Search Analytics for Your Site (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. Juli 2011
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Section 1 introduces the basic principles of site analytics, Section 2 covers how to analyse the data, and Section 3 is about how to use the analysis to build better sites. In all there are eleven chapters. Section 2 is the heart of the book, with chapters covering pattern analysis, failure analysis, session analysis, audience analysis and finally goal-based analysis. One of my favourites is Practical Tips for Improving Content, as so often a poor user experience is not related to a design flaw but content that the site visitor is not able to either understand or trust. Section 4, entitled Coda, just has a single chapter on bridging web analytics and user experience. Although many of the examples are from web sites the basic principles are just as relevant to intranets.
The writing style is immensely readable and the design and production of the book are flawless. The book is illustrated with a number of case studies, and at the end of each chapter is a short but carefully written summary. As with all Rosenfeld Media books the book has an associated web site.
What I missed in this book is any guidance on the make-up of a search analytics team. Log analysis needs to be carried out by people with the right skill sets, and most probably they are information professionals with a library or information science background. An understanding of the business, especially with an intranet, is also very important. It would have been helpful to have a section that a site manager could place in front of their manager to make the business case for making search analytics even just part of someone's daily work.
Overall this book is a sort of 21st Century Rosetta Stone, as it enables the cryptic language of search logs to be decoded into something that gives invaluable insights into the meaning of the numbers. It is a book that no web site or intranet site owner should be without if they really want to get the best from their organisation's investment in web/intranet technology and content. Sadly the evidence from many surveys is that search satisfaction is decreasing, probably because the extent to which organisations invest in a search support team is minimal. Hopefully this book, which exudes Lou's commitment and enthusiasm for the cause, may make a difference.
Why? Not because it isn't helpful. On the contrary, it's exactly the book I need -- in fact, the book my whole team needs -- right now.
Not because it's hard to read. Lou Rosenfeld writes clearly and the book is formatted to be highly readable. I've almost come to take those features for granted in books from Rosenfeld Media, but it's always a pleasure to find both plain language and a format that is considerate to the reader in books that I have to read for work.
Not because I already know all this stuff. I can't wait to get to Chapters 5 through 10 and all they can tell me about making the best use of Google Analytics. The people who use our website will appreciate it deeply if I do.
If you've looked at the table of contents, you might notice that I didn't say anything about reading Chapter 11. That's because, cued by the most helpful section, "How to Use This Book," which immediately follows the dedication, I skipped ahead and read Chapter 11 first. The advice given there is tailored to your own situation. So, because your needs and background are not the same as mine, you might follow a different approach.
In a nutshell, my needs are that we're trying to get support for using Google Analytics to drive targeted usability testing on our website. More on that later. But the point is that I need to learn as much about Google Analytics and the tools it will give us for improving our website so my boss can make the pitch to folks higher on the management chain.
Let me make that point clear: We don't yet have Google Analytics working on our site. We're trying to get permission to do so. I started reading SAYS for background information.
I've stopped because, after a brief and highly effective introduction to the basics of site search analytics, Lou has told me in Chapters 2 through 4 how to use information we already have -- the data in our website's search logs. (Every website has search logs. I've seen periodic reports from ours, but I could never make sense of how the data were presented. Maybe you're in the same boat.)
It turns out that a lot of the information I had been told we couldn't get is right there in our search logs, waiting to be coaxed to the surface. So that, plus a meeting with my team, is my task for the day.
Maybe you're in the same boat -- you either can't get one of the fancier analytics packages added to your site, or you can't get it done right now. Even so, this book will be useful to you.
Maybe, unlike me, you still run from any math that is more complicated than single-column addition. This book gives you links to spreadsheets that do all the math for you. It also walks you through examples of using the spreadsheets to mine the data. So if you've never even used Excel, never fear. All you have to do is follow the instructions to import data from your search logs and then follow the tips about what to look for.
Maybe you would like more help as you work this out. Besides the fact that this book itself is an easy-to-use desk reference, Rosenfeld has included a number of sidebars by other site-search analytics experts. Each sidebar has two purposes: first, to introduce a useful technique or helpful perspective; second, through a link to the respective expert's blog or website, to introduce the reader to an entire online community they can draw on to continue improving their SSA skills. Each sidebar does both well.
Looking ahead to the parts I haven't read, I see the same features there. If I get asked about a topic covered there, I can use the table of contents to quickly find the section that will answer that question. Readable as Rosenfeld's writing is, I am confident I will have the correct answer quickly.
As you'll learn if you read this book, SSA is not a one-time thing. It's a process, and it works best if you devote at least a few minutes a week to doing it well. That means not to read the standard reports your IT group probably issues, but to use the techniques described in this book to find informative patterns in the data itself.
