6 Google Analytics SEO Hacks To Increase Your Search Traffic


Keyword: (not provided).

computer smash other guys Mark Wahlberg angry

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

WARNING: Steal Your Competitors Search Rankings, Traffic & Income

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.

matthew woodward referrals report

Take that URL and use Google to find the exact source.

site:websitesendingreferraltraffic.com “your website name”

matthew woodward referrals google analytics SEO

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.

matthew woodward referral link outreach

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:

Hey [guys]

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!

Ryan Stewart

Here was the response:

matthew woodward email

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.

matthew woodward creating annotations

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.

Screenshot from one of my local SEO client's account

Screenshot from one of my local SEO client’s account.

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:

  1. On the Webmaster Tools home page, click Manage site next to the site you want, and then click Google Analytics property.
  2. Select the web property you want to associate with the site, and then click Save.

matthew google search console setup

Once connected, navigate to to Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization in Google Analytics.

Here you’ll find 3 reports:

  1. Queries: Search queries (in the SERPs), impressions received, average position and CTR.
  2. Landing Pages: Page URL (in the SERPs), impressions received, average position and CTR.
  3. 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.

thats gold jerry

Queries Report

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.

matthew google analytics seo dashboard

You can do your analysis in GA but I like to pull it down to Excel.

  1. Set the date range to the last 6 months
  2. Scroll to the bottom and set show rows to 5,000
  3. Scroll back to the top and click Export -> Excel
  4. Open the Excel file and click on the tab Dataset1
  5. Highlight row 1 -> right click -> Filter -> By Cell Value
  6. 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***.

NOTE: This is NOT the client I pitched but an example of a similar meta data issue.

NOTE: This is NOT the client I pitched but an example of a similar meta data issue.

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.

Click here to have the custom report auto upload 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:

google analytics seo custom report

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:

  1. Add internal links to drive page views
  2. Revisit the content: rewrite titles, intro paragraph, etc
  3. 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:

  1. A search bar on your site
  2. 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

  1. Under Admin menu click View Settings
  2. Select View Settings
  3. Scroll to the bottom to Site Search Settings
  4. Flip the button to On

You’re not done yet – you need to locate your website’s Query Parameter

  1. Open your website in a new tab
  2. Type Test into your search bar
  3. Look at the URL on your search landing page
  4. Before the search term (in the URL), there’s an equal sign with a letter in fron
  5. The letter before the equal sign is your website’s query parameter
  6. Enter this value into the appropriate box in GA
  7. 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:

  1. Behavior > Site Search > Overview
  2. Behavior > Site Search > Usage
  3. Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms
  4. 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:

matthew internal search 1

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…

matthew organic increase

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.

Source: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2731565?hl=en

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.

matthew internal traffic

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.

seo analytics dashboard

Before I give you the link, let me run you through what’s included in the Dashboard:

  1. Organic traffic counter widget
  2. Organic traffic graph by day
  3. Goal completions (organic traffic only)
  4. Search engine distribution (pie chart – Yahoo, Bing, Google, etc)
  5. Organic landing page engagement: bounce rate + time on page
  6. Organic traffic by city
  7. Organic entrances by keyword
  8. Internal search query report
  9. Organic traffic: mobile vs desktop
  10. Referral traffic: goal completions
  11. 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!

98 Responses

  1. jesse

    Simple Awesome .. Thanks for Sharing.. :-)

  2. prince ellis

    g** your in another league what i would give to be coached by you…

  3. Kirill

    So… Where is the dashboard link?

  4. Mark

    It’s how I use analytics as well, it is worth noting you can make your backlinks trackable as well. This is useful if you do get a blog to run an article on your product or service, but works with any backlink (you only want to use this for quality links). Use google’s URL Builder, enter the url, campaign source, name etc (it’s very self explantory), once you get the long url, to go goo.gl and shorten it, that’s it. Remember to use a different name of each link. When you go to Aquisition, all traffic, sourcemedium all traffic from your URL BUILDER links will show up.

    Anyway nice article Matthew, it’ll help those new to analytics alot. If you’re in any type of e commerce work, it is de facto to be very familar with analytics.

  5. 4.30.2015

    I use the Real Time data all the time on Analytics (to the point where I have it continously open on a tab).

    Although most of the time the keywords are not provided I find that the “Top Active Pages”, with the Pageviews bar charts are a useful tool – however you have to keep your eye on it through the day.

    It’s especially useful when posting a tweet or blog post to say how many people are looking it.

    • May 5th, 2015 at 4:47 am

      How does monitoring real time traffic all day add value to your business?

      For example on this blog it is mostly pointless and serves only as a distraction with no tangible benefit

      • Leigh
        May 5th, 2015 at 4:56 am

        I have found real time monitoring useful to identify at what times of the day Twitter followers look at and engage a tweet that I have posted.

        For example I never post a Tweet between 10am and midday because from my research during this period you get hardly any engagement. If I tweet between 12 and 2 on the other hand I have found that I get more views and engagement as generally people are on lunch break and are browsing Twitter

  6. Bryan

    Appreciate you sharing this! Great info.

