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Anna Lewis

Using Google Analytics To Improve Your Local SEO Campaign

22nd Jul 2013 Analytics, SEO, Local Search 10 minutes to read

LocationsSEO is changing, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you are taking the best action for the future, and where better to start than in your target locations? Local SEO is pivotal to many businesses, from small independent shops and services to those with offices or outlets throughout the country and the world.

This is because, in order to be successful, having your website found by people in the areas you serve is essential. Our own Andy Williams wrote about how to Master Local SEO recently and I’m going to get a bit more nitty gritty about the data behind all of it and how you can use Google Analytics to really fine tune and boost your local SEO activity. But don’t worry – just because it’s nitty gritty and related to data doesn’t mean it will be confusing! Everything in this post will be easy to action whatever your level of experience.

Find Your Users

First off, we need to identify where our audience is in the world and also how people in different locations behave. This will help us work out whether or not our users are in the areas we expect them to be and also to identify where the most valuable or costly people are. Knowing this can help you tailor your marketing campaigns or decide what offers to run.

In Google Analytics navigate to Audience > Demographics > Location

I actually wrote a full explanation of this report over on Search Engine Watch recently, so for the an introduction to this report then have a look at How to Navigate the Google Analytics Location Report. One important thing to understand is that this report uses IP addresses rather than the users physical location, meaning it’s not 100% accurate, but it’s still good for gaining an understanding.

location report in google analytics

The best way to get the most from this report is to find the best breakdown that works for you and then review the data for that. So for a UK business we would want to break down traffic from the UK initially as international traffic is more of a secondary gain at this stage. So, click on the United Kingdom link and it takes us to a Region report which lists the four countries. This isn’t detailed enough to help us find out what we require, so we then need to click on the City link above the data.

location report  - list of countries

Now we can see the visits and site interaction data for each City in order of the most visits:

locations - uk cities report

Segmenting Locations of Organic Traffic

Having found the breakdown of data we’re looking for, we now need to analyse the SEO results we’re getting from it. To do this, I would recommend implementing the ‘paid search results’ advanced segment which Google kindly set up for you by default. If you’ve not used segments before they can be managed through the ‘Advanced Segments’ link at the top as well as all sorts of default ones you can create your own variations too.

Remember with any segments to keep an eye out for the yellow bar at the top right that signifies how accurate the data is. Segmenting the data takes a lot of power so to speed it up Google Analytics shows the data based on a ‘sample’ of the total amount.

Showing only the organic traffic will allow us to see how our SEO has performed in each City, better still – if we can compare this to another traffic source such as PPC or Email we will be able to benchmark organic traffic per location against other traffic in those locations to see which traffic source has the best opportunities and which location needs work. However, to keep it simple, I’ll stick to just working with the non-paid search segment for now and leave you to experiment with multiple segments yourself.

organic segment

Now that the non-paid search traffic segment has been applied we can see which cities generate the most organic traffic. Sometimes this will bring up surprises as you might get traffic from cities that you don’t expect to.  When reviewing this data, have a look at the bounce rate and average visit duration – do you notice a pattern where some locations that are not core targets may have a higher bounce rate or lower visit duration? This is where you can see which cities bring users who are most engaged.

data by location

To take this even further we need to be able to review the value of the cities sending traffic to your site, so scroll up to the top and click on one of the Goal Set reports or the Ecommerce link depending on what you have set up. If you haven’t set up goals or Ecommerce tracking then I highly recommend you set these up to monitor key activity on site.

These reports are often best seen using the ‘compare to average’ report in Google Analytics. To get this, click the image to the top right of the data that shows bars going to the right and left of a central line.

The example below shows the Bounce rate per city compared to the site average so you can quickly analyse from which cities organic traffic is not engaging with the site as much as others.

bounce rate by city

General caveat – using bounce rate as a metric isn’t always reliable, bear in mind the context of your page and if users are coming to your site and completing the purpose of the visit on just one page. In this case a high bounce rate will be a good thing.

The data in these reports can be used in the following situations, depending on your website and business:

  • Where your target regions do not bring many visits to the site, focus your local SEO efforts around these to increase traffic and business in these areas
  • Identify locations with high visits but no local business presence – expand your business to cover these areas
  • Identify cities with higher than average bounce rates and work to improve the content on the landing pages for these areas
  • Consider offering vouchers to people in locations that do not convert well

Locations and Landing Pages

Having reviewed interaction and conversion data by location, it’s time to get down to the killer SEO strategy of the year – content!

