Keyword: (not provided).
If this is you, read on.
You might think that Google Analytics (GA) has no value to your SEO efforts because it hides your precious keyword data.
This post provides my 6 favorite Google Analytics SEO hacks that save time, money and drive awesome insights.
What You Will Learn
- How to use GA Referral reporting to build links
- How to use GA Annotations to manage efforts, your team and clients
- How to use GWT reports in GA to get around Keyword: (not provided)
- The value of internal search data for SEO
- Using Filters for SEO data cleansing
- The Google Analytics SEO dashboard I use with 11 custom reports
Google Analytics SEO Tip 1: Referrals = Link Opportunities
If you’re doing a good job marketing your website through social media, forums, guest posting, etc, you’ll be getting a ton of referral traffic.
I check this report daily because it’s awesome for link opportunities.
Here’s the exact method I use to get a ton of relevant backlinks.
GA Report: Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals
Look for quality traffic coming from websites you don’t recognize.
Take that URL and use Google to find the exact source.
site:websitesendingreferraltraffic.com “your website name”
If your website name doesn’t work, play around with different keywords or titles of content.
I was able to find the exact thread driving the traffic.
It was coming from someone who found a blog post I wrote about some kick a** web analytics KPIs.
In his bio he had a link to his website which I followed to find an email address. I reached out with the following:
I’m sure you probably get these outreach emails daily, so I’ll keep it short.
I found a post featuring an article I wrote from a member of your staff. (link: http://community.growthintensive.com/t/50-different-kpi-you-should-be-aware-of/69/3)
I appreciate the post and leaving the kind words!
If you have any weekly round up posts on your blog, I’d love to have that piece featured.
Have a great day!
Here was the response:
Bang. You can also use Matthew’s Google Analytics profile hack to help you out!
Google Analytics SEO Tip 2: Use Annotations
Why spend money on SEO management tools when GA gives you one free?
Annotations are GA’s best kept secret.
I use them for 2 reasons:
Reason 1: Client Management
I annotate everything I do. It’s how I communicate with my team and keep them updated.
Image alt tags added? Annotate it.
Blog post added? Annotate it.
My clients love it because they don’t need to reach out for updates. They just log into GA and check the Annotations.
Reason 2: Cause and Effect
SEOs are notorious for making up BS facts.
Don’t believe other SEOs – believe data.
Leaving Annotations creates a clear path to what works (and what doesn’t).
Take link building as an example. When I place links on my PBN, guest blog or even build tier 2 links, I annotate the date.
If/when organic traffic increases, I can see the exact steps I took to get there.
Annotations help take the guess work out of SEO.
Google Analytics SEO Tip 3: Sync with Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)
Combining Analytics with GWT helps you forget Keyword: (not provided).
If you don’t have them synced – stop what you’re doing and follow these simple instructions from Google:
- On the Webmaster Tools home page, click Manage site next to the site you want, and then click Google Analytics property.
- Select the web property you want to associate with the site, and then click Save.
Once connected, navigate to to Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization in Google Analytics.
Here you’ll find 3 reports:
- Queries: Search queries (in the SERPs), impressions received, average position and CTR.
- Landing Pages: Page URL (in the SERPs), impressions received, average position and CTR.
- Geographical Summary: The same as the previous two but instead of URLs or query terms, it shows countries.
Report 3 is useful, but insights are limited
However, the other 2 are gold.
Report: Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries
What this report shows: What search queries your website is showing up for and the corresponding impressions received, average position and CTR.
You can do your analysis in GA but I like to pull it down to Excel.
- Set the date range to the last 6 months
- Scroll to the bottom and set show rows to 5,000
- Scroll back to the top and click Export -> Excel
- Open the Excel file and click on the tab Dataset1
- Highlight row 1 -> right click -> Filter -> By Cell Value
- Click the arrow under Query -> Select All
The data answers 3 key questions:
1. What am I ranking for?
KW tracking tools only tracks what you tell them to. This report shows you all the queries your site is visible for.
