How to find new SEO opportunities with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

On October 4 2011, Google announced that search queries data from the Google Webmaster tools were now available in Google Analytics. What does that mean for you and your website? Well, as SEO specialists, we are always looking for new ways to find opportunities to increase traffic, conversions and revenue on a website. The integration of Google Webmaster Queries in Google Analytics allows us to find these golden opportunities. Let’s look at what new data these reports allow us to look at.

The New Reports

Enabling Google Webmaster Tools in Google Analytics will give you access to this data: (click on images throughout the blog post to enlarge them)

1) Queries

From this tab, you can see the queries which related to your website and sort them by impressions, clicks, average position and CTR. This can be very useful:
Google Analytics SEO queries
One thing to keep in mind is that the average position is not the ranking for these keywords but the average position out of all the impressions. It could mean that if you have multiple positions for a single keyphrase, it will take the average of all impressions and not the highest ranking.

From Google’s Webmaster Help:

“To calculate average position, we take into account the ranking of your site for a particular query
(for example, if a query returns your site as the #1 and #2 result, then the average position would be 1.5).”

However, beside the keywords for which you rank multiple times for, you can assume that the average position equals the average ranking. The rest of the information presented in this report can be quite useful. We will elaborate on that later in this post.

2) Landing Pages

This report is basically the same as the one described above except it shows pages instead or queries:

Google Analytics SEO landing pagesThe average position report is interesting but requires more digging to see which keywords a page actually ranks for. However, data like impressions and CTR can be very useful to gauge the potential power of a page.

3)   Geographical Summary

This report is mostly useful for sites with an international audience and reports the same data sorted by countries:

Google Analytics SEO countriesYou can also change the “view” to compare clicks per impression per country for example and see the relevancy of your search results on country per country basis.

4) Google Property

Hidden in the Geographical Summary is a tab called Google Property which gives you an overall picture of what channels your website is most listed in:

GA SEO Google PropertyThis helps you determine which areas you need to focus on. You could also decide to create/improve the mobile version of your website if the number of impressions and clicks is not high enough.

How to Find SEO Opportunities within the Search Engine Optimization Report?

The main advantages of enabling the migration of data from Google Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics are that Google Analytics now allows you to:

  • Set up a secondary dimension such as “Google Property” which tells you where each query is being displayed
  • Change the view to “comparison” and sort that data by Clicks, impressions, CTR, Average position very easily, while comparing the results to the site average or to other queries.
  • Apply filters to sort the data in more details.

Google Analytics SEO advantagesFilters could help you find keywords that rank on average on the second page of Google, find keywords that rank on the first two pages of Google but have a low CTR and so on…depending on what your goals are, there are several filters that would make your life as an SEO specialist a lot easier. Let’s look at some concrete examples:

Finding SEO Opportunities:

Pages with traffic opportunity

On the landing pages tab of the search engine optimization report, apply a filter to show the pages with high impressions (the number will vary depending on your website) and an average position below 7:

filter page with opportunityApplying this filter to our test website helped me find a secondary page that doesn’t drive very much traffic:

SEO opportunity Traffic pages105 visitors in a month isn’t very many and this page isn’t a primary focus of this website. However, when looking at the new search engine optimization report within Google Analytics with the filter described above, we can see that this page has the potential to drive tons of traffic:

SEO Opportunity Pages with trafficIt’s the number #1 landing page in terms of impressions with 60,000 impressions in a month, way above the home page of the website which had 6,500. However, the average position of that page is only 8.5 so increasing its average position to the top 5 or top 3 and tweaking the description tag to make the listing more appealing could potentially drive a lot more traffic.

Pages with keyword cannibalization issue opportunity

Finding keyword cannibalization isn’t easy because at least two pages are involved and cross matching data is necessary. There are no magic filters that will find these pages for you. However, it is possible to find these pages with some digging and filtering.
For example, I applied a filter on our test website to find pages that ranked well but had a low CTR, therefore didn’t seem relevant to users:

SEO keyword cannibalization FilterI looked at the page that showed up #1 in that result.  After checking that the title and meta description were correct, deeper research allowed us to find the following information:

SEO Opportunity Pages with keyword cannibalizationWhen looking at this page’s statistics, you see that it doesn’t drive a ton of traffic. Also, you will notice that the bounce rate is really high, which is a bad sign. When looking at the report from Google Webmaster Tools, we can see that the page ranks fairly high with an average position of 3.7:

SEO Opportunity Pages with keyword cannibalizationThere was a clear opportunity with a page that ranks high enough to drive traffic but doesn’t actually receive clicks and has a high bounce rate. To investigate further, the keywords that drove traffic to the page were compared against the list of keywords that were targeted for that page. It turns out that the keywords bringing traffic to this page were not all relevant. Moreover, when I looked at the search results for important keywords, another page from the same site ranked higher while being less relevant for these keywords. It was a typical case of keyword cannibalization where on-page SEO tweaks to both pages would help rectifying the SEO issues, and drive more relevant traffic to both pages.

Pages with conversions opportunity

The process for trying to find pages with high conversion opportunities I follow is:

  • Look at the top ‘X’ pages with the most traffic (Number of pages can vary depending on size of website).
  • Look at the top ‘X’ pages with the most conversions.
  • Check these pages in the “Search engine optimization” part of the Google Analytics report and look for their impressions, CTR and average position.
  • Then cross match all the data and hope some pages will jump out like this one:

Pages with conversions SEO OpportunityThis page has a fair amount of traffic compared to the average on the site, and is the third highest landing page. The high bounce is a bit alarming. However, this page sells big industrial products and when looking at some keywords driving traffic to this page, we can see that some keywords apply for both B2B and B2C. The B2B part of the traffic is converting much better, when the B2C part of the traffic bounces out.
When looking at the top pages with the most conversions, this page ranks number 4, which is quite good (I applied the advanced segment: “visits with conversion”):landing page with conversion

The “search engine optimization” report from Google Analytics tells us that this page ranks on average at the 15th position in Google Web search results:

SEO landing page with conversion
All this data put together tells us that this page is one of the pages that drive the most traffic and that convert the most. However, this page has a huge bounce rate, and ranks poorly on a few of the keywords it is listed for. Increasing the average ranking from 15 to top 5, and reducing the bounce rate from 75% to at least the 40-50% range would make a significant improvement and could potentially drive a lot more traffic and conversions.

These 3 examples showed you how using the “Search Engine Optimization” part of the Google Analytics report can help you find SEO opportunities. What do you think? Do you use this part of the report? If not, will you start using it now?

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