In the last five years, website owners and marketers have become more and more in-tune with the many, many things that visitors do on their websites, and all of the interesting statistics and data points that web analytics measurement tools anonymously collect from said visitors.
The web analytics industry has grown tremendously in a relatively a short amount of time behind the leadership of vendors like Omniture (Adobe), WebTrends, CoreMetrics, Yahoo! Web Analytics, and, of course, Google Analytics. Throughout that time, and well before the emergence of the measurement industry, stood the practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that is still the most critical element in improving your website and increasing your website’s performance to this very day. Without a solid SEO strategy, website owners often find their competition ranking higher than they are for important, business-critical key phrases and search queries, costing them valuable leads and possibly sales.
Successful webmasters have been using Google Webmaster Tools to discover key insights into their SEO / natural / organic traffic, such as the search terms potential visitors are typing in to Google and the volume of impressions (displays) of website search engine listings. Today, in 2011, webmasters can link their Google Webmaster Tools account with their Google Analytics account to combine the knowledge of SEO efforts with the advanced visualizations and filtering capabilities of Google’s robust data platform.
At the time of this writing, Google Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics integration is in a limited, closed pilot, but soon enough you’ll be able to link these two accounts together. When you do, you’ll notice a new Search Engine Optimization report link within the Traffic Sources section of your Google Analytics account (In fact, that report link may already be there for your account, but you won’t see any data until you have the opportunity to link Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics).
Within the Search Engine Optimization sub-section, you’ll find three reports:
– Summary: A 30,000-foot view of your Google search result performance (see screen shot below). You’ll find the number of impressions (the number of times your search listings appeared within a Google.com search result page), the number of clicks on your search listings, and the click-through rate (Clicks / Impressions, *100) for all of your Google.com search listings. Within the Summary report, you can toggle the view of the report by Google Property, to see a breakdown of how much volume Google.com, Image Search, Mobile Search, and other Google web properties generated.
– Queries: This report showcases the actual search terms that generated impressions and clicks on your Google.com search listings. In the Queries report, you’ll also see the Average Position that your search listings appeared when a searcher used a particular search query. A high average position number for a search query you’re trying to optimize for can give you an indication that some additional work or adjustment needs to be made on your SEO strategy for that query (The higher the position number, the lower / further back your search listings appear in a search result; a position of 1 is the highest on-search result page position a listing can have).
– Landing Pages: What a searcher types in to the Google.com search bar, and how the Google ranking algorithm evaluates a page on your website in relation to that searcher’s query will influence which page a searcher starts their visit within your website. This Landing Pages report highlights the top entry points into your website, helping you tie-in Average Position and Click-Through Rate metrics to give you an understanding on your webpage performance from an SEO standpoint. Pages with high Click-Through Rates and low Average Positions are most likely the pages that are the solid contributors to your bottom line (leads and / or sales).
When Google Webmaster Tools becomes available to link to your Google Analytics account, the website owners who jump on it as soon as possible will be the ones who may very well surge past their competitors and gain the competitive edge that could make the difference for the remainder of the 2011 calendar year.
Do subscribe to our Analytics & Site Intelligence blog to stay up to date on when Google Webmaster Tools will be available for your Google Analytics account, as well as updates and great information on the web analytics industry!
Surprisingly, a lot of people aren’t aware of the capabilities of Google Analytics, beyond tracking paid search efforts and being able to be synched with your Google AdWords account. It reminds me of a line in a Genesis song: “There must be some misunderstanding…there must be some kind of mistake“.
One misunderstanding about Google Analytics is that you need to have a Google AdWords account in order to open up a Google Analytics account. This is false – you can (and should) open up a GA Account, with or without advertising through AdWords.
Another misconception about GA is that it can only “…do paid search reporting”. Google Analytics can definitely help you evaluate your current / ongoing SEO efforts, as well as let you know where you stand organically, before you begin your natural optimization efforts. As we’ve known for over 10 years now, dating back to the pre-Google internet years, SEO is the foundation of a successful online presence, which is something my colleagues discuss every day on our SEO Blog, which you should subscribe to :).
There are actually plenty of reports that Google Analytics offers which can really help your natural / organic search engine work. Let me share with you some of my favorites:
1. Traffic Sources >> Search Engines (Click on “Non-Paid”)
This one is pretty obvious, right? When you access this report, you’ll be immediately shown the top 10 search engines that are responsible for driving your organic traffic. 95% of time, you’ll see Google, Yahoo, MSN / Live, AOL, and ASK, pretty much in that order. Better yet, put some context and some meaning behind this organic traffic by clicking on the “Goal Conversion” tab, and see if your organic visitors are doing what you want them to do on your site.
2. Traffic Sources >> Keywords (Click on “Non-Paid”)
This report is always the one that gets looked at after seeing the Search Engines report, because we always want to know what keywords are responsible for having our listings appear in the SERPs and being clicked on. A great way to perform some initial keyword analysis for your website is to install Google Analytics on it, wait a few weeks, and check out this report! You can also get fancy and change the views of the report table – simply click on the pie-chart, bar-chart, or the comparison to site average symbols toward the top-right of the report table (Check out my “The four views of Google Analytics” post from a while back for more info on what I’m talking about here).
3. Content >> Top Content
The Top Content report lists all of the pages on your website that have generated at least 1 pageview. By default, it will show you pages from all traffic sources, but you can easily apply the non-paid Advanced Segment (top-right of GA Interface) to view this report for only organic traffic. You can then see which pages are the most popular ones; which pages may need some optimization for higher search engine visibility, how long visitors stay on each individual page, and so on.
4. Content >> Content by Title
Perhaps you don’t care for looking at long URL strings or web page extensions, and you’d rather see the statistics for all of your website’s pages grouped by their <title> tag. Well, this report was made for you. Please note that pages with identical title tag data will be grouped together as one line item – if you have been good and have written a nice title for each page, you won’t have to worry about that.
5. Content >> Content Drilldown
It’s completely understandable that many folks aren’t aware of this report’s existence, let alone what it does (Avinash Kaushik had to explain it to me a long while back). This report groups pages by directory structure. If you use a lot of sub-directories and sub-folders, these will all be represented here in Content Drilldown. A question you could ask while looking at this report could sound like: “Are certain sub-sections of my website brining in more organic traffic than others? Are they more profitable than the rest of the pages on my site?”
6. Content >> Top Landing Pages
This is quite possibly my favorite all-time report in Google Analytics (2nd only to Map Overlay, which I heart). This report’s primary focus is on Bounce Rate. Apply the non-paid Advanced Segment to this report, and ask yourself “How are these pages performing as landing pages? Are they effective enough to keep organic traffic on my website, or is organic traffic landing on my site and then going away?” Remember that once you upload a page live on the web, it is a matter of time before it is indexed and crawled (unless you are using a no-follow / no-index meta tag). Also, the search engines are determining what your “homepage” is, by serving up the most relevant page to the user, based on their search query. Don’t just focus your efforts on making your real website’s homepage great – work on category-level, product-level, and all interior pages of your site – you only get one chance to make a first impression.
As I’ve mentioned twice already, you can easily apply the non-paid Advanced Segment at any time in Google Analytics, thereby turning your entire Google Analytics profile into an SEO reporting platform! If you know what you’re doing, and are technically-oriented, you can apply filters to your profiles that, for example, only track organic / natural traffic, and you can also edit the Google Analytics Tracking Code so that it will count your favorite website(s) as organic search engines, or, count your least favorite ones as direct traffic.
Yes – Google Analytics is your newest, best-SEO-friend!