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Tracking SEO Metrics in Google Analytics

Analytics 10th Sep 2014

Hi, today I’m going to talk to you about using Google Analytics to track basic SEO metrics. Google Analytics is a massively powerful tool made even better by the fact that, if you’re not using the premium version, it’s free, and the only cost is the time that you invest in implementing the tracking and extracting the data from it, which in my book is time well-spent as it can inform on quite a high level your online marketing strategy.

The two main areas of SEO nowadays is really kind of the offensive part, where you’re actively targeting content towards the user’s needs and using on-page SEO tactics to do that, and then the more defensive side of things, the technical SEO, which really is there to stop your website from falling foul of Google’s quality guidelines. So I’m going to touch upon a couple of things from each camp in this video that will, hopefully, give you a little bit of extra insight into how you can use Google Analytics.

So for on-page SEO, the organic and referral traffic or session reports, as they’re now referred to, give a massive amount of insight. Drilling down to three particular areas, you could look at just the session data alone using different date periods, comparing different date periods as well, to understand the session or the traffic flow to your website, which can give you all sorts of different insights in terms of seasonality. It can show you where on your site people are actually going to, and it can kind of give you an idea, on an ongoing basis, how your site is performing from an organic point of view.

I mentioned referral traffic as well, or referral sessions as well, because if you’re doing any concerted SEO, there is likely to be some off-page work that you’re doing using content marketing to earn high-quality backlinks to your site that not only give you authority, but actually drive sessions to your site, users to your site as well. So the referral report can equally be used to understand the flow of users to your site and also which third party sites are worth spending the time building those relationships with.

Conversions, I think, are a massive thing. I think they’re well worth their weight in gold spending the time looking at your site and trying to understand what it is you want your user to do when they hit your site. It can be as simple as wanting them to sign up for an email to actually purchasing a product from your site.

But you can also look at some other things. It kind of falls into the behaviour bucket really, using conversions and goal tracking to understand engagement metrics. So how long are people spending on your site? How much content are they consuming? You can measure that by setting up a goal that’s triggered, for instance, if a user is on your site for longer than the average. Similarly, a goal can be set up and triggered should the user be on your site and consuming more content, i.e. viewing more pages, than the average. So the clever use of the goal tracking functionality can give you a commercial idea of how your website converts and also look at things from a user point of view, the engagement type behaviours.

In the past few months, Google has integrated the Webmaster Tools query data, learning page data, within Google Analytics, within the search engine optimisation report. I think this is really useful data. We’ve lost a lot of keyword data to not provided. This gives you some more data that actually shows you keywords that people are using to navigate to your site. The specific stats that you get in the report are clicks, impressions, average position, and click-through rate. These are, I think, quite useful in terms of looking to see how you’re performing in the SERPs.

You might well find that you’re averaging a great position, but your click-through rate is actually quite low. So that says that you’ve done what you need to do to please the search engines. However, there’s an opportunity to do something better for the user. Your meta title tag and meta description tag, obviously, needs some work in terms of really earning that click from the user. That data sits in there. So, again, using different time periods, you can manipulate the data to try and find those quick wins in some respect.

Also, it can show you keyword topics that you’ve not even considered before. You might find that there’s keyword data that shows that you are not getting a massive amount of clicks, and, obviously, click-through rate as a result, however you’re appearing for a particular keyword, which suggests that there’s probably quite a big market and potentially a lot of audience on the table to get after. So it works very well to understand how your site is performing in the present, but also give you some future opportunity as well.

From a technical SEO point of view, Google Analytics can be used for a number of things. Google’s made it quite clear that page speed is a positive influence on rankings. They’ve spent a lot of time putting quite a comprehensive page speed set of reports in Google Analytics that should be used. The page speed as an overall stat is, obviously, made up of the performances of all the individual pages. So identifying the pages that are particularly poor performers and actioning the recommendations there should actually see your site benefit from a quicker average page load time. To see that influence your rankings will be great because it’ll make you understand that the content is probably great, it’s just a case of improving the site’s performance for the search engines and for the users as well.

Google Analytics also has Google Analytics alerts. They are a great function. You configure them to send you an email should certain things happen. Great for setting up for sudden drops in a session, and you can drill right down to the different mediums such as organic or referral and create an alert to send you an email should sessions drop below a certain level. A great way of staying on top of your site’s performance. Similarly, you can configure them to set up alert when a 404 page is generated as well. Another way of keeping on top of things that are going to impact the user’s experience. So a great thing to use that doesn’t take too long to set up. Well worth a looking at.

One of the big things with Google is having quality content, and the scraped content is something that a lot of sites experience. Using the host name report, you can get an idea of if there are any sites that are scraping your data and pulling your content into their site. So these types of things will kind of keep you on top of making sure that your website is full of good and useful content for the user, but also to set up within Google’s quality guidelines.

So I hope that’s been useful. If you would like any more information, please get in touch with us. The social profiles will follow at the end of this video. Thank you.

Graeme Benge
About the author

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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