Travel industry is extremely rich in terms of data collection opportunities. Using Universal Analytics great new features online travel agencies and tour operators can easily implement and use this data for numerous tasks – mainly to gain insight on on site behavior and plan ahead (using data).
This, first in a series, article will deal with one of the main travel site tools – Search, Site search.
Travel search usually does not use only one parameter in search but instead a series of parameters which best describe the end user intent – need.
The basic query usually consists of:
If we were to translate this query in simple terms we would end up with a simple question:
What is the best offer for me and my better half in May 2015? We’d like to see Spain for 14 days and we believe Barcelona would be a great fit …
Now the search engine as the online salesperson – yes it is a 24/7 sales tool, needs to render best possible offers. If applicable it can/should ask additional questions to filter out offers not suited for the for mentioned couple.
These questions could be:
The ideal follow up action set would include (a basic funnel):
Looking back at the entire process we can determine the main points of interest where we can collect data and gain valuable insight.
All main activities usually occur directly on search result pages. Depending on how the site was built we have many options on how to retrieve these desired values and send them to Google Analytics.
Before we get all technical lets look at what we can do with the data collected and hopefully answer why is it worthwhile to invest in tracking site search.
Aside from the default segments (built in) sessions with or without search you can explore user behavior based on their queries – destination, hotel category, arrival date. This will help assign value to segments – revenue based on desired destination, hotel, activity ….
So many options here – basically each query is a remarketing opportunity where you can choose to be more or less specific. Just think of a display ad containing Spain / Majorca, desired date of arrival, total price for 2 persons, image includes spa (which was additionally selected) and if you can afford give 2 tickets to a party (if the user selected dancing as a favorite activity) – the possibilities are endless.
Evaluate the efficiency of your search engine. There are some decent metrics available in the reports such as:
The standard Behavior > Site Search > Usage report can help determine how sales friendly is your search engine in terms of purchase behavior of those who searched and those who did not.
After collecting the data for a significant period you will have massive insight into some specific cases for example:
Which values will you actually use in reporting, remarketing or segmentation tools and decision making.
This is the part where you may ask for some help from your developers. I said may as there are situation where you can do it without the help.
It is also important to know are you using a tag management system like Google Tag Manager or are all of your tracking codes implemented directly into site template structure.
Values in URL
If the values are exposed in the URL as query parameters (/?arrivalDate=20150522&…) or as anchor (/#arrivalDate=20150522&…) you can and should use Google Tag Manager where Macros / Variables are your best friend.
Values via a dataLayer.push (for Google Tag Manager)
But if the situation is not as simple a good way would be to ask your developers to render all required information inside a dataLayer on all pages related to search – just a simple piece of code inserted on your page which can look like this:
// Insert before GTM snippet or add a custom event if this is not possible
window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || ;
‘searchArrival’ : ‘20150522’,
‘searchDestination’ : ‘Majorca’,
‘searchAdults’ : ‘2’
After we retrieve the raw value we may sometimes need to reformat data to conform it to reporting needs. In this simple example we would like to send this data in two basic ways.
Site search term
The values become available inside Behavior > Site Search reporting in Google Analytics – but as the query is complex we would need to combine these 3 values into one single entry where the end result would be ‘20150522,Majorca,2’
Option 1. Use a virtual page view method and override the default URL so that the URI reported in Google Analytics looks like this – ‘/searchresultpage/?mySearchTerm=20150522,Majorca,2
Option 2. Use view filters – Custom advanced filter where you would extract Custom Dimensions values and combine these into Search term.
It would be wise to track all three of the values as separate dimensions as you could more easily report on trending and correlation of these dimensions – so CD1 would be searchArrivalMonth where we would put only the month part of the string, CD2 would be searchArrivalYear only the year part of the string …
Define the custom dimensions inside Google Analytics admin (property) as hit level dimensions. Use the indexes either in GA universal tracking code or via Google Tag Manager (preferred implementation) and assign the values to each custom dimension on each pageview hit (related to search of course).
Added bonus – read this fine article by Simo Ahava which explains the site search technical stuff – highly recommended – http://goo.gl/Rrx5KN.
Consider setting up additional tracking features: