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September 9, 2012

Measuring SEO Success via Google Analytics

If you’ve been reading much of what I’ve written over the years, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of using search engine rankings as a measure of success for SEO. Thankfully, we have much better ways to measure SEO success today, thanks to tools like Google Analytics.

While presenting an all-day SEO training class at the University of San Diego last week, I realized that many people who do SEO as part of their job don’t always know what information in Google Analytics they should be looking at, nor how to find it. In that spirit, I’ve put together some of the main metrics that I like to look at when I’m evaluating the SEO progress of a website, as well as how to find or gather those metrics via reports and dashboards. (Please note that Google Analytics is constantly changing and improving; the methods and reports in this article are current as of this writing, but may change at any time in the future.)

The Bare Minimum to Measure to Check on SEO Success

If you do nothing else, you’ll want to at least measure the following:

*
Organic keyword traffic
* Landing pages from organic search

Thankfully, all of the above can be found via Google Analytics’ Standard Reporting.

1. Organic Keywords That Bring Traffic

To find these, simply click:

Standard Reporting >
Search > Organic >
Primary Dimension: Keyword

Image 1:

You’ll end up with a nice overview of which keyword phrases are bringing direct organic search engine traffic to the website, such as this:

Image 2:

2. Landing Pages That Receive Direct Organic Traffic

To see exactly which pages they landed on, you can click the “Landing Page” link as the Primary Dimension. That will show you something like this:

Image 3:

From there, you can take both of these reports and add them to an SEO Dashboard so that you can quickly glance at this information when you first go into your Google Analytics.

Simply click the Add to Dashboard link near the top of the page and you’ll be presented with a box to select which dashboard you want to add it to. (You can have numerous dashboards.)

Image 4:

We’ll create a new dashboard and name it “SEO Dashboard.”

Image 5:

Check both the Timeline and the Table.

Image 6:

Unfortunately, not quite all the data gets transferred over to your dashboard, but it’s still good for quick looks when you don’t have time to dig deeper. You’ll also want to add the previous keyword report to that dashboard so that you can look at both keyword and landing page information at the same time.

Image 7:

Now our SEO Dashboard provides us with a quick view of which keywords brought organic search engine visitors as well as which pages of the site they first landed on.

But my favorite report of all merges both the keyword data with the landing page data via “Secondary Dimensions.”

If you go to your original landing page report and click:

Secondary Dimension > Traffic Sources > Keyword

Image 8:

Then you’ll be able to see exactly which keywords brought organic search engine traffic to which specific pages of the site:

Image 9:

Sadly, you can’t save any reports with secondary dimensions to a dashboard. However, just last week, Google Analytics introduced a new method to save this sort of report called “Shortcuts.” All you have to do is click the new Shortcut link at the top…

Image 10:

Name your shortcut…

Image 11:

…and you’re all set! Your saved report will now show up in the left-side bar under a new “Shortcuts” area:

Image 12:

Now every time you want to see the larger report, just click that shortcut link and you’ll have the report using whatever time period your Google Analytics is set for when you’re viewing it.

Want to email this report to your client or boss? Just click on the email button at the top:

Image 13:

Just fill out whom you want to send it to and choose the format (it can be various spreadsheet formats or a PDF). You can choose to send them automatically on a regular basis (such as each month) or you can just send this particular one once. Be sure to also leave a short message, or Google will provide a prompt for you to do so.

Image 14:

Click Send, and whomever you sent it to will have their copy of the report delivered immediately as an attachment.

I hope this helps you get started with how to measure your SEO success. There is plenty more than what I’ve told you, but if you are new to Google Analytics and/or SEO, at least you’ll have a place to start without getting too confused!


Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen. If you learned from this article, be sure to invite your colleagues to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so they can receive similar articles in the future!

27 Responses to “Measuring SEO Success via Google Analytics

    avatar wIlson says:

    What does not provided mean in keywords list? Overall Article is awesome. I really appreciate your work. We can easily get full detail through analytics.

    avatar Phil says:

    Nice to see such an indepth article with plenty of images to understand how to use Google analytics

    avatar samuel says:

    Good job, i translate this post to spanish people.

    avatar Troy Johnson says:

    Cool! I learned a few things. Thanks for sharing Jill.

    avatar Tom says:

    Excellent Post, clear and concise. This valuable information for anyone just starting out in this field.

    avatar Pedro says:

    Excellent! Great help for beginners.

    Wow…Great Post about measuring SEO Success…

    avatar Chris says:

    Good stuff… thank you for bringing up this topic. Definitely things everyone should be looking at, but most don’t. It is usually more effective to drive keyword-specific traffic to particular pages of the site (and monitor that using these tools), rather than attempt to make the front page a mishmash of multiple keywords (impossible to optimize).

