Philip Westfall, August 18, 2017
So, you’ve started to apply SEO best practices to your content marketing strategy, and now you want to know what type of performance you’re getting. Let’s break down a few tools that can help you determine how well you're doing.
Is most cases, Google Analytics should be your go-to tool for analyzing your web traffic. Whether you are new to website analysis or have been doing for years, Google Analytics is by far the best FREE tool for understanding your audience and how they are interacting with your website or online app.
Unfortunately, GA is not the best tool for tracking organic search results.
Back in October 2011, Google changed the way it harvests data from search results to protect users’ privacy. Since then, referral keywords will be hidden for any search conducted over SSL - Secure Socket Layer. For example, if you’re logged in to a Google product like Gmail.
As you can see by the example above, the large majority of organic results are not provided (98.20%), so the only insight that GA can provide is the behavior of your organic visitors.
If the bounce rates are low (say below 40%) then the pages you are serving are relevant to the keywords you are ranking for.
To really analyze SEO, you will need a different tool.
When questioning if your SEO is working, the proof is in the pudding. There is nothing better than doing a search to see where your page ranks. The only thing you must remember is that search is based on several factors beyond keywords, including location and device.
Sadly, this is not as easy as it used to be to test. In late November 2015, Google removed their native location filter from the main search bar. This means that you need a new way to reproduce localized search results. Here are two ways:
Adding the local keywords to your search will automatically localize the SERP. For example, 'Ice Cream' vs 'Ice Cream New York'.
The other alternative, and my personal recommendation is using the Google AdWords Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool. This tool will allow you to recreate SERP’s from any device or location in the world!
Free bonus: You get to see if your ads are displaying without getting charged for impressions.
Google Search Console is the best FREE tool for understanding what keywords are driving organic traffic to your website.
If you don’t have an account and are serious about SEO, you will want to create an account now.
Here is what Google Search Console looks like:
For any given keyword, you will be able to see your:
You will also be able to dig into the data by country, device, or search type (Web, images, video).
Two important notes: Search Console will only give you data on keywords that you currently rank for (in top 100 results) and their data is delayed by a couple of days.
If you are looking for information on keywords that you are not yet ranking for, or want more up-to-date data, you will need another tool.
As mentioned before, at PageCloud we use SEMrush. Their position tracking tool allows you to track your current position for any set of keywords. This is great because once you get on Google’s radar (start ranking) you can tweak your page to improve your rankings.
Without going into a deep dive into the features and benefits of a pro-tool, keep in mind that if SEO is a part-time concern or you have budget constraints, you can get away with using FREE tools. On the other hand, if you have dedicated resources or are looking to really expand your organic reach, you will need a professional SEO tool.
Now that you have picked out your tool set, how do you figure out if you’re performing?
It's going to depend on what metrics you are looking to improve. This can vary from business to business, but here are some of the main things to measure and how to improve each one:
Increase the number of organic keywords you rank for
Improve CTR on SERP
Increase the number of organic visitors / clicks
Reduce organic bounce rate
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