SharePoint 2007 Search Analytics Overview

I think that one of the most useful features of the included reports that are provided with the new MOSS SharePoint 2007 Analytics and Reports are the Search Analytics.  While there are a host of improved analytical tools with this new version of SharePoint, such as the SharePoint 2007 Site Collection Usage Reports and the SharePoint 2007 Audit Log Reports, I find that one of the most powerful tools is the Search Analytics tool set: SharePoint 2007 Search Queries reports and SharePoint 2007 Search Results reports.  These reports are accessible by clicking Site Actions, Site Settings, Modify All Site Settings.  Then click on Site Collection Usage Reports under the Site Collection Administration area.

The SharePoint 2007 Search Queries Report shows some pretty simple but useful pieces of the search information. Number of Queries is shown in two views "Queries Over Previous 30 Days" and "Queries Over Previous 12 Months".  "Queries Per Scope Over Previous 30 Days" shows both a pie chart and details of actual numbers detailing the Scope, the number of queries, and the percentage of overall that this number of queries represents.  "Top Queries Over Previous 30 Days" is perhaps the most useful of these reports.  This report shows the actual keyword that was being searched for, what scope it was searched against, and the number of occurrences. 

The SharePoint 2007 Search Results report shows even more useful information.  "Search Results Top Destination Pages", "Queries With Zero Results", and "Queries With Low Clickthrough".  Of course, the following two are really only useful if you are making use of the SharePoint 2007 Search Best Bets features: "Most Clicked Best Bets" and "Queries With Zero Best Bets".

Depending upon what statistics you believe (if you believe any statistics), I’ve heard that more than half of all users immediately look for and use the search engine on your site instead of trying to figure out your navigation.  So, if you are using traditional web analytics (which pages users hit, browsing paths, landing pages, etc.), you are missing more than half of the truly useful analytical information.  Using the search engine analytics component in conjunction with the traditional web analytics numbers allows you to see a more complete picture of your end users site usage pattern.  The search analytics provides information on what the user was trying to find on your site, what they did find, what they did not find, and in turn what they keywords they are using actually mean to them!  Just because you are using a particular term, keyword, or phrase to describe something within your site, your users may be looking for that very information but using a different phrase that describes it.  Furthermore, if you find that users are continually looking for some type of information (content, product, or other) on your site because it seems logical that your site should have it, you may not even offer what they are even looking for.  Using these search analytic reports, you can drive content based on what folks are looking for when they visit your site.  This is very powerful information indeed!  You can cater and fine tune your content based upon what people are actually looking for!  Now that is personalized customer service.

I do find that out of the box reports that are exposed on the SharePoint 2007 Search Analytics to be a bit lacking ( but so are all of the SharePoint 2007 analytical reports, in my opinion). This is why I generally recommend to clients that they use not only the provided SharePoint 2007 Analytics and Reports but also use a third party package, such as Google Analytics (or Omniture, WebTrends, Visual Sciences, ClickTrack, etc.). Using the SharePoint 2007 Analytics gives you a great view of site activity, but much more importantly it includes the basic search analytics.

And now for what I’m sure will be great news: Google Analytics is finally including Search Analytics within their standard (free) package.  This is pulled directly from their news releaseā€¦ "you’ll be able to use Google Analytics to track site search activity. Simply edit any of your Google Analytics profiles to enable "Site Search" and you can find out what people search for on your site and where these searches lead. Located in the Content section of your Google Analytics reporting interface, Site Search reports show you the keywords and search refinement keywords people use, the pages from which people begin and end their searches."  -pulled from http://analytics.blogspot.com/2007/10/exciting-announcements-at-emetrics.html

I’m not yet sure what this actually means.  Will this addition allow Google to supersede all of the SharePoint 2007 usage analytics information?  Obviously, the SharePoint 2007 Audit Log Reports will still be valid, but will the Site Collection Usage Reports become unnecessary?    I think Google Analytics already does some of the analytical reporting (specifically presentation) better, but I’m going to reserve judgment until I actually see how the new Google Search Analytics performs…

By John Stover

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