This report can help to retain clients after you’ve ranked them for their main keywords.
I look for keywords their website is ranking for that I wasn’t previously tracking. I then take those keywords and dump them into their KW tracking tool.
This shows them how much extra value I’m adding by ranking them for additional keywords! (wink, wink).
2. What else can I rank for?
Filter the data to find queries with Average Position between 10 and 30.
Take the queries and dump them into Google’s Keyword Tool to find high volume keywords.
If you’re ranking between 10 and 30 with no effort all you need is a little bump.
Use this data to focus link building efforts on pages that Google already favors.
3. How can I get more out of my rankings?
A couple months ago I sent a proposal for SEO to a blog that was ranking 1st or 2nd for all 100 keywords.
How can you pitch SEO services to a company that already dominates the SERPs?
By using their data.
They granted me access to GWT and GA accounts which I used to pull this exact report.
Using the Excel technique outlined above, I filtered the data to pull out branded queries.
What I found was their average CTR for terms ranked in the top 10 was less than 10%. When I cross checked it with SERP results, I found their meta descriptions were s***.
A bulk of the pitch was using our content writers to create descriptive meta description tags. For example:
“A true workhorse” – The HP Officejet Pro 8610 Printer, Scanner, Copier, and Fax tackles almost all of your small business printing needs! And now a great deal starting at $199 with Free Shipping.
We won the account.
Landing Pages Report
Report: Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Landing Pages
This report is useful as is, but I like to add a couple of tweaks to it.
I could go through the process of showing you how I set it up, but it’s pretty d*** boring. Instead, I’m giving you the link to upload the report directly to your GA account.
What this report shows: Organic landing page performance by session, bounce rate, duration and goal completion.
You can use this report to derive keywords by analyzing the landing page. You won’t get the exact keyword – but it doesn’t really matter.
If you’re doing diligent keyword research, structuring your content for search and building relevant links, each organic landing page should have a theme. Analyzing organic landing pages gives you a clear picture of how users are entering your site.
More importantly, it shows you how users are behaving once they reach your site. Google’s algo now builds in engagement signals as ranking factors.
If Google sends traffic to your site that bounces and spends no time, its a signal of a poor result. Over time, high bounce rates and low time on site will erode your rankings.
Before you tear apart your site, let’s analyze the report. Below is my website’s report from yesterday:
I highlighted two landing pages with high organic bounce rates (one in green, one in red).
Landing Page 6’s bounce rate = 81.82%; Landing Page 8 = 94.12%.
To fix this issue, I would consider a number of solutions:
- Add internal links to drive page views
- Revisit the content: rewrite titles, intro paragraph, etc
- Add various WordPress plug ins to drive page views
Before I do that, I need to consider other factors.
People use search engines to find answers. If they find content that delivers their answer, they probably won’t click through to another page. They’ll leave the site satisfied and go about their lives.
The best way to figure that out is to look at Bounce Rate + Avg Session Duration.
Looking at my report: Landing Page 6’s = 2:04; Landing Page 8 = :15.
This tells me that although Bounce Rate for Landing Page 6 was high, Session Duration wasn’t. They stuck around to read that whole article and left because it was probably what they were looking for.
Landing Page 8’s Session Duration was c***. This tells me that the content isn’t what they were searching for and I need to revisit the post using the potential strategies outlined above.
Google Analytics SEO Tip 4: Internal Search Data
The keywords people use to find your website are important. The keywords people use to search within your website are more important.
