Google Site Search Configuration

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What’s The Deal With These Keywords?

While working through Google Analytics tasks for a client, a new problem was unearthed. The client’s Organic Search Traffic report was showing quite a bit of traffic from generic, one-word search terms. It seemed improbable that the client was ranking so high in organic search for those words. A quick check of the Google SERPs confirmed this. So, how was the client receiving organic traffic for words such as library, bookstore, and calendar? Because this client is in the world of higher education, we could intuitively conclude that the issue had to do with Site Search.

I know what you’re thinking. Site Search phrases are listed in a different Analytics report. However, this client’s Analytics was registering the keywords, and subsequent session data, in the Organic Traffic Report instead. When testing the Site Search, we realized there was a configuration issue.

What’s Causing It?

When a user performs a site search, that user is typically brought to a results page which is also under the site’s domain. In this client’s case, the site search results page is hosted on The query string was still being passed from the search results page to the client site (as opposed to regular Google searches that do not pass the query string).

Upon clicking on one of the site search results, the user is brought back to the client’s website. So, from the perspective of Google Analytics, there are two visits from two sources by one visitor. The first visit was through the user’s original source (direct, organic, referral, paid search, email, or another source). The second visit was counted as being an organic visit, because the user was on a search results page on and clicked a link to return to the site.

Why Does It Matter?

The big issue here is that many important data metrics are incorrectly represented. Analytics inflates the number of overall visits, as well as the number of organic visits. Most importantly, if the user performs an action after the site search, such as submitting a web form or downloading an admissions application, the client is not able to attribute that goal conversion to the original traffic source. Thus, goal conversions for Organic traffic will always be inflated.

How Should Site Search Be Configured?

1) When configuring your Google site search account, select “Two page” as the layout in the “Look and feel” configurations.

2) Grab the code generated from selecting “Two page” and use that code to build the search box in your website template(s). Also grab the code needed for the search results page, and integrate that code into a new page on your domain for the search results.

3) Make sure the search box code is configured to point to your newly created search results page.

4) Test and validate that the setup is working properly.

Once this is done, your Google Analytics view should be populating the Site Search reports with new data, and the Organic reports should not be including site search keywords.

Be sure to add an annotation in Google Analytics so that your team can remember when the change went into effect. This will help explain variances in Date Range Comparison reports.

Need help configuring site search reporting in Google Analytics? This post can help you.