Regardless of what your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company is reporting, it’s always good to double check and see how SEO is actually effecting your site and real world performance. So while you might not be able to see through the fog of SEO strategy and jargon, you can build a bridge from reality to SEO-land in just two easy steps.
1) What keywords are driving your traffic?
Everyone with a website should, first and foremost, have Google Analytics installed on the site. It’s easy to setup and free to run. Yes, there are other premium and specialty analytics tools available but even if you’re using another service you might consider running Google Analytics as well.
Once you have generated more than 1,000 visitors to your site, you should have enough data to start picking out trends. When it comes to SEO, the most important trend is seeing what people are “Googling” to find your site. Within Analytics, you will need to click:
- Standard Reporting tab at the top
- Traffic Sources on the left
- Sources in the dropdown
- Search in the submenu
- Organic below that
While this metric is crucial, it is also a bit tucked away. To make the organic search metric even more effective, you should eliminate any keywords that directly reference the name of your company.
- Click edit next to the search box below the graph
- Make sure you remember to click the dropdown menu to Exclude
- Make the metric Keyword
- Fill in any self referential terms, like the name of your CEO or company
- Repeat the process until all self referential terms are excluded
What you should be left with is keywords that relate to your products or services, but don’t reference your company directly. The remaining keywords are searches that generated traffic to your site instead of going to a competitors website. Remember that good SEO will not only improve your site traffic but will hopefully also take clicks away from competitive firms. This metric will clearly show you if those strategies are effective or not. If the keywords your SEO campaign is targeting aren’t in those top spots, you should know why. Reasonable explanations are:
- The keywords selected for optimization aren’t searched in as high of a quantity as the leading keywords
- The keywords selected for optimization provide higher value than the other more commonly searched keywords.
Either way, you should know the distinction. If there isn’t an explanation, there is one more piece of the puzzle you need to examine before you blame your SEO person for not doing their job. The next step is to check if there is some other disconnect between your SEO efforts and real world results, like your website.
2.) What is happening to the traffic generated by search results when they arrive at your site?
The visitor flow is a new data visualization within Google Analytics. It is extremely effective at showing visitor behavior to your website. In particular, we want to know more about visitors who are arriving at our website through organic search results and also didn’t reference our company directly.
To do this:
- Click Audience on the left.
- Visitors Flow is at the bottom of the submenu.
- Just below the Standard Reporting tab, click Default dropdown and Non-paid Search Traffic.
- In the colored box below that, click Traffic Sources and Keyword in the submenu.
- Click the gear icon to the right.
- Within the dialogue box, list the top 5 – 10 keywords that showed up in step 1 and click apply.
Now you should see a long list of keywords on the left that looks like this:
This data visualization will clearly show you what keywords are generating traffic and what sites those users are visiting when they arrive. The red waterfall effect on the right of the boxes indicates visitors who exited the site. The goal of your site is to minimize these drop-offs in traffic and convert that web traffic into real life customers. So if you notice that very few of your visitors are clicking through to other pages, there could be any number of reasons other than SEO failure:
- The site might not be engaging enough
- The marketing campaigns are generating irrelevant visitors (they aren’t looking for your stuff)
- The site didn’t answer their question
- There wasn’t a clear call to action, so they didn’t know what to do next
The list goes on and on, but most importantly, it will show you if there is a disconnect between good SEO results and poor results in the real world. So while you are spending all of this time, effort, and money on getting better rankings in search results, maybe your site is dropping the ball.
This post was contributed by our colleague Greg Bond.