A couple years ago I got some advice that led to me starting a bit of an unusual habit. Every night, after I’ve plugged in my smartphone and before I start dreaming of sugarplums, I lay in bed and ask myself two questions. (If I could insert a drum-roll into a blog post, this is where I would put it.)
My first question: “How was today?” The second: “How do I want tomorrow to be?”
This little exercise sometimes takes 30 seconds, and other times leads to me thinking deeply about the events of the day. I put off a few minutes of my well-anticipated sleep so that I can reflect on what things are going well in my life and what I hope to improve.
While this digital marketing blogger is not here to give you life advice or build your nightly routine, I am here to tell you that you will most likely never improve your marketing techniques, especially your search engine optimization, if you are not taking the time to review and analyze how things are going.
With 2017 coming to an end, now is the perfect time for you to take a look back at your SEO progress.
In this article we will look at how to analyze your SEO, and will mostly refer to Google Analytics to do so. You may be using a tool other than Google Analytics for your SEO stats. No problem. Site navigation may be different for you, but the basics of what you should be looking for won’t change.
Look at overall traffic.
Let’s start easy to show you that SEO analysis is nothing you have to be afraid of. Overall traffic doesn’t tell you which part of that traffic results from your SEO efforts but it is your starting point to know where you are at with site views. To do this, pull up your Google Analytics and simply click Audience > Overview.
The drop down button on the left hand side will allow you to view the following:
- %New Sessions
- Avg. Session Duration
- Bounce Rate
The right hand corner will allow you to change your view from between hourly, day, week and monthly overviews.
At the bottom of the Audience Overview are quick links to top demographic, system and mobile data. There will also be a chart showing the number of sessions on your website from visitors speaking a particular language. This data will allow you to more precisely tailor your content and advertising in the future.
For example, you may be advertising in English and Spanish, but may realize you are also naturally attracting a lot of attention from Portuguese speaking users. From there you may want to directly target that user-group.
After getting a general overview of your website traffic, it’s time to get more detailed.
Look at your “organic traffic.”
This will show the traffic coming from search engines. Go to Acquisition > All Traffic and you’ll see a list of sources where your traffic comes from. Find the search engines you want to know the volume of traffic for and select those boxes. The “Plot Rows” button will give you a fancy little graph showing you the total traffic and traffic from the search engines you’ve selected.
What that information will mean: If you’re not getting a lot of traffic from search engines, or if that traffic is declining, then that tells you that you need to work on your SEO. You may be missing tons of potential customers who are searching for your business, but aren’t able to find you! You may want to visit BoostUniversity for a basic training in SEO.
Have you been analyzing SEO for a while now? Compare the numbers from your organic search traffic with your last SEO audit. You can do this by selecting to view ‘Organic Search’ and in the right-hand corner and choosing the dates you want to compare. Obviously, you want those numbers to be going up. And if you’ve been actively working on your SEO over an extended period of time, they should be.
Find out what is and isn’t working.
You want to know which of your SEO strategies are bringing you the most leads, so that you can know where to continue focusing and know how you may need to shift your other strategies.
Here are a few places to start.
For starters, look into bounce rate. This is when people click on your site, but quickly click back to the search engine without actually doing anything on your site. These little teases can hurt, but you can learn from them.
There are a couple of ways to get to this, including the initial Audience Overview. A good way to get a more detailed view however is to go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. From there you will get a chart that will allow you to see the bounce rate, along with the average amount of time spent on the page.
On the left hand side you will have different lists of your various web pages. Your home page, for example, may have a low bounce rate, while other sub pages may have a very high bounce rate.
Pages with a high bounce rate typically reflect a need for better page content and quality. These have an indirect effect on your SEO rankings.
You will rank poorly if your website isn’t optimized for mobile usage. You can see how many people are viewing your site on a mobile phone by going to Audience > Mobile > Overview.
From here you can see if the majority of your users are accessing your website from a desktop, tablet or mobile. Just click on the pie chart icon and you’ll get an easy to read data set. In general you should make sure your website looks good and works fine on a mobile phone, but that is especially true if the mobile views account for more than 10%.
Also, (going back to bounce rate) if your bounce rate on mobile is significantly higher than on desktop then your site probably isn’t very mobile-friendly.
You can have Google test for faulty redirects and blocked URLs on mobile. Change intentionally-blocked pages by switching “robots.txt” to allow access. Other tips include changing image size, simplifying code and reducing page redirects.
Keywords are usually what everyone first thinks of when talking about SEO. They are the words that consumers are typing into their search engines to find something.
However, there is another place where people search with keywords. That is within your own website. Checking your internal site search data for frequently searched terms will show you what is popular within your audience.
You can find this on Google Analytics with Behavior > Site Search > Overview. If any of the recurring keywords don’t match the keywords you are using, add them! You may even consider creating a page just for that keyword, if it doesn’t already exist.
Use the AdWords > Keywords report to better understand which keywords generate conversions for your business. Certain keywords will lead to different types of micro-conversions (email signups, adding to cart, store locator, etc) which add to overall increased revenue. So, this tool will especially reveal what is working well for you.
If you still need help figuring out which keywords are important for you, take a look at this training video from Boostability.
Through Google Analytics you can track the behavioral patterns of users who are most likely to convert.
To do so, go to Audience > Behavior play around with the following tabs: New vs. Returning, Frequency & Recency, Engagement. This will allow you to see how well you are doing at attracting new users and getting them to come back again.
Pay special attention to the New vs. Returning tab. If you’ve set up goals on your site through Google Analytics (e.g. signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase), this data will let you see which visitors are “completing” that goal more often.
If end conversions are mostly coming from reoccurring users, focus on getting your customers to sign up for email lists, subscribe to your site content, or any other tactics that will keep them coming back!
Have you ever heard of dark social? Dark social refers to when people share content on private, rather than public, platforms. These platforms include email, private messaging (Whatsapp, Messenger), mobile apps (Facebook, Instagram) and secure browsing.
People sharing your content- great! People sharing your content via dark social- still great, but difficult for analytical purposes because those shares/views can’t be easily tracked.
Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t have any one-step “dark traffic” button for you to measure these kind of site views. But, there are ways around it through limiting your “direct traffic” results and excluding your mainstream URL’s.
To access this information first click on Audience > Overview. You will then find an “Add Segment” button on the top right of your analytics screen. Click it and from the list of segment options, select only “Direct Traffic.”
This will show you all the URL’s that people have either typed directly into a search bar, or engaged in through some type of dark social. To narrow down your dark social suspects go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
Above the chart you will find an “Advanced” option. Choose this, and the first filter to appear will default to include a page. Change “Include” to “Exclude” in the drop-down list and set the dimension to “Page.” From here, you can type in words contained in your simpler web pages. This would be things like “/blog/”, “/contact/”, or “/about/”. When you first type in “/” Google Analytics should give you some suggestions of things you might want to try.
After filtering these simpler URLs, what will be left are your more obscure URLs, the ones that people wouldn’t be likely to type in manually or even be able to remember offhand. These are most likely your dark social culprits.
Remember my two questions at the beginning? You just answered the first, “How was today?” Or in marketing terms, “How was my SEO this year?” Now, it’s time for you to answer the second; “How do I want tomorrow [next year] to be?”
Set goals, and go get your results.