Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

The Advantage of Logging Search Queries

Back in June, when I laid healing hands on the Redland Baptist web site, I used MovableType because it could be easily customized to work like a Content Management System, yet still retain its blogging capabilities. I did this because I wanted a system where I didn’t have to go through a bunch of flaming hoops whenever someone in the church office needed to post something. What I didn’t realize until this past weekend was that this also gave me the ability to track internal search queries.

What I mean by internal search queries are those keywords and phrased individuals input using the search form that is plastered onto the left menu column of the RBC website. MovableType logs each search in a MySQL table, which means I can use a simple SQL query to find out what people are looking for once they get to our website.

For those of you not afraid of shooting your foot clean off, here it is:

SELECT count(*), log_message FROM `mt_log`
WHERE log_message regexp ‘^Search’ group by log_message
ORDER by 1 DESC LIMIT 0, 200

Why is this important? Well, if you’re interested in attracting “seekers” and serving “members” then it might be helpful to give them what they’re looking for. Remember, as Vincent Flanders puts it, “Don’t confuse web design with sex.” In other words, take a cue from Jakob Neilsen and the good folks at Pew Research, users are purpose driven. Solve their problems, meet their needs, or in this particular case, answer their questions.

So if you see several queries for “Vacation Bible School” then make sure you site has something they’ll find.

What about you? Is your site equipped to track internal searches? Does your church website site even have an internal search engine? If not, why not? … More on that topic next week.


  1. I agree. Church webservants should treat internal search info like gold.

    We don’t have MT or the like, but we do have an internal search, powered by atomz.com. They offer a free “express search account” for small sites (I think, less than 500 pages).

    They will scan your site weekly on a schedule you decide. Searches are handled on their server, but you can integrate search results into your look and feel. Every week they send an email report of all the searches from your site. Their web site has more report options. I highly recommend them. If you don’t already have an internal search solution, visit http://www.atomz.com and within 30 minutes you will have one.

  2. Don’t forget your weblog!

    From Webalizer Version 2.01 for our site in Jan:

    Top 20 of 64 Total Search Strings

    Hits Search String
    6 7.59% preschool sunday school
    5 6.33% preschool sunday school activities
    3 3.80% burtonsville baptist church
    2 2.53% baptist church in silver spring maryland
    2 2.53% baptist church maryland
    2 2.53% baptist church silver spring
    2 2.53% burtonsville
    1 1.27% 2’s and 3’s sunday school
    1 1.27% adult sunday school class
    1 1.27% alter call invitation
    1 1.27% alter call prayer
    1 1.27% alternative pictures
    1 1.27% amazon outfitters
    1 1.27% amazon outfitters vbs
    1 1.27% baptist answers
    1 1.27% baptist church tithes and offering
    1 1.27% baptist church worship service ideas
    1 1.27% baptist churches in silver spring
    1 1.27% baptist churches in silver spring maryland
    1 1.27% baptist churchmaryland


  3. > Don’t forget your weblog!

    Quite right Frank. But I think that internal search data is much “better”. After all, if people have taken the time to visit my site and are still looking for something, I should pay attention. Examples: yesterday there were three searches: “weather”, “alert”, and “closing” (we had a snowstorm come through yesterday). Maybe I should put a “weather statement” on our front page if bad weather is forecast. This month, our third most popular search word is “wedding”. Hmm, people are looking for a place to have a wedding. Unfortunately, that search generates no hits on our site.

    Interestingly (and irrelevantly), the third most popular Google search that gets to our site is “fiddler on the roof photos”. This is very consistant. Presumably, this is because lots of people are staging Fiddler on the Roof, and we staged it last year.