Tracking repository searches from the inside

One of the many great features of Google Analytics is that it can shown the search terms that visitors to your site have used in search engines. This is a great tool for finding out what brings users to your repository.

Seven months ago Google launched a new feature in Google Analytics that also allows you to track the search terms used by visitors within your repository. Its very easy to set up, all you need to do is enable the feature and set the query parameter used by your repository. Follow these rules from the help pages:

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account.
  2. Click ‘Edit’ under Website Profiles for the profile you would like to enable Site Search for.
  3. Click ‘Edit’ from the ‘Main Website Profile Information’ section of the Profile Settings page.
  4. Select the ‘Do Track Site Search’ radio button in the Site Search section of the Edit Profile Information page.
  5. Enter your ‘Query Parameter’ in the field provided. Please enter only the word or words that designate an internal query parameter such as “term,search,query”. Sometimes the word is just a letter, such as “s” or “q”. You may provide up to five parameters, separated by a comma.
  6. Select whether or not you want Google Analytics to strip out the query parameter from your URL. Please note that this will only strip out the parameters you provided, and not any other parameters in the same URL. This has the same functionality as excluding URL Query Parameters in your Main Profile – if you strip the query parameters from your Site Search Profile, you don’t have to exclude them again from your Main Profile.

Google Analytics Site SearchFor DSpace you need to set the query parameter to query and with EPrints set it to simple.

To view the results, follow the links shown in the image (Content -> SIte Search) and explore the results. 

Here is some interesting statistics from our repository as an example of the extra stats it can provide:

  • 89% of visits did not make use of a a site search, whilst the remaining 11% did.
  • 39% of search users left the system having performed the search without going any further (e.g. looking at one of the items found by the search)
  • 22% of searchers resulted in search refinements being undertaken by the searcher
  • 50% of searches were performed from the repository homepage, the remaining from item, collection and community pages.
  • Following a search, the average visitor stayed on the site for a further 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  • 8% of searches were performed without the visitor having entered a search term.


2 thoughts on “Tracking repository searches from the inside

  1. Jenny Delasalle

    I’m going to try this for my repository… which is an E-Prints one. If I set the parameter as simple, as you instruct, presumably I only get it to track simple searches within my repository? So, I can put up to four other parameters in, to get G.A. to look at other types of search. Would I want to ask G.A. to monitor other search parameters, or would that just muddy my statistics?
    By the way, I didn’t know how to find the search parameters in E-prints, but I found out a simple way: if you do a search in your repository, you’ll get a URL for the results page that will contain the search parameters you have used. I think the bits you can use are the labels that appear between an ampersand and an equal sign. Wierd that the full text parameter appears to begin with an underscore…

  2. stuart Post author

    Is there another search option in EPrints? The repositories I’ve tried all use /search/simple regardless of if they are performing a simple or more advanced search.

    I’ve never tried monitoring other search parameters, but it might be an interesting thing to do. Assuming it works well, it might tell you what types of searches people are performing. For example are they just doing a free text search, or using filters to refine the search.

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