There is an adage in business that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
Well, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is no different.
Being able to measure your SEO progress and success is a crucial part of improving it.
Fortunately for businesses, measuring the results of your SEO efforts can be done with a little-known free tool… Google Analytics.
Measure What Matters
Before jumping into the technical side of how to measure your SEO performance, it’s important to note that you should measure what matters.
In SEO, it’s easy to get caught up in vanity metrics. I’m certainly guilty of patting myself on the back when I see a jump in organic pageviews.
But just looking at pageviews doesn’t tell you any about the quality of those views. Instead, we should measure beyond the click. Measuring engagement instead.Just looking at pageviews doesn’t tell you any about the quality of those views. Click To Tweet
One important engagement metric is bounce rate. Bounce rate refers to the percentage of people who viewed a single page on your site and then left without clicking any other pages. While there are some situations that a high bounce rate makes sense, typically, a high bounce rate is a big issue.
Bounce rate is particularly useful for measuring the organic performance of your blog and other content.
That’s because a falling bounce rate means that people are more interested in what you have to say and that you’re convincing people to engage with more content.
But that’s not to say that you should ignore pageviews. Measuring organic pageviews over time is an excellent way to measure your overall SEO performance.
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Analyzing Your SEO Performance in Google Analytics
The first step of measuring SEO performance is getting an overall picture of how you’re doing. Looking at changes in your total organic traffic over longer-term periods can give you an indication if your SEO strategy is working well or not.
Increasing organic traffic is one of the main indications of a successful search marketing strategy. To check your organic traffic in Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. From there you’ll be able to see how your organic traffic compares to other channels like referral and social.
If your organic traffic growth rate is flat or falling, that’s a sign that you may need to adjust your content and SEO strategy.
But as I mentioned above, traffic alone doesn’t tell the full story.
- Which pages are driving the extra traffic?
- Which keywords are you ranking for?
- Is organic traffic engaging with the content they land on?
We can answer that too.
Measuring Your SEO Performance by Page
Websites don’t rank for keywords – pages do.Websites don’t rank for keywords – pages do. Click To Tweet
For this reason, it makes sense to measure your SEO success by individual page. Looking at page-level data allows you to see which pages on your site are providing the most SEO value and which could use some work.
You can find your page-level data by navigating to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
To filter this view to only show organic traffic you simply need to change the segment from All Users to Organic Traffic
From there you can dig into the data in some different ways. For example:
- Compare the time on page for different pages and content. Identifying the pages that people spend the most time on provides you with some insight into what interests your readers and what they’re looking for.
- Are any pages particularly good are driving goal conversions? Sort your pages by your various goals to see which pages are leading the best at converting organic traffic.
Another good way to dig into page-level data is by looking at your landing pages. Landing pages refer to the first page a searcher lands on when visiting your site (i.e. the page they click on from a Google SERP.)
To find your landing page data in Google analytics, click Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages
Again, you’ll need to make sure to use the Organic Traffic segment from the last example. You should hopefully be seeing a solid number of pageviews, time on page and goal conversions.
If some of your landing pages aren’t performing well, then audit those pages and ask yourself:
- Does the page content live up to the title?
- Are there any formatting or design issues?
- Can you improve the visual appeal of the article?
More Ways to Use Google Analytics to See What’s Working (And What Isn’t)
Now that search engine algorithms are taking into account social signals to determine content relevancy and calculate search rankings, it’s worth knowing which social channels are driving the most traffic to your site.
Is LinkedIn bringing in more traffic than Twitter? Creating more content specifically for these social networks can help boost social signals even more.
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If visitors are only viewing one page on your site, you have a problem with site architecture, site usability, or your actual content. Apart from ensuring your site is user-friendly, make sure the keywords that are driving traffic are relevant to your marketing goals.
Do the web pages that visitors arrive on properly address the underlying questions contained in these search terms? Review your bounce rates for different pages to see which pages need special attention.
It’s common knowledge that site speed affects search rankings, and since Google’s Hummingbird update it’s even more significant. Google knows that people today expect sites to load quickly, so slow-loading sites are being penalized.
Check your site speed reports and follow Google’s Webmaster guidelines to ensure you’re getting it right.
Something as simple as checking your search rankings can be a strong indication of the effectiveness of your SEO content strategy. Increasing your brand’s overall web presence is one important aspect of SEO, so analyze your rankings for certain keyword phrases. To get a more accurate measure of online visibility, focus on long-tail keywords.
As your content spreads, you should see the number of backlinks to your website grow, but it’s important to focus on their quality. Look at the domain authority of the websites linking to your content. Analyzing the anchor text data can also help you understand how people perceive your brand. When you know the details, you can focus on delivering content based around these terms.
Do you have the correct number of web pages indexed with Google? For example, if you publish 100 pages but Google finds only 50, there’s something wrong with your site structure. It could be because there are no links pointing to new pages or duplicate content issues.
To check how many pages of your website Google are indexing, type: “site:” followed by your domain name into Google search.
Finding out what proportion of your visitors convert is key to developing an effective SEO strategy. How you define conversions will vary depending on your marketing goals, but measuring conversion rates can help you work out how effective your content is and whether you need to improve calls-to-action and site architecture. It will also show you which keywords are attracting the most valuable traffic.