    This is something I’ve been needing to get around to doing on my own site! :-)))

    avatar Marco Ellis says:

    Really useful. Super easy. Many thanks Jill.

    avatar Tom says:

    Thank you for the easy to understand directions. Google analytics can be very scary for new webmasters. And even though I “HATE” Google, I do like what they are doing with their analytics. I guess that means I have a love-hate relationship. lol

    avatar Anna says:

    This begs the question: what do you do with this data? How does this help you manage your site to higher rankings? Maybe that could be your follow up article – what value this data has and how to translate it into actionable information.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Thanks everyone!

    Anna, what to do with the data will definitely be a follow up article!

    As to the (not provided) question, I do have a previous article that addresses that here:
    Measuring Natural Keyword Traffic in the Age of (Not Provided) Secure Search

    Dear Jill Whalen says

    I just wanted to know that, some people selling backlinks, these backlinks are helpful for us or just fake?
    cat mario online

    avatar Tarun Gehani says:

    Hi Jill,

    Thanks for this informative and detailed post. The use of shortcuts (even in beta) is a great practice and now we have some great examples to get started.

    – Tarun –
    Web Designer in Michigan

    avatar Evelyn says:

    This is GREAT! There are so many hidden areas in Analytics that I gave up looking and only use the general ones. I found a few new words that I can concentrate on now. Thanks!

    avatar Sadao says:

    Thank you so much for the great insight!
    I’ve been using Analytics for years and I have a lot more to learn.

    Easy to follow and down to the point. This gave us so many tools. Thanks Jill Whalen! Much appreciated. LDC

    avatar irsah says:

    Thanks Jill for the insights. Very well explained tutorial (like the Guru you are). Simplicity is what we all need (especially webmasters) and now a great start for us in providing the best report and options.

    avatar Shafiq Khan says:

    Great Article …

    Didn’t realise you could schedule an email to be sent at set frequency for a custom report!

    avatar Jesse Slome says:

    I have learned that doing my own SEO is far more effective than paying folks who promise the moon and the stars and NEVER deliver. So, as a result, I read everything I can. Most is useless.

    BUT YOUR COLUMN WAS FANTASTIC. Helpful, easy to implement and I thank you for taking the time to share it so effectively.

    This ‘almost-60’ exec and self-teaching SEO guru thanks you.
    Jesse Slome
    American Association for Long Term Care Insurance

    Thanks for your excellent article. It´s more than a lesson and we learned a lot on the subject. However i can´t understand why Google Analytics (my account) just show me strange keywords typed as organic search, for example this keyword “award .bible to a bunch of hardcore”, when i don´t have this on the main page or other pages of my web site. Can someone help me to explain this?
    Thanks and regards

    avatar @Allmoh says:

    Thank you very much for publishing this kind of article this information is really helpful. Thanks You Quick question regarding tracking success/monitoring backlinks, etc….what about all these other little tools and widgets out there – anything worth checking out. I mean there are major softwares out there for big bucks of course, but I’m talkin like SEOQuake for Firefox, etc. I’m currently working for a company in northern Germany – they use sitefactor which seems pretty good…there gotta be some other stuff though…maybe you can share some ideas (or point me
    to one of your comments where you have done that in the past). Thanks.
    go here

    I just wanted to know that, some people selling backlinks, these backlinks are helpful for us or just fake?
    cat mario online

    Thank you for the easy to understand directions. Google analytics can be very scary for new webmasters. And even though I “HATE” Google, I do like what they are doing with their analytics. I guess that means I have a love-hate relationship

    This is my first visit to your blog! Thank you very much for publishing this kind of article. We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on Measuring SEO Success via Google Analytics . You have done a Good job
    cat mario online

    avatar Allmoh says:

    Thank you very much for publishing this kind of article. This information is really helpful. Quick question regarding tracking success/monitoring backlinks, etc….what about all these other little tools and widgets out there – anything worth checking out? I mean there is major software out there for big bucks of course, but I’m talking about programs like SEOQuake for Firefox, etc. I’m currently working for a company in northern Germany – they use sitefactor which seems pretty good…there has to be be some other stuff though…maybe you can share some ideas (or point me to one of your comments where you have done that in the past). Thanks.

    How can we figure out how much time it will take for content to help a website getting optimized? For example, if I posted 30 articles on wordpress (1 every day) how can we calculate a rough estimated time for that website to get optimized keeping in mind the competition.

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