Insights from Search Term Categorisation
29/03/2011 | Written by | Categories: Analysis and Insight

In my previous post on Search Term Categorisation in Google Analytics, I described how to set this up using profile filters and why it is an improvement on what other people are recommending.  WooThemes was used as an example (with their permission) to illustrate the exact filters required to set up relevant search term categories for their Organic Search.

The key focus for this post is on how to use search term categorisation to improve business performance.  I will also include some tips on setting it up and make a request to Google to include functionality to standardise this in a future release of Google Analytics.


In terms of reporting, this approach works brilliantly.  It is easy to run reports now on the performance for WooThemes on areas including

  • the different search term categories
  • the different number of keywords within a search term
  • breaking down the number of keywords for a particular search term category
  • the keywords within one of these segments

Search Categorisation Reports - Category

Search Categorisation Reports - Keyword

Search Categorisation Reports - Keyword by Category

But these are just reports, the purpose of web analytics is to use data to improve website and business performance.  So how does setting up search term categories within Google Analytics provide you with insights which lead to actionable recommendations?  Well that’s where the creativity of a web analyst comes into it but I have had a couple of ideas.

A visitor using a search term from the Theme Terms category clearly has already heard about WooThemes and this theme.  They should land on the Theme details page for that theme and ideally either check out the demo for the theme or click through to purchase it.  While there is a lot of information on this page, it shouldn’t have a high bounce rate if it is working properly.  Two questions that WooThemes could be looking to answer for search terms within this category are:

  • Question: is the Theme details page the primary landing page for these search terms?
  • Action: work on SEO for themes where this is not the case to ensure they rate higher than the theme release blog post or theme support pages
  • Desired Result: a higher proportion of entries from Theme search terms land on Theme details pages
  • Question: is the Bounce Rate excessively above average for visits that enter on the Theme details page?
  • Action: rewrite the introductory page copy for this theme to sell the theme better
  • Desired Result: a reduction in the bounce rate

I think there are so many things that can be done with this sort of data available.  Another obvious use is to use search term categories to optimise your paid search spend as having search terms grouped in this manner may expose ROI patterns.  If anyone has any suggestions on possible uses of search term categories, please leave in the comments section.

Tips and Tricks

This approach is new to me too so I am still learning how best to set it up.  However there are a few lessons that I have already learnt.

Use your variables wisely

While there are five campaign parameters, Keyword is required for the search term and there appears to be a bug preventing data from being written into Ad Content.  This only leaves three campaign parameters available to be used: Medium, Source and Name.  As such, you need to decide what information is the most useful to you for making business decisions.

An option is to concatenate two or more pieces of information into a single campaign variable e.g. Organic_Google.  Alternatively, multiple profiles can be set up with different combinations of search marketing information.

Be creative with setting up your profile filters

After using your first filter to change all instances of the selected campaign parameter to the default search term category, you have options for remaining filters.  They can be based off the search term medium (e.g. cpc|organic), the default category (e.g. Name = generic terms) or a previous category (e.g. Name = unbranded product terms).  Like anything else, the more you use regular expressions, the better you will get with them.  But I think it will usually be the case that the OR character | is the best way to group terms within a single category e.g. canvas|sealight|simplicity

Custom Reports

For obvious reasons, there are no reports set up specifically for search term categories.  The smart thing to do then is to create some Custom Reports to allow you to easily get the information you need.  The dimensions might be Medium (drill through on cpc or organic), Campaign (drill through on the search term category) and Keyword.  Relevant metrics could be entrances, bounces, conversion rate.

Watch out for…

It appears changing the medium for paid search terms breaks the link to all of the AdWords data.  I want to be able compare acronyms like CTR, CPC & ROI across search term categories so will investigate this and will provide more information when I have it.

Image of the word Please

Request for Google

So I think this is incredibly valuable way of looking at your data and would like it to be standard within Google Analytics.  There are two things Google would need to do, add three new variables that are integrated with the right elements of Google Analytics and create some new functionality to make it easy to set up search term categorisations.

The three new variables would be linked to all traffic that has the keyword variable populated.  They are:

  • Search term category
  • Search term sub-category ( if requesting things, may as well go the whole way)
  • Number of keywords

The variable for the number of keywords would be populated automatically.  You would need to select one setting to indicate at what level all remaining numbers of keywords are grouped e.g. 3+, 4+, 5+.  This setting would be in the Profile configuration similar to ecommerce site or internal search.

New functionality could easily be created to set-up search term categories built off the same technology as profile filters but a stripped down version.  Several options are predetermined as it would only apply to search traffic and the Output Field would always be Search Term Category.  A checkbox at the top would handle the default value for this field for all search terms.

I thought I would request a Search Term Sub-Category while I was making these requests.  When setting up the categories, you could click through to a level deeper.  The first Input Field is thus automatically the Search Term Category that was selected.

This new functionality all seems quite straight forward – in the mind of an analyst who doesn’t have to do the technical work.  So how about it Google, would saying please help?  I would be happy to sit down with someone and describe exactly how I see this working.  And you know that it would benefit you as well, additional insights into search term performance will lead to higher budgets for targeted Paid Search which equals more spend on AdWords…

2 responses to “Insights from Search Term Categorisation”

  1. I loved your previous post on the subject. Thanks for sharing these additional ideas to put it all to use.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Martijn, always nice to know my posts are appreciated.

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