Using Google Analytics to track your SEO efforts


6 mins

Using Google Analytics to track your SEO efforts

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“You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

Management thinker Peter Drucker was referring to all sorts of business performance when he uttered those sage words, but they’re just as true in the world of SEO.

You may have a beautiful website, tons of visitors, and a perfectly tuned sales funnel, but if you’re not tracking your SEO efforts, you won’t be able to tell which of your strategies are working and, more importantly, which ones aren’t.

For instance, is all that website traffic turning into sales? Are you sure they’re not bots or spammy referral traffic? What’s the ROI on that AdWords campaign you launched last month?

Without data, it’s impossible to know.

Luckily, there’s a tool for tracking your SEO performance: Google Analytics (GA). It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s one of the most powerful marketing tools available today.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to track SEO metrics using Google Analytics, so you can make data-driven decisions that will help you improve your entire digital marketing strategy.

What is SEO analytics?

Before we dive into how to track SEO in Google Analytics, let’s take a step back and define what we mean by “SEO analytics.”

SEO analytics is the practice of tracking and analyzing data related to your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) performance.

This data can include things like:

  • keywords
  • backlinks
  • organic traffic
  • changes in ranking
  • page views
  • click-through rate (CTR)
  • conversions
Basically, if there’s a metric related to your website’s SEO performance, it can be considered part of your analytics for SEO.

Why Google Analytics is essential to SEO

SEO analytics and reporting sounds simple in theory – after all, we’re just talking about cold data – but in practice, things can get a bit more complicated.

Google updates its ranking algorithm multiple times per day, which means that your website’s ranking can fluctuate on a daily basis.

Second, there are a lot of different data points that can impact your website’s SEO performance, making it difficult to identify which ones are actually important.

In that context, what is Google Analytics in SEO?

Google Analytics accelerates and simplifies the SEO analytics process by giving you access to all of the data you need in one place.

So, why Google Analytics instead of some other analytics tool? Let’s take a closer look:

1. Google owns Google Analytics

Most SEO strategies revolve around optimizing for Google. However, while other search engines like Bing, Yandex, Microsoft Edge, and DuckDuckGo do exist, they don’t have the same market share as Google – 92.47% of the entire search engine market, to be exact.

So, it only makes sense to use a tool that was designed specifically with Google in mind.

2. Google Analytics tracks data over time

As we mentioned earlier, SEO analytics is not a one-off task. You can’t just track your website’s data once and be done with it.

To be truly effective, you need to be tracking your data on an ongoing basis so that you can identify patterns and trends over time.

Using Google Analytics for SEO lets you do just that. You can view data for a specific time period (e.g., month to month, year over year) and compare it side-by-side to see how your website’s SEO has changed over time.

This data view reveals things that you wouldn’t be able to see by looking at your data in isolation. Insights like these can be invaluable in terms of formulating and adjusting your SEO strategy.

3. Google Analytics shows you where your web traffic is coming from

A key part of any SEO strategy is understanding where all those website visits are coming from. Are they coming from organic search? Direct traffic? Social media? PPC?

Google Analytics takes the guesswork out of this by showing you exactly which channels are sending traffic your way. Not only that, but it also provides insights into which channels are most effective in terms of driving conversions.

4. You can set custom alerts in Google Analytics

Another useful feature of Google Analytics is the ability to set custom alerts.

With custom alerts, you can be notified anytime there’s a significant change in your website traffic or conversions. This is extremely helpful in terms of quickly identifying and responding to any potential SEO issues.

For example, you could set up an alert to notify you if there’s a sudden drop in organic traffic so that you can investigate the cause and take corrective action if necessary.

Custom alerts can save you a lot of time and hassle by automatically bringing potential problems to your attention instead of you having to constantly check your analytics data for changes.

5. You can configure Google Analytics to track specific conversions

Traffic is only one half of the equation when it comes to SEO – conversions are the other half.

While traffic is important, it doesn’t matter much if those visitors aren’t taking the desired action on your website. These actions can come in the form of newsletter signups, purchases, contact form submissions, etc.