So, when I am done, I will keep this modest volume at my (virtual) side, where I can quickly review it whenever a chance to analyze our site-visit statistics arises. If you are at all involved in keeping your website usable, you should do the same.
When I first started reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick it read, as well as how easy to understand it was. Louis Rosenfeld (author) strives to make all of the concepts in the book as easy to understand as possible. If there is technical jargon that needs to be used, he will try to explain it to you in "layman's" terms as to not scare you away.
It's also really incremental, making it easy to see the process and how you could apply it when analyzing your site search analytics (SSA).
For an individual who designs and works on websites for a living, Louis really put a lot of thought and care into this book, as well as all the other Rosenfeld Media books from a usability standpoint. They're easy to understand, well formatted, and extremely high quality. Not to mention they are an absolute treasure trove of information.
If you are interested in learning about SSA, this is definitely a great book to start with. It teaches you the basics, as well as gets you fired up about it. And if SSA isn't all you want to learn, check out the rest of the Rosenfeld Media library. So good.
It's taken a while to arrive, but Search Analytics for Your Site was definitely worth the wait. Rosenfeld is an important voice in the information architecture and UX community, considered by many to be a pioneer in the information architecture space after writing the seminal "Polar Bear Book," Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, with Peter Morville in 2002. While some may brush off Search Analytics for Your Site as just another web analytics how-to guide, it may actually be one of the most important books to hit our community since the "Polar Bear Book." Search Analytics for Your Site is a must-read for anyone involved with design, content strategy, or even marketing on the Web.
Site Search Analytics
Site search analytics (SSA) involves mining user search query data to generate useful and actionable insights. Different than search engine optimization (SEO), SSA looks not at what users are typing into external search engines (e.g., Google) to find your site, but rather what they are actually looking for when they arrive on your site. As Rosenfeld states in the first chapter of Search Analytics for Your Site, "If people searching the Web are essentially the leads you want to attract, people searching your site are the customers you hope to retain... site search data is semantically rich in a way that no other analytics data comes close to." As renowned web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik points out in his excellent foreword, when people search they "become astonishingly precise about why they are there."
Why Search Analytics for Your Site Is Important
This isn't just another book of web analytics tips and tricks--it's more a call to action. Search Analytics for Your Site not only offers very approachable means of employing search query data in your day-to-day practices, but also emphasizes the importance of breaking down internal silos and disparate departments to create a single, powerful "user research brain" within your organization. This "brain"--this shared, organization-wide understanding of user wants and needs--is key to good user experience.
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the UX community about designing for "cross channel" experiences, but Rosenfeld has been one of the most outspoken proponents of this concept for some time. In Search Analytics for Your Site, he delves into the trickier, more delicate issues of the politics surrounding ownership of practice and data. Rosenfeld offers solid advice on how to navigate within your organization and build alliances you will likely need, not only to access your search query data, but also to interpret and apply it.
The book acknowledges that understanding user behavior should be the domain of the business or organization as a whole, and provides useful, practical advice on how to achieve this focus. Entire sections and chapters of the book discuss how to collaborate across departments and across siloes within your organization. The book also provides excellent examples of how SSA data can benefit each of the various internal stakeholder groups that help to shape a user's experience as a whole.
What the Book Covers
Search Analytics for Your Site illustrates different techniques for analyzing SSA data, with each chapter building incrementally from simple applications of SSA to more complex, top-down ones. The early chapters provide useful guidance on pattern, failure, and session-based analysis, while later ones offer more technically heavy advice on issues such as monitoring, tweaking, and improving performance of internal search applications and results relevancy.
Rosenfeld does an excellent job of addressing the discomfort many designers feel when confronted with data analysis, and offers guidance on how to avoid "analysis paralysis"--becoming overwhelmed by the volume of available data. He encourages newcomers to start small, as even just a tiny slice of available search query data (as little as the top 25 most queried keywords or phrases) is likely to account for the bulk of a site's search queries. He encourages readers to feel free to "play" with available data, and to look at it not as a replacement for qualitative analysis but more as a jumping-off point for deeper investigations.
Keeping with the theme of building alliances, shared goals, and working cross-departmentally, Search Analytics for Your Site demonstrates the various ways SSA data analysis is beneficial across an organization. Are users consistently submitting a high ratio of single-word queries? Rosenfeld suggests designers may want to address or test the length of the search text field. And having insight into the actual vocabulary users apply when searching a site can prove invaluable to information architects or anyone concerned with navigation design.