    You have a small typo in your banner at the bottom of article… Dashboard

    Get Instant Access To My Custom Google Analytics SEO Dashbaord & Discover How To Increase Your Search Traffic Today

    • May 5th, 2015 at 4:45 am

      Ooops my bad fixed it :) You would have a field day on this blog with typos though to be honest haha

  7. Sana

    That’s gold Jerry – Gold!

    This post is like a double chip chocolate brownie with extra vanilla frosting!

    • Sana
      April 30th, 2015 at 7:03 am

      Ryan, I truly appreciate the time you have spend on making your point(s) come across so beautifully.

  8. 4.30.2015

    Hey fella – awesome post! Ive not being doing SEO for that long and a lot of the tools are expensive. Even though I do like the look of Sem Rush.

    I found this post really helpful as I haven’t really got a grasp on GA .. So good stuff!

    Thanks bro :)

    • May 5th, 2015 at 4:42 am

      Welcome to the world of SEO Carl – don’t worry about tools, just build your knowledge and then your experience through trial and error :)

  9. 4.30.2015

    Hey Matthew,

    I really appreciate you sharing your tips for finding great data in Google Analytics and the dashboard is fantastic. I added it to all the sites I track in Google Analytics. Thanks so much.

    I would love to see a tutorial about how to create a dashboard that provides meaningful data for my YouTube channel. I have a GA account for my YouTube channel but haven’t figured out a way to make the data useful. Since it only tracks traffic coming directly to my channel (not my videos) I’m wondering if it’s a total waste of time to even bother. Just want to make sure I’m not missing something though.


  10. 4.30.2015

    Reading and implementing side by side. :)

  11. Rocio Martinez

    Hey Matt

    Thanks for this guide, it is really useful. I have problems with the link “custom report auto upload to your GA account”
    GA tells me there is a security problem and it can’t verify the credentials account.
    Is there another way around this?

  12. 4.30.2015

    Great post – I have been struggling to find the motivation to go through all my GA reports and fix them but it looks like I will need to push this to the top of my todo list for a few of my money sites next week!

  13. Riri TBMR

    Wow, like your article soo much Matthew, great and usefull.

  14. Tony McCreath

    Some nice ideas.

    For the referral one you could save some time and add the secondary dimension of “full referrer”. It gives you the exact pages the referral came from.

    • May 5th, 2015 at 4:40 am

      Yes that works but the data is ugly and messy to work through

  15. 4.30.2015

    @Matthew it was fabulous, especially referral links acquisitions and internal search data. I like them most.

  16. 4.30.2015

    Nice write up. Does linking GWT with GA allow GA to store all your search queries for longer than 30 days? (I always link – but in all honesty I’m guilty of getting busy and not looking at those reports as often as I should).

    I know when you log into GWT – you only see the previous 30 days of data. 3rd party tools will store all the data longer than that but if GA will do the same thing, there’s no reason to pay a 3rd party!

  17. 4.30.2015

    Without going through all the hassle, If you go to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Referrals and click on the source you’ll get the full referral URL

    • May 3rd, 2015 at 6:25 am

      Yes but that means you have to actually click into every single site one at a time rather then getting a complete list of raw urls in traffic order

  18. Shumaila Kamal

    Thanks Dear Admin for writing this useful post. It is better plz in future write this kind of posts in simple language. As the same is not fully understandable for all the visitors, I hope you will ponder over this issue in future.

  19. Roshan

    Spot on! All in-one kind of GA tutorial

  20. 4.30.2015

    Hey Matt, good stuff as always! Do you have any recommended sources to outsource backlinking?

  21. Tony

    Like your gif above, THIS IS GOLD, Matt! Really appreciate these tips.

  22. 4.30.2015

    Great post and some perfect information to help me get more out of GA. I will admit I don’t use if beyond looking at traffic numbers because there is just so much there, it can be a bit intimidating.

    Just a quick note, in the landing page section you shared your setup, however, when I click the link it doesn’t work properly. The Dashboard import does, just no that one.

    • chantel
      May 4th, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      same happens for me… the link to the landing page report in GA does not seem to work, any ideas please?

  23. 4.30.2015

    Hey Matthew,

    Another tip:
    Remove spam referrals which will s**** up your google analytics.
    I made the list of 200+ spam referral websites and currently using in .htaccess file. You can also made filter in Google Analytics to exclude this traffic.

    I can send the list to you if you would like to post it.
    Or just email anyone to me if you want to get it.


  24. 4.30.2015

    Can you pot a “zoom plugin” for the images. they are small.

  25. 4.30.2015

    Wow this is great! I still have a lot to learn about GA so please keep the awesome posts coming!
    Greetings from belgium

  26. Boss

    Solid gold. I’ve been staring at the GA control panel on earlier attempts to make some further use of it than seeing number of visits. I’m telling you, sometimes I feel like its in latin. But this article has opened my eyes to several things, thx!

