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Google analytics strategies to measure SEO

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5 Must-Know Google Analytics Strategies To Measure SEO Success

You know what they say, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” In Search Engine Optimization measurement is critical to success. Sure, keyword rankings are a great measure of SEO. More keywords ranking higher means more traffic, right? But, reporting solely on keywords devalues the marketer’s role and doesn’t paint the full picture of why SEO is important to the organization. Going beyond keyword rankings allows marketing teams to showcase what really matters: how organic search brings revenue and profit to the business. Thankfully, one of the best tools for measuring SEO is freely available, and probably already installed on your website – Google Analytics!

Although every business is unique and every website has different metrics that matter, this post is a universal list of 5 ways to use Google Analytics to report the success of your businesses SEO efforts.

 

1. How to View Only Organic Search Traffic

This one might seem obvious. I’m always surprised at how many companies see a decline in overall website traffic and immediately jump to the conclusion that the traffic loss is due to a decline in organic search traffic. Many times digging a little deeper can actually reveal that organic traffic is up while other traffic sources are down which is resulting in the overall traffic decline.

The first step in looking at Organic Search traffic over time is to open your Channel Grouping report which can be found by clicking Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. There you will see traffic sources segmented by channel.

organic-search-channel-google-analytics
Clicking on the “Organic Search” channel will give you a more detailed report which includes only organic search traffic metrics.

organic-search-detailed-google-analytics
This report will be the Swiss Army Knife to your SEO reporting. From this report you can determine things such as the top landing pages for search traffic, keywords driving the most traffic, which search engines are sending the most traffic, top exit pages and much, much more.

 

2. How to Measure The Quality of SEO Traffic

 A lot of times I hear that “quality” is subjective, so you can’t really measure it. I don’t believe this to be true and in fact, I’d say there are a lot of ways to measure the quality of any traffic source, not just search.

The most common report I use to measure an improvement or decline in the quality of search traffic is the Assisted Conversions report (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions). With this report active I like to start by setting the date range to ‘Last month’ and comparing it to ‘Previous period’. What you’re left with is a month-to-month comparison of conversions directly from search, or in the event of multiple visits to the site, conversions where search played a role but is not directly attributed with the conversion (ie: the visitor found the company through search, but returned directly and converted).

assisted-conversions-report-google-analytics
Use this report to look for a decline or improvement in conversions from search traffic. If businesses notice a decline in conversions from search, yet overall search traffic is steady, it’s easy to determine that the traffic coming from search is not qualified or of a very high quality.

Likewise, if you begin focusing on a more refined set of keywords and see an improvement in conversions from search traffic, you can say your SEO traffic quality is improving.

 

3. Assigning Dollar Values to Organic Traffic

 This is a strategy I use for businesses who are looking for a more traditional way to understand the value SEO is bringing to their business beyond improvements in traffic, visibility and conversions by assigning a dollar value to their organic traffic results. To assign a total dollar value to a sites organic traffic, I compare how much the keywords would cost if purchased in a Google AdWords campaign.

Note: For this strategy to work you will need access to a Google AdWords account, and your Analytics will need to be synced with your Search Console account.

To find a sites keyword search phrases and queries, navigate to Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries.

search-queries-google-analytics
With this report pulled up, open your AdWords account in a new tab and click Tools > Keyword Planner. For this strategy we want to choose “Get search volume data and trends”, enter the top keywords from your Google Analytics Queries report, and click “Get search volume.” On the next screen click “Keyword Ideas.” Each keyword you’ve entered will have a Suggested Bid amount which is an estimate of what advertisers are currently paying per click for each keyword listed.

suggested-bids
In a spreadsheet I will list all known keywords driving traffic to the website, the amount of click-throughs from each keyword, and the estimated cost-per-click. The final column in the spreadsheet is the sum of the estimated cost per click multiplied by the amount of clicks, resulting in the total organic traffic value per keyword.

dollar-value-of-seo-traffic
This is a great strategy to visualize what kind of dollars and cents a businesses SEO strategy is saving them on traffic they would otherwise have to pay for.

 

4. Identifying Slow Loading Page Times

 The need to optimize page load times is one item that is majorly overlooked by many SEO’s. In addition to how slow loading pages affect the user experience, page speed has become a major factor in search rankings. That’s why I always suggest that if a business is investing time and money in SEO and keyword rankings, don’t blow it by overlooking a slow loading website.

