Capturing Search Terms using Google Analytics

If you use Google Analytics, do you ever wonder what the “Search Terms” in the dashboard could mean? One library-centric (and probably highly contentious) use is to capture search terms used in online databases. In the broad sense, these databases are any search entity you may have such as journal finders, discovery layers, ILS catalogs, etc. If you can add Google Analytics code to the website and the search terms are retained in the url, you can almost definitely capture search terms. (Note: there are most definitely other ways to gather search terms, but I’m sticking to this version for now).

In your Google Analytics account, go to the Admin for the account/website you want to capture search terms for. Under View, click View Settings. This is where you can adjust the basic settings regarding what you want captured. You’ll need:

  • the website’s base url (most likely everything before a question mark)
  • your current timezone
  • parameters you want to exclude like session id (look at the url and/or any documention to determine what parameters you don’t want to be analyzing)
  • turn “Site search Tracking” on
  • the query parameter(s) (again investigate that url for your search term and enter the identifier used to signify what is the search term)

Don’t forget to click Save.

Enjoy watching the search terms roll in and perhaps you’ll discover the need to purchase items in a different subject area or the need make it easier to find certain resources.

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