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Does In-Site Search Kill Your SEO Metrics?

     
1:41 am on Jun 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have managed tons of sites in a niche. I noticed on a few of the sites that did not offer an in-site search area had much hirer page views per visit and time on site. In most case 40% more on both metrics.

I have a site that I have been running for just under a year it is quickly become the authority site in the niche. Tons of users have been craving an in-site search function. I obliged and both the page views per visit and time on site dropped by 35% overnight.

Is that going to kill my ranking; even though I have very happy users?
2:40 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Well, that would be disturbing if it did. I'm not convinced that time on site or pages per visit are used in any meaningful way by Google. The only way for them to get this data would be either via Chrome, or by snooping on your analytics. Both are things they've stated they don't do (iirc), so I wouldn't count on it.

The next metric is bounce rate, which may or may not be used. In my own experience so far, improving bounce rate has had NO impact on rankings for me.

I would suggest that what's most likely is that Google has some logic more like this:

if
user clicked result 1) then came back and clicked result 2) and didn't continue clicking results
then
downvote for result 1), upvote for result 2)

This makes instinctual sense, but I'm sure Google has a slightly less basic implementation of it than that to guard against abuse.

In your case, implementing site search should positively affect this metric so I would't think it would hurt your rankings.
5:16 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I hate sites that don't have their own search.

Fewer pages per visit and less time on site doesn't necessarily mean your site has lost quality, as rango says, it could mean your users are getting to what they want faster and easier.

I had a client who freaked out when the pageviews and the time on site dropped radically after a redesign (even though sales were UP) until I reminded him that we went from (possible) seven page checkout process to a one page checkout process. That's a GOOD thing.
5:31 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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What if Google sends you a visitor looking for 'widget,' and the visitor - on your landing page - searches for 'widgets' using your in-site search... If Google has the ability to detect it, it might be taken as a negative signal.
5:40 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Oh I agree Netmeg. If your site is decent and they can easily find what they are looking for then they shouldn't have to be on the site very long. However, the question is, does Google see it that way? And if they can't find you using Google then you don't get the opportunity to sell to the Google user. Actually it might make sense. If you would block the search on a website for Google the user would use the Google search more. Thus allowing Google to make more off Adwords. Not the best user experience but best for Google. Would there be a way to determine if the user was coming from a Google search and then have the internal search areas to not show on the page?
6:47 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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All I can speak to is my own experience; I have event sites, and I have site search, and I even put featured boxes on the home page for the most popular events, and for some sites I've had very very high bounce rates for over ten years; people come to the site, find what they want on the home page and then leave, and I've had an extremely good run in the SERPs.
7:55 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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> I hate sites that don't have their own search.

WebmasterWorld?
9:28 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It has a search.
9:56 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The only possible way of negatively effecting a site's ranking in Google by adding site search is if the search results have become indexable and Google picked up a lot (in theory it could be millions) of URLs, each of them a search result for a different keyword. I've had that happened to me before. There's a simple [but by no means quick] fix: no-index all search pages. Be sure to still have them allowed in robots.txt else they won't be able to read the no-index meta tag.
10:00 pm on June 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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High PPV is not necessarily a good thing. On a blog / news / informational site it probably is. But on other sites (ecom, maps), your goal should be getting people in and out as quickly as possible. Fewer pages can be a success signal.
5:00 am on June 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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> It has a search.

Wow. Has that always been there? I somehow remember there NOT being a search for WebmasterWorld and so I've always used Google to find posts.
10:35 am on June 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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If you are worried that Google will 'see' that you have fewer pages per visit then don't use Google Analytics and they will never know (then you dont have to worry about whether or not GA terms say they will use the data or not)
Seriously - your description sounds like you are worried about going from 7 PV to 5 or something. If they aren't bouncing back to the google search (which is NOT what you are describing) then Google will never know.
1:41 pm on June 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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don't use Google Analytics and they will never know (then you dont have to worry about whether or not GA terms say they will use the data or not)



I have adsense on that site and it's a solid revenue producer. So I'm worried they are getting the data from there.
 

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