While we aren’t going to talk about how to make a website load faster, I want to look at how to identify slow loading pages and measure their impact on conversion rates.

To measure page load times on a page-by-page basis navigate to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings. I like to set the middle column to ‘Avg. Page Load Time’ and the right column to ‘% Exit’. I also will typically add a ‘Secondary Dimension’ of Medium, and filter down to show only organic traffic.

organic-traffic-only-google-analytics
page-load-times-google-analytics
What this report shows us in the top most row is the average page load time site wide, and the average exit percentage (where a visitor decides to leave the site) on a page-by-page basis. It’s also fairly easy to see in this report that as our page load time surpasses our site wide average, our exit percentages begin to skyrocket.

As an SEO, what I will do is bring this report to the site developers and ask them to do everything they can to optimize page load times. Once page load times have been improved, I will run this same report and compare it to the old data to show how much additional search traffic we’ve retained, and most likely converted due to the improvement in page load times.

 

5. Create Your Own SEO Dashboard

Sometimes all it takes to move a client or boss from a skeptic to a believer in your work is how the data is presented. It’s easy as an internet marketer – or more specifically an SEO – to over explain ourselves, or lean on hard-to-grasp metrics. Sometimes all the client wants to see is bar graphs, pie charts and other less intimidating forms of measurement.

The best way I’ve found to present Google Analytics and SEO data is through the built in Dashboard interface. A Dashboard is essentially a series of Widgets which pull all of the individual reports into a single view which is easy to access, share, and print. The bonus to having an easily presentable PDF of SEO metrics is the fact that having this dashboard will also cut down on your time spent reviewing Analytics letting you focus on actually doing the SEO work.

seo-dashboard-google-analytics
If you want to skip the details and import my dashboard you can do that, otherwise click on Dashboards > + New Dashboard.

The first widget I always set up is a simple counter to measure total visits to the site from organic search. Click on “+ Add Widget”, and title it “Total Organic Visits”. For this widget I usually stick with the ‘Metric’ display. Under “Show the following metric:” select ‘Sessions’. Since we only want to see traffic from organic search we need to create a filter. Under “Filter this data:” select Only show > Medium > Exactly matching > organic.

total-organic-visits-google-analytics
Let’s set up one more widget. My second favorite widget measures keyword phrases sorted by the amount of sessions and goal completions resulting from the respective keyword. Let’s add a new widget like before, but this time let’s set our display as “Table”. Under “Display the following columns:”, choose Keyword > Sessions > Goal Completions. We also want to apply the same organic traffic filter as our first widget.

top-keywords-google-analytics
I like tailor these reports to the specific client, but other widgets I usually create include:

  • All Organic Visits Over Time (Timeline)
  • Top SEO Landing Pages
  • Top Organic Keywords & % of New Visits
  • Pages per Visit by Organic Keyword
  • Most Successful Keywords by Goal Completions

 

Turning a Challenge Into a Strength

 By far, the single most challenging aspect of being an SEO is being able to effectively articulate the value you are bringing to a business. It’s easy for an SEO to show another SEO how his or her numbers are improving, but being able to quantify your work from a traffic and revenue stand point to a client or your boss is essential to earning and retaining business. If a client doesn’t understand what that check they’re writing is doing for their business, it won’t be long before they stop writing that check.

Pay attention to what metrics resonate with your client or boss and find a creative way to represent this data in your monthly SEO reports. For extra brownie points, when clients or bosses have shared access to the Analytics I always make a point to walk them through the custom dashboards showing them exactly what each widget is tracking and why it’s important to measure. Being able to educate your client on your process helps them appreciate the value you’re bringing to their business and view you as an asset to their future traffic goals.

 

Search Console data

Search Console data is joined with Analytics data via the Landing Page dimension. This integration lets you see how pre-click data like queries and impressions correlate with post-click data like bounce rate and transactions.

The Search Console reports include one dimension that is specific to Google Web Search data:

  • Queries: The Google Search queries that generated impressions of your website URLs in Google organic search results.

The Search Console reports in Analytics use four metrics specific to Google Web Search data:

  • Impressions: The number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user, not including paid AdWords search impressions.
  • Clicks: The number of clicks on your website URLs from a Google Search results page, not including clicks on paid AdWords search results.
  • Average Position: The average ranking of your website URLs for the query or queries. For example, if your site’s URL appeared at position 3 for one query and position 7 for another query, the average position would be 5 ((3+7)/2).
  • CTR: Click-through rate, calculated as Clicks / Impressions * 100.
Search Console data is incompatible with Google Analytics segments. If you apply segments to the Search Console reports, the Analytics metrics are segmented, but the Search Console metrics are not, and return values of 0.
Landing Pages report

The Landing Pages report lists the URLs from your site that are displayed in search results. You can see how each URL performed in terms of search (Impressions, CTR, etc.), and also in terms of how users engaged with the content (Bounce Rate, Avg. Session Duration, Transactions).