To get this data, you need two things:
- A search bar on your site
- Site Search reporting set up in GA
Here’s how to set it up in your GA account:
Setting Up GA Site Search Data Collection
- Under Admin menu click View Settings
- Select View Settings
- Scroll to the bottom to Site Search Settings
- Flip the button to On
You’re not done yet – you need to locate your website’s Query Parameter
- Open your website in a new tab
- Type Test into your search bar
- Look at the URL on your search landing page
- Before the search term (in the URL), there’s an equal sign with a letter in fron
- The letter before the equal sign is your website’s query parameter
- Enter this value into the appropriate box in GA
- Click Save
- Search: Test Search
- Landing Page URL: http://site.com/landing/?s=test+search
- Search Parameter: ?s=test+search
- What to Enter: s
Internal Search Analysis
Once set up, there are 4 reports available:
- Behavior > Site Search > Overview
- Behavior > Site Search > Usage
- Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms
- Behavior > Site Search > Pages
I could write an entire post on each of these, so I’m going to focus on the Search Terms report.
I use this report to measure performance of content from organic traffic. Here’s how:
- Navigate to Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms
- Add a Segment for Organic Traffic
- In the search bar type no-results
This report shows you visitors from organic traffic that used internal search and returned no results. In other words, the website doesn’t have what they’re looking for.
Here’s an example from a client’s site. The data is from 6 months ago and covers 1 week:
As you can see, there were 18 internal searches that returned no results.
The majority of those users then searched again (% Search Refinements) and less than half found what they were looking on the second attempt (Time after Search + Average Search Depth).
Search engine keywords tell you how users find your site – internal searches tell you keywords users expect from your site.
I made the recommendation to my client to build out a b*** load of new content using the Search Terms in this report as the main keywords.
Did it work? You tell me…
Google Analytics SEO Tip 5: Use Filters
How much time do you spend on your website each day?
I have mine open on my browser 24/7. I also have staff that access it daily.
If you don’t filter out these sessions they’ll skew your data – badly.
GA defines a session as:
A single user can open multiple sessions. Those sessions can occur on the same day, or over several days, weeks, or months. As soon as one session ends, there is then an opportunity to start a new session. There are two methods by which a session ends:
Time-based expiry (including end of day): After 30 minutes of inactivity
Campaign change:If a user arrives via one campaign, leaves, and then comes back via a different campaign.
For example, let’s take the following scenario:
- You Google your business name or keywords to check positions
- You click through to your website
- You leave your website open in a browser tab throughout the day
- You check for comments, work performed and general check ups every 2 hours over a 14 hour period
This doesn’t count as one session. It counts as 7.
More importantly, you probably viewed multiple pages and spent 10 – 20 minutes on the site each time. This is going to skew your organic search data making it difficult to make important decisions about your website’s engagement factors.
Every time you access your website from a new location, set up a filter.
Google Analytics SEO Tip 6: Set up SEO Dashboards
I hope you stuck around to this point of my Google Analytics SEO tutorial.
I’m an analytics nerd but I refuse to spend more than 20 minutes a day reviewing data.
I like my data accessible with one click. That’s why I created a custom Google Analytics SEO dashboard.
Custom Dashboards allow you to add up to 12 GA reports into one easily viewable screen. I put together a Dashboard that contains 11 reports that all pertain to SEO reports which makes for a great SEO analytics tool.
This Dashboard is awesome for a quick glance and update on your website – it’s even better for client management.
This Dashboard makes up 90% of my monthly report to clients – it’s that d*** good. I simply share it with my clients and they can view it whenever they choose.
That’s what I love about Dashboards – if I share the link with you all you have to do is click. The Dashboard will upload to your account and pull through your website’s data.
Before I give you the link, let me run you through what’s included in the Dashboard:
- Organic traffic counter widget
- Organic traffic graph by day
- Goal completions (organic traffic only)
- Search engine distribution (pie chart – Yahoo, Bing, Google, etc)
- Organic landing page engagement: bounce rate + time on page
- Organic traffic by city
- Organic entrances by keyword
- Internal search query report
- Organic traffic: mobile vs desktop
- Referral traffic: goal completions
- Page speed report
Ok, I’ve made you wait long enough. Here’s the link:
Wrapping It Up
Still worried about (not provided)?
When used correctly, Google Analytics is one of the most powerful SEO tools on the market.
Follow these 6 tips to get started with killer Google Analytics SEO analysis!