Clicks, visits and page views are nice to know but it’s the intent of the visitor behind this activity that is the holy grail of website research. What do they really want to know? What problems are they trying to solve? And what brought them here in the first place?

A simple website survey used to be the only way for you to piece together this information. But now there’s another way. Internal site search gives your visitors one more way to find your content. And, by capturing what they type where and the actions that follow, you are one step closer to understanding their intent. Google Analytics allows all this search data to be presented through a new suite of reports.

‘More reports – yippee’ I hear you say! As if there weren’t enough in the first place. Well these ones take their place in the handy pile. But don’t let me convince you on this fact – first read through these three scenarios and then draw your own conclusions.

Scene One – An AdWords Keyword Mystery

It all starts with your prospect typing in a keyword in Google that fires up your AdWords ad. The copy is so enticing that they take the chance and click away. Their look of hope is transformed into a worried scowl as the webpage in front of them is NOT what they expected.

But, fortunately, rather than click that back button they notice a search box on the top right-hand side of the page. (Amazon places theirs in that position so why buck the million dollar online research trend?) OK, I’ll give the site one more chance, they think, and use this search option to find what I’m really looking for. Note: the keyword they type into your site search is not the same as the one they used with Google.

Lucky for you they find the ideal page in the first page of your internal site search results. On viewing this, their scowl turns back to hope, then interest and finally contentment as they purchase the product/service/green widget – you get the picture.

Scene Two – Persistence Pays Off

Just imagine that last week there were 250 prospects that came to your website who were not involved in its design and as such found your navigation a pain to use.

Others had told them that you offered what they wanted but could they find it?! Anyway, a sizable number of this group were motivated souls who were not going to let something as basic as a website defeat them. And it was with a gleam in their eyes that they noticed the same search box that the AdWords visitors had spied. Into this they entered what they wanted and, for some, up came the page that was the proverbial needle in the web page haystack. Others were less fortunate – but these were nothing if not persistent people, so a second search did the trick and there it was in front of them.

Still not convinced that this is all worth it? OK here’s my last scenario.

Final Scene – The Lost Lotto Ticket

Everyone has a list of ‘golden prospects’. These are the hyper-consumers – the groups of people that, if they started buying, would melt away all your business problems into one continuous Big Wednesday experience.

Well, what if a few of these prospects use Google to search for what you offer. But this time it is a listing in the middle part of the search results (the organic area) that catches their Ray Ban-framed eyes. A quick click and they have arrived. Oh no – the page in front of them is not what was expected. Luckily, these are search savvy people so they use your internal search option (big ups for having it there to not waste their time) – but this time they use a term never entered before (this being one of the many reasons why you are having difficulty attracting them) and nothing of interest comes up. Faster than you can say ‘gone in a flash’, they are, leaving you to remain an Aston Martin dreamer forever.

The fact that all three of these scenarios had visitors using the internal search option is nothing too amazing. If you make it available, people will use it. The key point though is that all three scenarios would have been shown in the reports presented once it was correctly integrated with Google Analytics.

For the AdWords visitor, you would have seen the keyword that originally brought them to your site and the subsequent internal search term they used when hunting through your content. You may have paid Google for the term ’laptop computer’ but they could have used ’laptop computer repairs’ once on your site.

The confused but persistent visitors? You would have seen the page they started searching on, the term that they began with, and any subsequent terms that helped them refine their results.

And finally, the dream prospects. Like the AdWords group, you would see the organic search result that delivered them to your site, then the internal search term they used, and the sorry news that they left the site immediately after seeing the results you had to offer.

No doubt your website will be able to add to this list of scenarios but these three should pique your interest enough to want to learn more.

It’s not a big task to get site search working – Google even has its own tool you can use for a small annual fee. Integrating this into Google Analytics also comes with a similar low level of complexity. And, once both are working together, you are one step closer to answering those questions of intent that we all would love to be party to.