There are a couple of ways to analyse the content against locations. Personally, I’ve fallen in love with Pivot tables in Google Analytics and think they’re great for this purpose. I use location against landing page.

Pivot tables show one set of information in the rows and break it down by having a column for different breakdowns.

To set this up, from your UK Cities report, click the right hand display option (top right of the data) then just above the first column select the ‘Pivot by’ box and type landing page and select it. I’ve highlighted these areas in yellow in the image below.

As quickly as that you can now review which locations sent traffic to which landing page.

In the example below the website has franchises running all across the UK, each of which has it’s own contact page. I have noted the location of the contact page shown in the report so that you can see how beneficial this report is:

pivot table- landing pages by location

This report can now suggest new areas in which a franchise would work well and which franchises might be ranking for the wrong area. One simple report can help you plan your business and improve your content, all of which can help your business grow on and offline.

Geo-Location Rankings

(i.e. different keyword ranking positions in different cities)

There are a couple of tools on the market that can help you track your rankings in different locations but these rely on tools checking for you, not what users actually see. I’m going to share with you a FREE way to review the average position keywords have been in when users have clicked them – broken down by where the users are.

Firstly, you’ll need to track your keyword rankings for the visitors coming to your site. This can be done for all Google traffic through a lovely snippet of code that Justin Cutroni shared earlier this year. I recommend tweaking the code slightly (as per the comment by Ross Scrivener) to replace the “(/google\.com/gi)” with “(/google\./gi)” so that all Google traffic is tracked, not just Google.com. The code in the post needs to go after your standard Google Analytics tracking code snippet on every page of your site.

Once that’s up and running you can see the data under Content > Events > Top events. There will be a category called ‘RankTracker’, clicking this takes you through to the Event Action which is the keyword that the user used to get to your website. The important piece of data here is the Value and Average Value as this is the rank of the keyword when the user clicked it. This is great for tracking real ranking fluctuations and whether you get traffic from low ranking keywords.

To turn this in to a geographic ranking report, there are a number of different ways you could go about it. I’m going to show you one pivot table and one custom report that you can implement right now (although if you’ve not already implemented the above event tracking you will have to wait a little time for the data to gather first).

Keyword Ranks by Location – Pivot Chart

Now that you have your rank tracking gathering data, it’s time to put it to good use! Go to:

Content > Events > Top Events > Click RankTracker

With a row per keyword showing the total visits (total events) and average rank (average value) per keyword you’re part way there. You can ignore the Event Value column as this just totals up the ranks, the average is the important number.

Now select Pivot Chart, Pivot by City and choose the metrics Total Events and Avg. Value.


You can now see the average rank for each keyword across different cites. I put a UK only advanced segment on mine if it’s a UK business to make the data a little more useful.

In this example I’ve highlighted the settings and also some highs and lows which make the report worthwhile. I can see which cities have better rankings for certain keywords than others which is fantastic for a business that has local services:

keyword rank pivot table

You can also review the same data based on the landing page by clicking Event Label, this will then show you the average rank per landing page in each city.

Obviously, this data shows average ranks, so particularly over longer time periods you will have to consider that it will have fluctuated.

Tracking Your Local SEO Activity

Having analysed the existing data about interactivity and where people are, it’s time to look at what you’re doing to get them to your site and how this can be improved. You may currently be doing some of these activities to promote your website locally:

  • Local business directories
  • Newspaper promotions
  • Local press ads
  • Local radio features or ads
  • Social Media
  • Google+ Local
  • Mobile

When you’re promoting your website, whether it’s offline or online, consider how to track any visits to your site from this activity. You can either make a list of everywhere that you promote on each day to keep a track of it and try to line this up with visits manually.

With directories such as Yelp, you will automatically be able to review any traffic from here as it will show as referral traffic. For those that don’t come directly from another website, for example, news paper adverts or flyers, you can set up a URL such as domain.com/july-offer and set up a redirect and campaign tracking on this friendly URL so that it can add information to Google Analytics about where the user has come from. Campaign tracking is very quick and easy to set up using Google’s URL builder, just pop in the details as you want them in Analytics and then use the link generated.

This also applies to social media and email campaigns – ensure any links you share have tracking information on them so that you can identify visits from this source in Google Analytics.

To find this data, go to Traffic Sources > Sources > All Traffic, then review the Source / Medium report for each item. Referral means they came from another website, but whatever you label your links with through the campaign URL builder that is what they will be reported as in Google Analytics.

If you’ve spotted any other clever ways to use Analytics to help with Local SEO, or want to discuss the above ideas then please leave a comment below.

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