In the olden days (way back before the turn of the century), you could learn a lot by reviewing what search terms people used to find your Web site. When surfers go to Google or Yahoo! and type in a term, their query is caught up and delivered to your door in the slipstream of referrer data.

Nowadays, people don't find your site unless you have carefully engineered the terms people are likely to use to find you. If you sell tennis shoes and you haven't optimized, paid for inclusion or are high keyword bidder on “sneakers,” then you'll never know what you're missing.

What people search for on your site however, is another story. Granted, some portion of your visitors click to navigate and never, ever search. Some go straight to the site map without so much as a look at your links.

But a healthy portion of them enter a word or two in that search box in the upper right corner of your home page. If they don't like what they see, they'll modify their search, giving you a better idea about what they're after. Gold mine.

We've now entered into the realm of search analytics, which is made up of three components:

• What people search for

• What they find

• What they don't find

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image of Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne ( is the founder and director of Target Marketing (, founder of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and the founding president and current chairman of the Web Analytics Association.