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Search Analytics for Your Site: Conversations with Your Customers [Paperback]

Louis Rosenfeld
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

6 July 2011

Any organization that has a searchable web site or intranet is sitting on top of hugely valuable and usually under-exploited data: logs that capture what users are searching for, how often each query was searched, and how many results each query retrieved. Search queries are gold: they are real data that show us exactly what users are searching for in their own words. This book shows you how to use search analytics to carry on a conversation with your customers: listen to and understand their needs, and improve your content, navigation and search performance to meet those needs.


"Search is one of those mission-critical aspects of every web site that is sadly all to often forgotten until the damage has already been done. Lou, on the other hand, is one of those guys who understands search analytics and the opportunity associated with digging into the nuance of customer and search behaviors to mine for organizational gold. In Search Analytics for your Site, Lou lays out pretty much everything you need to know to mine for that gold and convert it into positive customer experience on your site."
Eric T. Peterson, Founder and Author, Web Analytics Demystified

"Clients have asked me countless times to pretty up their search results page design, as if this would distract users from realizing that they're getting lousy results. That's no longer necessary, thanks to Lou's book."
Karen McGrane, Managing Partner, Bond Art + Science

"At last a book that explains exactly how to get the best from search analytics so that users can actually find what they are looking for."
Martin White, Managing Director, Intranet Focus Ltd, and author of Making Search Work

"Analytics are the single most important tool you have to improve your search experience, and Lou Rosenfeld's world-class expertise in user-centered design is the place to start."
Pete Bell, co-founder, Endeca

"Louis Rosenfeld's Search Analytics for Your Site is a superlative work from the initial story to the final chapter on bridging web analytics and UX practice. I'm somewhat experienced with event logging methods, but Louis' book opened my mind to new ways to use analytics. Each chapter is packed with useful information, clear examples, and refreshing caveats that could only come from a master of search analytics. The book is written in an engaging style that makes you feel like Louis is with you on every page. I plan to apply some of the knowledge and techniques immediately. Great book!"
Chauncey Wilson, Senior Manager, User Research

"If we all agree that user feedback will improve any site's user experience, why aren't we spending more time with the actual words our audience uses when asking us for stuff? I can't imagine a more experienced guide than Lou Rosenfeld to help us put this amazing data to work."
Jeffrey Veen, Founder & CEO, Typekit

"Lou is the perfect author to tackle what is essentially unexplored territory in the UX community. With Search Analytics for your Site, he has uncovered a huge goldmine for UX professionals of all stripes: now we have the tools to finally, finally fix our website and intranet search experiences. This is one of those rare books that makes me pound the table with my fist and yell, 'Yes! Exactly! Awesome!' while I'm reading it."
Kristina Halvorson, CEO, Brain Traffic, and author, Content Strategy for the Web

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rosenfeld Media, LLC; 1st edition (6 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933820209
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933820200
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 618,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Lou Rosenfeld wears two hats.

As an information architecture consultant, he helps Fortune 500s and other large, highly political organizations make their messy information easier to find. His past clients include PayPal, Caterpillar, Ford, The Centers for Disease Control, SIGGRAPH, AT&T, and Borders. With Peter Morville, Lou is co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (O'Reilly & Associates; 3rd edition, 2006) regarded as the bible of information architecture, and has been a regular contributor to Web Review, Internet World, and CIO magazines. He is co-founder of the Information Architecture Institute and UXnet, the User Experience Network. Lou blogs at

As a publisher, Lou founded Rosenfeld Media, so that there would be at least one publishing house dedicated to serving the needs of the growing community of user experience practitioners. In its short life, the company has published such seminal titles as Luke Wroblewski's Web Form Design and Storytelling for User Experience by Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks. Lou's book is the eighth title that Rosenfeld Media has published, and about a dozen more should be available by 2013.

Lou holds a Masters in Information and Library Studies and a B.A. in History, both from the University of Michigan.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am part way through reading this book, I say part way as each time I get to something good, I try it out!

Even doing the very basics that are recommended in the book have incredible results.

In just the past few days, I have been able make improvements to the top 20% of the searches performed on our new website to date. Taking the statistics pointed out in the book, this has improved user experience by 8%! Not bad for a bit of analysis and tweaking website content and metadata.

The book goes into a lot of detail on improving on site search results. So if you already have these available and haven't a clue what to make of them...then you have found your bible! No more decisions based on who shouts loudest, hunches or a finger in the air! You know....real smart ways of building sites and site navigation.

I have loads more to do as result of what I have read so far - I know that. But this is a brilliant start. I'll be building this into my plans for 2012 as I fully appeciate you cannot just do this one day and forget about it for 6 months!

Onwards and upwards.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The guidebook on ensuring site search satisfaction 3 Aug 2011
By Martin White - Published on
This book has been a long time in the writing but the end result is well worth the wait. Lou Rosenfeld, (co-author with Peter Morville of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web) has written a stunning book on how to optimise web sites and intranets through the careful use of analytics. There have been many books on search engine optimisation but that is a different subject!

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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have a website? Then get this book! 6 July 2011
By C. Tyllick - Published on
Okay, I'm halfway through Search Analytics for Your Site: Conversations with Your Customers (SAYS), and it's time to stop.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, Insightful, and Accessible 16 Sep 2013
By Daniel - Published on
I was introduced to Rosenfeld Media by a co-worker. I've become increasingly involved in UX/UI design, but don't have a tonne of formal training in it.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, useful, practical and expert. 28 Feb 2013
By Jeffrey Hatton - Published on
This book delivers the goods. Just enough theory to make sure you understand the concepts. Then, techniques to address the problems you might be facing (whether you know it or not). And with lots of real world examples to drive the points home.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone who runs a web site - a manager, a technician - anyone. But it's most useful for the people who want to improve their sites. Learn how to build a toolset for measuring, diagnosing and improving search, navigation and metadata on your site.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone working on the web 7 Sep 2012
By Lynne - Published on
From my review posted on UXMagazine ([...]):

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.
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