Search analytics for your site – a new book by Lou Rosenfeld

This book has been a long time in the writing but the end result is well worth the wait. Lou Rosenfeld, (co-author with Peter Morville of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web) has written a stunning book on how to optimise web sites and intranets through the careful use of analytics.  There have been many books on search engine optimisation but that is a different subject!

Section 1 introduces the basic principles of site analytics, Section 2 covers how to analyse the data, and Section 3 is about how to use the analysis to build better sites. In all there are eleven chapters. Section 2 is the heart of the book, with chapters covering pattern analysis, failure analysis, session analysis, audience analysis and finally goal-based analysis. One of my favourites is Practical Tips for Improving Content, as so often a poor user experience is not related to a design flaw but content that the site visitor is not able to either understand or trust. Section 4, entitled Coda, just has a single chapter on bridging web analytics and user experience. Although many of the examples are from web sites the basic principles are just as relevant to intranets.

The writing style is immensely readable and the design and production of the book are flawless.  The book is illustrated with a number of case studies, and at the end of each chapter is a short but carefully written summary. As with all Rosenfeld Media books the book has an associated web site.

What I missed in this book is any guidance on the make-up of a search analytics team.  Log analysis needs to be carried out by people with the right skill sets, and most probably they are information professionals with a library or information science background. An understanding of the business, especially with an intranet, is also very important. A section that a site manager could have in front of their manager to help make the business case for making search analytics even just part of someone’s daily work would have been helpful.

Overall this book is a sort of 21st Century Rosetta Stone, as it enables the cryptic language of search logs to be decoded into something that gives invaluable insights into the meaning of the numbers.  It is a book that no web site or intranet site owner should be without if they really want to get the best from their organisation’s investment in web/intranet technology and content. Sadly, as I mentioned in an earlier blog the initial evidence from the Digital Workplace survey is that search satisfaction is decreasing and the extent to which organisations invest in a search support team is minimal. Hopefully this book, which exudes Lou’s commitment and enthusiasm for the cause. may make a difference.

Martin White