For UX practitioners, SSA can reveal interesting uses of data in the creation of traditional UX deliverables--for example, a round of session analysis can reveal a wealth of user stories helpful in the development of personas. Rosenfeld also points out how SSA can provide useful data for marketing departments: "Today's narrow local search terms may be good predictors of tomorrow's valuable keywords," providing marketers great insight on useful search terms they might consider bidding on."
With chapters on audience segmentation and improvement of content using SSA data, Search Analytics for Your Site will likely also end up being snatched off your desk by the content strategists within your organization.
What the Book Does Well
Like all Rosenfeld Media books, Search Analytics for Your Site is well written, concise, and easy to read. It's absorbing on first pass, and has lasting value as a handy reference manual. This is key, as Rosenfeld emphasizes the need for SSA to become an ongoing part of your day-to-day practice. He encourages readers to approach it more as "5% of your time" project than a "one-off" project. Conducting ongoing analysis is a means of strengthening your SSA muscles. Search Analytics for Your Site offers many real, relatable case studies, and is packed with rich sidebars of information by other leading practitioners of SSA, such as Marko Hurst. These include hands-on tips and links to a generous amount of supplemental resources and materials such as downloadable spreadsheets preformatted to help get you started.
Search Analytics for Your Site provides real-world strategies for quick wins, and points out that while these may amount to small gains at first, every incremental 3 or 5% improvement adds up. Readers will find many easy, actionable applications in just the first three chapters of the book. These are helpful in demonstrating the value of SSA to wary executives, and hopefully in providing the support necessary to delve into more involved, complex applications of data as time goes on.
While this book provides an excellent, accessible entry point for readers new to the concept of analytics, it will also satisfy more experienced practitioners and those already familiar with site search and web analytics.
What Could Be Improved
Since Rosenfeld delves into more complex applications of SSA (including log file analysis and performance optimization of enterprise search applications), some smaller business and site owners may find sections of the book slightly beyond their reach. However, there is more than enough lower-level and Google Analytics-based techniques and data analysis to make the book a worthwhile read.
While the information, resources and techniques contained in the sidebar sections of each chapter are valuable, readers might elect to skip over these on their first read-through. Though extremely useful when you're in hands-on mode, I sometimes found them to be distracting and somewhat overwhelming.
Should You Read This Book?
Absolutely! As someone who came into UX and interaction design by way of a marketing and web analytics background, I have spent considerable time and energy convincing others of the value of web analytics and quantitative data. With Search Analytics for Your Site, Lou Rosenfeld easily demonstrates how applying this data will not only vastly improve your users' experiences, but also how it can help you to build alliances within your organization and pull off the quick wins your executives want to see.
John Ferrara, an information architect who had helped select the new search platform, blew the whistle, asking the project to be delayed so that relevancy could be improved before the search engine went live. Unfortunately, he failed to make a convincing case to his IT colleagues. Technically, the new platform was running just fine. Besides, the search vendor undoubtedly new more about this kind of stuff than the internal guys.
But not to be deterred, John Ferrara turned to the search logs. He aggregated the most popular search queries from the old platform and, going down the list one by one, measured two metrics for each: relevancy and precision. To measure relevancy, John typed in the query ("company address", for instance), and checked to see how far down the best match appeared from position #1. To measure precision, on the other hand, John looked at the top five results for a given query and marked each as either relevant, nearly relevant, misplaced, or irrelevant. The output from each of those exercises is shown below.
By turning to the data, John was able to convince his colleagues that there was, indeed, a problem. With hands on deck, the team was fortunately able to tune the new search platform before it went live, bringing relevancy and precision up to parity with the old system. Thanks to search analytics, John had saved the team from what could have been a serous blunder.
Lou Rosenfeld opens with this relatable story in his latest book Search Analytics for Your Site: Conversations with Your Customers. The book is a very practical guide on how to exploit query logs to improve your company's search experience. Lou outlines a collection of simple but potent techniques for analyzing search logs, spotting insightful patterns, and putting those insights to use.
As mentioned in the Vanguard story, Lou demonstrates the value of understanding users' most common queries. But he also goes much further. From studying failure situations (which queries lead to zero results), to session data (who searched what when), audience segmentation, and goal-based analysis (using key performance indicators), Search Analytics presents a sweeping collection of techniques for turning search logs into an organizational goldmine.
And if those techniques weren't practical enough already, Lou ends the book with a comprehensive list of tips for using search data to improve your website's search, content, navigation, and metadata.
Search Analytics is well-written, to the point, and does what it says on the tin. The author is authoritative -- he wrote Information Architecture for the World Wide along with Peter Morville -- as well as experienced, having consulted for companies such as PayPal, Caterpillar, Ford, and others. I was able to put into practice techniques I learned within days of first picking up the book. If you in anyway share responsibility for search in your organization, this book is well worth your time. I highly recommend it.