The Google Analytics team recently introduced some great new features. Most relevant for this audience was the introduction of site search reporting, which allows you to link your website's internal search engine to your Analytics account.

Google Search Appliance, Google Mini and Custom Search Business Edition customers can leverage the new capabilities provided by Google Analytics and further improve the site search experience on their website by better understanding visitor behavior. You can see what people are searching for on your site and access a number of reports that detail user conversions and query refinements. Configuring your Analytics account to recognize your search engine is easy -- you need only specify the URL for your search engine and identify the query parameters.

Avinash Kaushik, a web analytics evangelist, wrote up this great post about how to use site search reporting to gain insight into what works on your website. The new Analytics functionality includes a number of reports, each of which gives unique insight into your users and your website. With most Analytics reports, you can only interpret what the user really wants. These site search reports are a gold mine of data. When people search for something on your site they are voting for exactly what they want to see. If you provide it, great. If not, they are on to another website. This is the one place where you can see truly qualitative data about what visitors are looking for and adjust your site content accordingly.

Perhaps most interesting in Avinash's example was the comparison of conversions for users who search and those who don't. Conversion for users who didn't search was 3.6%, but for users who did search, conversion was 21%. Presumably, visitors who search are more qualified and likely to convert, but this statistic certainly speaks to the value of having search on your site. Your site's visitor wants to search, and when he does, he's more likely to convert.

If your site does not have search capabilities, checkout the Google Enterprise search products to learn how they can help you to power search on your website.

When properly used, the new Google Analytics reporting will allow you to calculate an ROI for your search investment. If you're not already using Google Analytics on your website, this is one great reason to give it a try. Oh and by the way, Google Analytics is free.