How important is search?


Very important! If you have noticed, I wrote up a small heat map to be displayed in the sidebar and on the main search page of this blog. The search and data collection process is a slightly intelligent and tries to match up search terms and group them by usage. It then chooses all searches performed within the past 24 hours and displays them in a heatmap sorted by propensity of the search phrase. The 24 hour time period keeps the search phases in the heatmap turned over regularly and retains the interest of returning visitors.

Why did I do this? I put it together because I believe that there is a lot of power (and thus clicks, pageviews, eyeballs) in searches. I had noticed the Eurekster Swiki on TechCrunch and was impressed by the power of the system. I tried to emulate it on with little success. To be fair, we have nowhere near the numbers of TechCrunch (TechCrunch has approximately fifteen to twenty times the traffic of this blog) and the Eurekster sWiki for this blog did not catch on. I still wanted to know what people were searching for so I knew what my readers are looking to find. So to make a long story short, I added some code to my customized search engine to capture the search data and then spit it out in a heat map format that is easy visualize. I like the results that came out of this little test and apparently so do you.

Here are some statistics on running the heatmap for a 48 hour period following the introduction. Now bear in mind that I have no data on searches performed from before I put in the heat maps except for daily traffic data to the search page:

  • Approximately 2000 searches were performed
  • This resulted in 3500 pageviews
  • There were a few less than 2400 exits from these 3500 pages (this is an approximation from Google Analytics by using bounce rates, I have no empirical proof of this)
  • The search page was often in the top 20 requested pages on this blog during those 24 hours
  • The search pages’ traffic is a little more than half the organic referrals from search engines to the WordPress Templates category of this blog.

I would like to release this code as a plugin but I really cannot do so in its current form. It is custom hacked for this blog and makes use of its peculiar data structures. I am trying to come up with a search heat map plugin that works in a default WordPress install but that will take a little time to complete. In conclusion, there is a lot of power in searches. A useful search tool coupled with a way to organize and understand search patterns can really add to the user experience and can really affect traffic numbers. So, what are you waiting for? Click on one of the popular seach terms on the right and check it out!

PS: What do you think? Also, what do you think I should call it?




  1. Arpit Jacob (8 comments.) says:

    Interesting I had Installed CrazyEgg on my blog a month back and I found that people used the search box a lot more than I had imagined. I am sure this would become a very popular plugin

  2. Pi (2 comments.) says:

    An interesting and useful plugin if ever there was one, which enhances google analytics in that visitors to the weblog can see what is of interest rather than just the admin. Aren’t these things called ‘clouds’ elsewhere? I think I saw the term on Technorati sometime ago, in which case Hot Clouds might fit, or something which reflects the 24 / 48 hour time span.

  3. Jean-Paul Horn (3 comments.) says:

    Very interesting indeed. Are these the internal search terms (from the search box) or keywords from the SERPS? I would love something like a landing page for people coming from Google that says: “Oh, it seems you searched for “”, these are our most relevant posts.

  4. Mark Ghosh (386 comments.) says:

    Jean-Paul: These are internal search terms.

  5. John P. (2 comments.) says:

    I’m running CrazyEgg right now on a blog and the search box is getting almost no use.

  6. DotSauce Domain Magazine (1 comments.) says:

    Wow, I removed my search form thinking nobody used it… quite a mistake that was. Thanks for the info.

  7. Arpit Jacob (8 comments.) says:

    @john. I guess it depends on your theme I have a very visible and large searchbox on the side bar. :D by the way your blog’s on they dont allow third party scripts :D

  8. Jim Duncan (1 comments.) says:

    This would be a great plugin for my blog. Search gives some of the best insight into what readers are looking for, and could help me target my writing to answer those questions.

  9. Rasmus (10 comments.) says:

    As a bit of a stats freak, I LOVE this idea!

    As a professional developer working on maintaining and developing the search function on a large site, I can really see the potential in this functionality.

    I’m very much looking forward to the release of this plug-in.

  10. N. Johnson (1 comments.) says:

    I’m pretty sure nobody uses the search function on my blog; that’s easy to say because I only have 2 regular readers. But this would make a great WordPress plugin, and I can’t wait until (if?) it’s released.

  11. John P. (2 comments.) says:

    @arpit….I usually link to my personal blog rather than the self hosted blog I run.

  12. Chris (2 comments.) says:

    Combined with WP-Zeitgeist and it could get really interesting.

    That one tracks what searches brought people TO the blog.

  13. gustav s (1 comments.) says:

    I do agree, searching is very important, for example on my self development blog which slowly keeps growing makes more than sense to look at pages using searches and also more if they will make me some money using adsense

  14. Dave Forde (1 comments.) says:

    This would be a great plugin, and you are totally right about the “power of searches.”

  15. Monika (40 comments.) says:

    if it is a *daily news* blog I don’t use search.
    But here I use it.

    if search is absolut necessary for a blog or a website is direct proportional to the topic of this blog or website.

    and sometimes I would like to use the search but I can’t find the form – “simple search” is a wonderful plugin


  16. brVince (6 comments.) says:

    I do agree with search bar being displayed in the blog. How much more if it is google adsense generated search bar? it speaks about revenue…


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