If URLs are performing well in search, but not in engagement, then your content might not be fully relevant to what users had in mind, or your site design is making it difficult for them to accomplish their goals. In addition to site content and design, your users may also experience site-performance problems, which you can investigate in the Site Speed reports.

Keep in mind that a single URL is typically associated with many unique queries, and generic queries can have a beneficial effect on the Average Position value. For example, on a classic-car site, a generic query for classic cars might return only the URL for the home page, while a more specific query like classic cars Ford might return the URL for the home page along with other site pages devoted specifically to Fords.

 

Countries report

The Countries report lets you see which countries produce the best search performance and user engagement for your site URLs.

If you notice strong search performance but poor user engagement from a specific country, then that can be a good signal to develop a language-specific version of your site for those users.

 

Devices report

The Devices report lets you see which category of devices (desktop, tablet, or mobile) delivers the best search performance and user engagement.

If you notice strong search performance but poor user engagement from specific devices (for example, mobile or tablet), then that can be a good signal that you need to reevaluate the way you have developed content and/or designed your site for that device.

 

Queries report

The Queries report lists the Google Search queries that generated impressions of your website URLs in Google organic search results.

Understanding the correlation between how users search and the relevancy of your pages to those queries provides insight into how to optimize your content.

The number of impressions that each page generates and the average position of impressions let you understand how well the search engine correlates your content to user queries.

Clicks and click-through rate let you understand how well users correlate the search results with their intentions.

When a query returns only a single URL from your site, then Average Position value is based on the position of that URL in the search results. When a query returns more than one URL from your site, the Average Position value is based on the URL that appears highest in the search results.

To protect user privacy, queries that are made infrequently or that contain sensitive or personal information are grouped together as (other).

 

Differences between metrics and dimensions in Search Console and Analytics

The following table identifies terms that are used in both Search Console and Analytics reports.

Term Search Console usage Analytics usage
Impressions Used for both AdWords impressions and Google Search impressions Used exclusively for Google Search impressions
Clicks Used exclusively for Google Search clicks Used for both AdWords clicks and Google Search clicks
Average Position Average ranking in Google Search results Average ranking in Google Search results
CTR Click-through rate. Clicks/Impressions for Google Search clicks. Click-through rate. Clicks/Impressions for both AdWords and Google Search clicks.
Keyword Applies to the key terms used in the written content of the website pages. These terms are the most significant keywords and their variants that Google found when crawling your site. When reviewed along with the Search queries report and your site’s listing in actual search results for your targeted keywords, it provides insight into how Google is interpreting the content of your site. In paid-search or AdWords reports, describes a paid keyword from a search-engine-results page. In the organic-search reports, describes the actual query string a user entered in a web search.
Query The actual query a user entered in Google search. Only used in the Search Console reports. Applies to the actual query a user entered in Google search.

 

Data discrepancies between Search Console and Analytics

Context Search Console Analytics
Landing-page URLs that redirect Search Console reports the original URL for a landing page, even when that URL redirects to another page, for example:

If

www.example.com

redirects to

www.example.com/index.html

Search Console reports the URL as

www.example.com

Analytics reports the URL that results from the redirect, for example:

www.example.com/index.html

Page has no Analytics tracking code Data for the page appears in Search Console. Data for the page does not appear in Analytics.
Number of URLs recorded per site per day Search Console records up to 1000 URLs for landing pages. Analytics does not observe the 1000-URL limit, and can include more landing pages.
Analytics property tracks multiple domains Search Console can link to a single domain. If an Analytics property tracks multiple domains, the Search Console reports have data for only the single linked domain.
Time zones vary Search Console timestamps data according to Pacific Daylight Time. Analytics timestamps data in each view according to the time zone identified in the view settings.
JavaScript not enabled in browsers Search Console collects data regardless of whether JavaScript is enabled. Analytics collects data only when JavaScript is enabled.

Users can opt out of data collection by implementing a browser add-on.

 

for more information refer: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1308626?hl=en#landingpages