You’ve set up your new website, written a few great posts, and connected your site to analytic tools like Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools. Now it’s time for some basic SEO analytics training to understand what, exactly, all of that data means.
For the purpose of this training, I’ll be walking you through the important elements using Google Analytics. There are tons of tools out there, though GA is one of the best and most widely used free tools available.
If you haven’t connected your Webmaster Tools to your Google Analytics account, you should do that first. You might also want to read my earlier post on how to monitor keyword rankings, which provides some background on the concepts below.
Understanding Query Data
If you’re new to SEO, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the wealth of data Google provides.
From your GA dashboard, navigate to Acquisition – Search Engine Optimization – Queries in the left hand column. You’ll see a graph representing your search impressions over time, as well as a table breaking down the queries, or search terms, for which your site was displayed.
SEO Analytics Tip #1: Keep a Long Term Perspective
As you build your site, it’s extremely common to see a lot of ups and downs with the graph data, so it’s important not to worry too much about results on a day to day basis, but rather you want to consider the results over time.
Because of this, I like to think about a 3-month average when evaluating my results. A one month spike or drop happens, and you shouldn’t worry if your site impressions dip once in a while. In general, if there’s a 1-month drop of 20% or less at any point, I ignore it.
The 3-month average gives a far better perspective. If you have 2-3 months of declining impressions, or a 1-month dip that is significant enough to skew a 3-month average (for example, a drop of 50% or more), then it may be a sign your site is not in good health, and you should check your Webmaster Tools data for more information on crawling errors and negative impact elements.
The same philosophy applies to increasing impressions. If there’s a 1 month spike in impressions, there could be any number of reasons for the odd result, and it isn’t necessarily representative of your overall site performance.
SEO Analytics Tip #2: Compare Search Queries to Organic Keywords
Search queries represent the number of impressions your site gets in search results. That is, anytime a user views a search results page that has your site listed, after searching for a given term. Novice marketers often focus solely on the query number, without considering the impact of the queries on the site’s audience.
For a better perspective, you want to analyze the search queries in relation to the organic keywords. While search queries focus on the search results pages, organic keywords focus on keywords that drive users to your site. You can reach the organic keywords data on the left column of GA, under Acquisition – Keywords – Organic.
To compare the results, I recommend looking at a list of the top 20-50 queries and compare them against the top 20-50 organic keywords. How many of the results are either an exact match or closely related term? For examples of closely related terms, think about slight variations you might perform in a search, eg: singular vs. plural, or a short phrase with and without a preposition or article.
If most of your queries and keywords match, it’s a good sign that your site is performing well with users that see it in results, since you’re driving users to your site using relevant terms. If not, you’ll want to consider things like the Google Authorship, display, the page title, and display-url.
Note: If you’re pressed for time, you can also look at the click-through-rate for each query (presented in the query table), though just analyzing the CTR does not give a full picture of related keyword performance.
SEO Analytics Tip #3: Don’t Ignore Landing Page Impressions
Many new marketers focus solo on the query data provided by Google Analytics, concerning themselves with impressions that match for exact or relevant target keywords.
In addition to the keywords themselves, you want to make sure you analyze how Google is displaying your site for those keywords, something you can achieve with the Landing Pages tool, listed directly under Queries in your GA account.
Basically, you want to make sure that your landing pages that are showing up in search results are the right landing pages for your website’s objective. We’ll get into more about how to analyze which landing pages are best in Part 2: SEO Business Training, but from an analytics perspective, you want to be aware of which landing pages are a) displaying most often, and b) generating the highest click through rates.
I hope these tips help get you started with SEO Analytics Training. Please continue on to Part 2: SEO Business Training for more information on how to align your SEO results with your website objectives.
As always, let me know if you have any questions, and if you’re looking for more in depth training, I’m happy to recommend an SEO Course that fits your needs.