Branded and Non-Branded Keywords
Attracting organic search traffic through branded keywords is fine, but you could be missing out on traffic from non-branded search terms. Do you have enough unique in-depth content for your website that describes your brand? Check what percentage of traffic comes from non-branded keyword phrases and if it’s low, start developing content based around these search terms.
Analyze Your SEO by Keyword
Alternatively, you can measure your SEO success by keyword. That said, Google Analytics doesn’t do a great job of showing you keyword data.
To find the small amount of keyword data available, navigate to Acquisition > Campaigns > Organic Keywords.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the majority of your organic keywords are “(not provided).” Not very helpful. You can improve this report by setting the secondary dimension as “landing page” This will at least break the (not provided) up by which page was clicked, which is better, but still not great.
If you’re interested in learning more about secondary dimensions, check out our post How to Gain Deeper Insights Using Secondary Dimensions in Google Analytics
For accessing your keyword data, you’ll want to head over to a different (but also free) Google product – Google Search Console.
Setting Up Google Search Console
The first step to setting up your Search Console is making sure you have a Google Analytics account.
After that, setting things up is straightforward:
1. Go to Google Search Console and sign in
2. Once you’re signed in, click “Add A Property”
3. Next, enter the URL of your website
4. Then verify the website using one of the four options provided:
- Uploading an HTML file
- Verify using your hosting provider
- Verify using Google Tags
- Verify using you Google Analytics Tracking ID (Recommended)
I recommend using verifying your website using the Google Analytics Tracking ID because it’s the fastest and easiest method.
And just like that, you’re all set up. Now that your Search Console is ready, you just have to wait for data to start rolling in. Once you have some data, there are some different ways you can use Google Search Console to analyze SEO.
7 Ways to Analyze SEO in Google Search Console
1. The Best Keyword Data (Not Provided) Alternative
Thanks to some Google updates, marketers can no longer see all of the keywords driving organic traffic in Google Analytics. While you can still access some keyword data using Search Console, it’s not as comprehensive as before.
Under “Search Traffic” you can see a keyword report, showing impressions, clicks, average ranking positions, and more. Monitoring these keywords over time will help you see where to refine your content and how to improve your keyword strategy.
This is an incredibly useful report because you can slice up the data in many different ways. In addition to impressions and clicks, you can filter the data by keywords, pages, and other parameters.
For instance, how much traffic are you branded keywords sending? Filter the keywords to include your company name so you can see how many people are searching for you directly. Alternatively, check which blog posts the most successful at driving traffic to your site by filtering the pages to only include your blog.
2. Pinpoint Your Site’s Broken Pages
When visitors to your site cannot access certain pages, you’re bound to lose some valuable traffic and potential customers – they’ll just find another site. In this scenario, all your SEO work and content means nothing, so it’s vital to fix these errors as soon as you can.
Under the “Crawl Errors” tab, you’ll find data from the last 90 days about which pages returned an HTTP error and which ones Googlebot had trouble crawling. You can then fix any issues to ensure every visitor has full access to your site.
Search Console can give you some valuable data on all your backlinks. Under “Search Traffic” you’ll find “Links to Your Site” which will show you all the websites that link to your site.
If you have a huge website, it may not list all the links, but for smaller websites, all the links will be shown. You can even download the list of the URLs for reference.
4. Check Your Site Speed
Since the Hummingbird update, site speed has become an important part of SEO. Using PageSpeed Insights, you can find out how long your website content takes to load. Improving your page load times is key to improving the user experience and getting more visitors to stay on your site.
To access this tool, in the Find Crawl > Web Tools > Other Resources and then click the “PageSpeed Insights” link. Insert your URL and click “Analyze.” You can then use the suggestions to improve your page load times.
5. Enable Email Notifications from Google
In the Webmaster Tools preferences menu, click on “Enable email notifications.” You can then select the specific issues you want to be alerted about. If you are penalized by Google, or there are any other issues with your site, Google will email you immediately.
This is a simple way to give yourself peace of mind while you are focusing on other SEO tasks.
6. Use the HTML Improvements Report
Under “Search Appearance” you’ll find “HTML Improvements.” This gives you a breakdown of any problems concerning your site’s title tags, meta descriptions, and other issues Google encountered while indexing your site. For example, you can find out if you have duplicate title tags and meta descriptions, helping you to make essential changes that will boost your SEO power.
7. Consider the Disavow Tool
Sometimes your site may be penalized by Google even when you don’t intentionally do anything wrong. In these cases, you need to remove these penalties as soon as possible to get your site back on track and recover your page rankings. Access the disavow tool, look for poor-quality links and then request that Google remove them. Google will treat these links as “nofollow” links.
Be very careful here. Google can often tell which links are spammy as soon as they link to your site, meaning in many cases you don’t have to worry about it disavowing. Plus, disavowing links incorrectly could cost you.
It can take a while to get to grips with Google Search Console, but if you use these suggestions, you can ensure you are maximizing your SEO efforts and building a website that performs better in search engine results pages.
Over to You
Now that you’re better equipped to measure your SEO success, how is it doing? A successful SEO strategy requires high-quality content, so if you could use some help creating awesome content then get in touch.