  27. 4.30.2015

    Hey Matt!
    Once again, great post!
    I loved the bit about the Landing Pages Report and the fact that you explained that a high bounce rate isn’t always bad makes me real happy as I’ve seen people try to “fix” their bounce rate even though their time on page was over 5 minutes!
    Sadly I could not download your custom report as it said “We cannot verify your account credentials. Please verify your account information, then sign in again.” I’m not sure what the problem is, but it’s probably something on my end…
    Also, a HUGE thanks for the SEO dashboard. It’s actually exactly what I’ve been looking for for a while.
    Once again, thanks for putting out great content!

  28. IMNabeel

    I have run out of words man! This was really amazing, deep, detailed and step by step read. Are you on steroids??

  29. Dale Reardon

    Thanks very much for this information.

    I didn’t realize you could get any useful keyword information from GA so this is very valuable.


  30. 5.1.2015

    As always – simple and actionable advice. This is why I follow your blog! :)

  31. Josh

    Great post, thanks for reminding about annotations, need to use that function more.

    Something I find that can be quite handy for some clients is the Technology > Network function. Many organisations have their name in their network, making this a handy way to see how the target market interact with your site.

  32. James Blackburn

    Wow. Okay, I definitely have some work to do in Analytics. Sometimes you think you have it nailed down, until Matthew comes along and blows that out of the water… lol…

    • May 3rd, 2015 at 2:51 am

      That happens to me on a weekly basis as well, don’t worry :)

  33. 5.1.2015

    I’m almost blown away by all this in google analytics! I use GA for just some minor things but this have brought it to a whole new science. I bookmarked this and am making a note to do all of these methods more. Great guest post from Ryan Stewart! He helps out a ton of the FB groups I hang out in too. Great guy and ridiculous content writer!

  34. 5.2.2015

    Thanks Matthew for this post. This is very useful for a company like us which does digital marketing for Travel clients . Keep these posts coming

  35. Asif Ahmed

    Good info,
    But I am really not sure I have the energy to do all that and still manage my blogs.

    • May 3rd, 2015 at 5:54 am

      If you spread yourself too thin, you leave a lot of moeny on the table!

  36. 5.3.2015

    Very cool GA hacks; the hacks are basically display useful data, but how do those actually help increase website traffic?

    • May 5th, 2015 at 4:38 am

      They give you the data you need to make decisions moving forward

  37. Amit

    Man you rock ! Seriously things i have learned from your blog are priceless. Specially when i tried SE Slingshot ! Really appreciate your hardwork in teaching newbie like me

  38. David Briard

    Love that dashboard. I also like the integration of Adsense with GA

  39. tony

    I was wondering do you have a video tutorial or know of a good tutorial for this subject. I have long tail pro. Unf and market samurai. I’m not sure what settings to use and what factors to look for. Thanks

  40. 5.6.2015

    Hey Matt,

    INCREDIBLE POST! It’s really opened my eye on how to make more money by using GA.

    I’ve already started to plan changes in the coming weeks that should boost my clicks.

    Just one problem I had was the landing page report in GA. It keeps coming up with a security issue and asks me to sign in again. My login details are correct but it just won’t let me.

    Is there another way around this?

    Cheers, Colm

  41. Edgar

    Great article! Your post is such an eye-opener for online marketers in understanding problems that clients face. Thanks for sharing such an informative blog.

  42. Jim

    Matthew, I’m a big fan of your blog and this is why – yet another great tutorial full of gold nuggets ! Can I just ask you to expand on the WordPress plugins you might use to drive page views (with regards to reducing bounce rate) ?

  43. Minhaj

    Hi Hey Mat

    Really awesome post! This tutorial helped me a lot. Thanks for such kind of an informative article. Eager to learn more from you! Bookmarked!

  44. Martin Skovmose

    Thanks for some great tips for Google Analytics. It was very helpful.
    I would love to get the dashboard addons from you, but I’m not liking, that I would have to give you access to post on my Twitter in order to get them.

    • June 10th, 2015 at 10:24 am

      No problem, you know where they are if you change your mind :)

  45. 6.10.2015

    Simple Awesome .. Thanks for Sharing.. :-)

  46. Paul Anderson

    Very nice hacks and tricks. Google webmaster linking is very necessary.

  47. 11.2.2015

    great tips, I never tried them but will give this a go and update on the result soon thanks once again

  48. 12.16.2015

    thanks for help, but didn’t got anything to increase traffic

  49. 12.31.2015

    A helpful article. Thanks for sharing.


  50. nandu web

    wow this is awesome!I’ve been staring at the GA control panel on earlier attempts to make some further use of it than seeing number of visits. Thanks for sharing such an informative blog.

    • April 20th, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Yeah you can do a lot of damage with custom dashboards :)

  51. Gerge Lorent

    Thanks man!!!
    This passage I find exceptionaly useful:

    “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.”

    As I’m using SEO tool in paid and it uses GA’s API I’ve been able to lacate for which keywords my pages get ranking in this 10 to 30 ranking position gap and get extra SEO boost just playing further around with these keywords.
    Still on top of organic search. No problem at all. The I’m using calls SERPStat.

    Thank you so much!!!

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