You can set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics to see how well your website is performing in terms of driving these desired actions. You can then tweak your SEO strategy accordingly to try and boost your conversion rate.

6. Google Analytics is free

Google offers GA on a freemium basis. This means that the core features of GA are free to use, but there are also a few paid features that you can choose to add on if you want.

The free version of GA is more than enough for most small businesses and website owners, making it a cost-effective addition to your marketing plan.

7. You can link GA to third-party tools

Google Analytics is a powerful tool on its own, but it can be even more useful when used in conjunction with other tools.

For example, you can link GA to your Google Ads account so that you can see how well your paid traffic is performing. In addition, you can also link Google Analytics to reporting tools like Reporting Ninja to easily generate custom SEO reports and dashboards before sending them to your clients.

This level of versatility is one of the things that makes GA such a valuable tool for SEOs.

In short, Google Analytics is an essential tool for any business or website that takes SEO seriously.

Key SEO metrics to track in Google Analytics

One downside of GA is the sheer number of metrics and dimensions that are available.

What metrics you need to watch depends on the type of business you’re in and what your goals are, but there are a few essential metrics that every SEO should be tracking in GA. Here they are:

Organic search traffic

This metric measures the amount of traffic that your website is receiving from organic search results.

You can filter this data by the various search engines that are sending traffic to your website, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. GA also identifies other traffic sources, such as social media, paid traffic, and even spam.

Organic search traffic is a cornerstone of SEO analytics. It’s the context upon which everything else is based, so you need to make sure that you’re tracking it constantly and correctly.

Mobile traffic

This metric breaks down the percentage of traffic that is coming to your website from mobile devices. Google Analytics further breaks this metric down by device types, such as tablets, smartphones, and phablets.

Mobile traffic is becoming increasingly crucial for SEOs because of the growing popularity of mobile devices.

Not only are more and more people using their smartphones and tablets to browse the internet, but Google is also now using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor.

This means that if your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you’re going to have a hard time ranking in the search results.

Bounce rate

This GA metric shows you the percentage of visitors who landed on your website and then left without taking any further action.

A high bounce rate is often an indication that your website isn’t providing the information or answers visitors are looking for. 

On top of that, it can also be caused by poor website design, slow loading times, or a lack of engaging content.

Average session duration

How long visitors stay on your website is another key metric to track. In analytics-speak, a visit is called a “session.”

The average session duration is how long, on average, visitors spend on your website during a single session.

The longer, the better, of course. A high average session duration is a good sign that visitors are finding your website useful and engaging.

Conversely, a low average session duration indicates that visitors are leaving your website quickly and that they’re not finding what they’re looking for.

This metric is especially important for Ecommerce websites, as a high average session duration is often an indication of a successful purchase.

Site speed

Site speed is a core ranking factor for Google. Slow websites not only rank lower in the search results but also have a higher bounce rate and a lower average session duration. It’s bad for business all around.

You can use GA to measure your site speed and identify areas where your website could be faster.

Top organic search landing pages

This metric identifies which pages on your website are getting the most traffic from organic search results and, conversely, the pages that aren’t getting any.

You can use this data to improve elements like the titles and descriptions of your pages to better match the search queries that people are using. You can also use it to create more content around popular topics and to optimize your website architecture.

Google search console queries

Google Search Console (GSC) is another free tool from Google that gathers data about the search queries that people are using to find your website.

Search queries refer to the words and phrases that people are using to find your website in the search results. These queries, aka keywords, are the heart of SEO. Your job is to target those keywords with your content and make sure that your website appears in the search results when people are looking for it.

Tracking your SEO keywords with Google Analytics and GSC at the same time will give you a more well-rounded picture of your organic traffic, keywords, and opportunities.

Goal conversion rate

GA can help you assess the ROI of your SEO campaign. Again, website traffic is meaningless if it doesn’t translate to action – leads, sales, newsletter signups, quote inquiries, calls – whatever your goal is.

