Read your readers’ minds

Monday, 29 August 2005

The Search box on your blog is a valuable source of information to you as a blogger. If you keep track of what your readers are searching for and what results they get, you’ll know what your visitors want to read. Then you can make sure they find it on your blog, and turn casual searchers into regular readers. In this article, I describe a few ways you can keep track of this essential information. I also introduce a WordPress plugin that does it automatically.

What do your readers want?

Think of the search box as a mini-survey, asking, “What would you like to read about on this blog?” If you keep track of what your readers are searching for, then you’ll get an excellent indication of what topics you should write about in order to satisfy your readers.

But keeping track of searches is only half the story.

You may have 50 people a day searching for “Canon digital camera” and finding 50 posts you’ve made on that topic. You don’t really need to do anything more about that. But what about the 20 people every day who search for “Photoshop” and don’t find anything? These people will simply go to another site in search of what they want. If you wrote a few posts on Photoshop, then you would keep these people reading, and maybe convert some of them into loyal readers. So it’s important to keep track of unsuccessful searches in particular.

Search Meter

So, how do you do this? There are several ways, depending on your blogging setup. If you use WordPress, there’s a plugin called Search Meter that automatically keeps track of what people have been searching for in your blog. It reports on search trends over the previous couple of days, and also during the last week and the last month. You can see which searches are becoming more popular, which allows you to write posts on popular topics as soon as the become popular.

Search Meter also tracks unsuccessful searches separately, so you’ll know what topics will capture readers who would otherwise head off to some inferior website. I created Search Meter to help me track this useful information, so I hope you’ll find it useful too. Please let me know what you think of it.

AdSense for Search

If you are using Google’s AdSense for Search, Google have their own reporting option for searches. Log in to your AdSense account and select the Top Queries report. It shows you the top 25 queries made during the time period you specify. This is very useful, though it has a few limitations:

  • It doesn’t show unique queries; only queries that receive two or more hits are displayed.
  • More importantly, it doesn’t show you whether the searches were successful. As I explained above, you need to know this in order to make best use of the search information.

Log file analysis

You can also get some information from your web server log files. Many web hosts provide log file analysis tools — check with your host. If all else fails, you can analyse your log files yourself. This requires access to the log files and a bit of technical expertise, so it’s not for everyone. In any case you still don’t get information about how successful searches are. Still ,just knowing what people are looking for is useful.

Give your readers what they want

There are so many different blogging platforms and services that it’s impossible to deal with all of them here. But most of them probably allow some way of finding out what your readers are searching for on your blog. I don’t know of any specific search reports available for the many other blogging platforms, but I would be interested to hear of any. Please leave a comment below if you know of any such tools.

Every time your readers search your blog, they are asking you, “What have you written on this topic?” By using Search Meter or the other techniques described above, you’ll be able to give them a useful answer — and keep them coming back for more.



You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a comment