Graeme Benge

Using Webmaster Tools Search Query Data For SEO Action

6th Feb 2014 SEO Blog 4 minutes to read

Search QueriesA post from the (ever useful and bookmark-worthy) DejanSEO blog back in January drew to my attention a revamp of the search query data reported on in Google’s Webmaster Tools. Since then I’ve been looking at its functionality and how it can be put to use for SEO purposes, the results of which I’m going to share in this post.

Gone is the rounding of number to the nearest bazillion and specific numbers now greet you. Bearing in mind that both Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics are plainly Google products, the use of Clicks in one tool (WMT) and Visits in another (GA) make me wary of what attribution model is being used to define the metrics on display. There are other  niggles I’ve got that I’ve yet to find further clarification on, maybe you can help me?

My Niggles

  • Comparing the data to rank tracking reports is likely to show disparities as different search configurations mean you’ll not be seeing a like for like comparison.
  • Keep in mind the terminology ‘Query’ does not reflect actual search terms used by users. You may be used to that type of granular data if you regularly use the AdWords Search Query Report but that still remains only available to those happy to buy their keyword data…
  • I’ve found when cross referencing the Click data against the Visits in the Organic Keyword report in Google Analytics different data is on show so take care

So diving in a bit deeper it’s worth noting that you’ve roughly 90 days of data which is a good sample, but nowhere near as comprehensive as Google Analytics clearly. The paranoid android in me has meant I’ve been archiving this data should the generosity be rescinded leaving us with absolutely no keyword friendly data sets to play with.

To view a comparison however you’ll need to limit yourself to up to 30 days’ worth of data. This is still a worthwhile exercise as CTR and Average position variances are worth tracking despite the short data sample demanding it be a regular manual job to add to the list.

Top tip: To display more than 500 rows, hack the URL like this:

URL hack

So that you get something like this:

Max Rows

Priority Queries

Use the star function to effectively ‘favourite’ priority search queries; these being brand terms or key product terms

Using the star filter, isolate those top terms and analyse their performance.

Webmaster Tools Favourites

  • If they have a high average position but low CTR – consider how effective your title and meta description tags are
  • If they have a low average position but high CTR – review existing content, how can this improved further? What sites could do with featuring your content? Use to look at how searchers are using that search query (as in how is that keyword being used). Research those SERPs and look for outreach opportunities

Moving outside of the priority queries, to make the data a bit more manageable you can exclude the queries with less than 10 impressions.

Exclude Low Impression Shares

Statistically, each niche is going to throw up its own positional traffic share. As a guide typically position one accounts for a third of all subsequent clicks with the drop off from 3 to 10 pretty drastic (this post suggests you’ll get over 50% of clicks appearing first in a SERP) so if you want natural traffic to become a significant traffic stream for your site you need to be aiming for those top three spots for the terms that make you money.

It can be a daunting task knowing where to start but I see there being three groups to focus on:

  • Positions 5-10
  • Second pagers
  • New Entries

Positions 5-10

Using the Top Pages tab in the WMT Search Query report you can assume that pages of your site that are sitting in position 5-10 clearly have been deemed authoritative. They combine relevant on page content with quality contextual back links (naive, moi?) so it stands to reason that there is momentum to be capitalised on.

Moving these pages into the top three positions is likely to reap traffic dividends. To make an impact here look at the following:

  • What is your CTR? Do the Meta tags need enhancing? Is your Call To Action strong enough?
  • Analyse those sites sitting above you. Is there content engaging in a different/better way than yours?
  • Take a look at the inbound links. Are there any link sources that could get some value from linking to your assets?

Second Pagers

Those pages languishing in positions between 11-20 are easy to overlook. But if they are duking it out in a set of results amounting to more than 6 figures, the likelihood again is that there is some quality here worth exploring.

Action: Export to CSV, filter by Avg. Position 11-20 and then find some candidates for a bit of TLC.

Average Position Filter

New Entries

Spying terms that don’t normally sit on your list of usual suspects should be a greeted with some glee. These are likely to be tricky to spot and will require a magnifying glass and your list of priority keywords. Spotting any new terms not on that list could mean you’ve found new opportunities.

Here you may be seeing the early benefit from new content you’ve pushed live. It can also mean that there is content enjoying some Hummingbird or LSI  benefits so scrutinize where your target keyword is and its relation to other terms supporting the overall theme of the page. You could very well have a new set of keyword or content opportunities to make the most of.

So there are several ways that the recent Webmaster Tools updates can benefit online marketers. How have you found the revamped data – still shaky or have you been able to successfully use the insight contained there? Let me know in the comments, I’d be very interested in your thoughts.

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Graeme Benge

Graeme is a self-confessed chocolate addict and his carefully curated physique reflects this. His beard is better than yours and if you ever want to see such a majestic creature you can find him in the ‘room of doom’ listening to rock and heavy metal.


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