Google Analytics also tracks this critical metric. If you’re not meeting your goals, you can use the rest of your GA data to see gaps in your strategy. For instance, maybe your landing pages have slow load times. Perhaps most of your traffic comes from mobile, and your site isn’t properly optimized. Or, you’re not targeting the correct keywords that’ll lead to conversions.

Whatever it is, Google Analytics SEO data can help you figure it out.

Ways to track SEO strategies with Google Analytics

By this point, it should be clear why Google Analytics is so essential to your SEO toolbox.

This versatile tool isn’t just for monitoring website traffic – it can give you insights into every aspect of your SEO campaigns, from keyword research to your conversion stats.

There are endless ways to use GA to track and enhance your SEO campaigns. Here are just a few of the most important ones:

1. Create a laser-focused keyword strategy

Connect GSC with GA to get a complete picture of which keywords are bringing people to your website. Then, use that data to fine-tune your keyword strategy and make sure you’re targeting the right terms.

2. Generate more of the right kind of traffic

Use GA to see which channels are sending you the most traffic, and then focus your efforts on the ones that are most likely to lead to conversions.

3. Identify and optimize previously ranking content

If some of your content has slipped in the rankings, GA can help you figure out why. Check things like pageviews, organic search queries, and bounce rates to get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t.

4. Replicate the success of top organic landing pages

Take a close look at the pages that are getting the most organic traffic. Identify patterns in things like page titles, descriptions, and keyword usage to replicate that success elsewhere on your website.

5. Track site search

If you have a site search feature on your website, make sure to track it with GA. This will give you valuable insights into what people are doing after they land on your website. Where do they go? What do they search for? This data can help you improve your website architecture and navigation.

6. Track 404 issues

It’s inevitable that some of the pages on your website will break or become outdated. That’s fine – but you need to fix it ASAP. GA will show you which pages are generating 404 errors (as long as they are set up correctly), so you can get them back up and running as quickly as possible. Whilst in Google Search Console, the pages report and crawl stats report provide further insight into 404s.

7. Align content with PPC campaigns

If you’re running PPC campaigns, you need to ensure your ads are aligned with your website content. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying for clicks that don’t lead to conversions.

For instance, you might be targeting the same keywords in both your ads and your website content. But if the ad leads to a landing page that’s not relevant to the keyword, you’re going to have a problem.

GA can help you track this – and ensure your PPC and SEO efforts are working together, not against each other.

8. Use annotations

Google Analytics annotations let you leave notes about changes in your website or campaigns. It’s an incredibly useful yet often underutilized feature.

For example, say you just launched a new website design. You can leave an annotation on the date of the launch, so you can easily compare traffic data before and after the change.

Or, say you’re running a contest that’s driving a lot of traffic to your website. You can leave an annotation for the start and end date of the contest so you can see how it affects your traffic.

Annotations are a great way to keep track of changes in your website or campaigns and to quickly and easily see how those changes affect your traffic.

GA4 SEO Tracking

GA4 is the latest iteration of analytics from Google. This doesn’t change anything in terms of what you should and shouldn’t track – but it’s important to note that there are some changes where you can find the details.

Bounce rate for a start is not available as a standard metric – and has been replaced somewhat by engagement rate.

In GA4 you can build  a custom exploration that will allow you to understand your SEO capabilities at ease.

Final Thoughts

Tracking your SEO efforts using Google Analytics should be a key part of your overall SEO strategy.

By using GA to track things like keyword ranking, backlinks, and organic search traffic, you can get a better understanding of what’s working and what isn’t. You can also configure GA to only monitor the metrics that matter to your business, boosting the efficiency of your entire SEO operation.

Finally, integrating Google Analytics with tools like Reporting Ninja amplifies its capabilities.

Instead of manually digging through GA data to find the information you need, Reporting Ninja’s Google Analytics Integration pulls it all together for you in beautiful, easy-to-read reports. You can even automate those Google Analytics SEO reports and have them delivered to your inbox and your clients on a regular basis.

See it for yourself – sign up to activate your FREE 15-Day Trial of Reporting Ninja today!

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