books just reinforce the fact that he is one of the great contributors to a better web.

Search Analytics

Scent from internal search terms

In the the case of our site the vast majority of searches do come after people visit lower level pages in the site. What we can infer is that many users are trying to find what they are looking for by clicking on categories and links and that only when the scent dries up they turn to search. When they do turn to search, the queries are often the trigger words that they were seeking in the page content — in other words they are using search to create their own links because the information or links on the page failed them.

What I’ve done is configured my HBX page code used on our internal search template so that it populates one of the custom search variables (you can have up to 4 custom variables in HBX for Internal Search) so that it captures the referring URL. Then I created a Report Builder report in Excel that captures the:

  • The keyword
  • Referring URL for the keyword
  • The count

This report tells me what people are searching for, where the scent dried up and the number of times this is happening. Very helpful for trendspotting and for flagging content and IA changes required.

I also have another report that captures:

  • the Keyword
  • Link ID (the link they clicked)
  • Link Position

This report tells me how well my search results are matching to keywords typed. It’s usually pretty easy to see if they found the “correct” page or the page that will get them the information they were looking for.

I also have a third report that captures the Failed searches. Flags potential content gaps and also often provides some good laughs (you’d be surprised what people sometimes look for).

Note: I came across this idea at UIE Brain Sparks and have expanded on it somewhat. Not a new idea really — the Eisenberg’s have been talking about “scent” for ages.