Using Google Analytics to monitor an SEO Campaign

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool. According to Nikesh Aror, Google’s Chief Business Officer, it is used on over 10 million websites globally and according to Built With it’s used on 17,483,032 websites. There’s no denying its popularity, and for good reason. Google Analytics is almost essential these days, but for a novice user it can also be quite daunting trying to get useful, actionable data out of it. Hopefully this guide will help you get started making the most of Google Analytics.

We are aware this is a very brief guide to Google Analytics, it’s just designed for our clients to monitor the traffic to their own website, rather than relying solely on the ranking reports.

We will not explain how to install Analytics on your site as Google already explain how to do that on this page. Going forward, we assume you already have Google Analytics installed and working and have the report open; you should be on a page that looks something like this:

audience overview

As this is an SEO blog, let’s start with how to find traffic from your organic (non-paid) listings.

Click “Traffic Sources” on the left side, then click “Sources”, then click “Search”, then click “Organic”.

You will now be able to see details about all the organic traffic coming to your website, it should look something like this:

organic search traffic

This page gives a good overview of the visitors to your site. The number of visits, the average number of pages per visit, the average visit duration, the % of new visits and the bounce rate. All of these statistics are useful to monitor the engagement; are people staying on your site and having a look around or are they immediately leaving?

Pages / Visit:
page per visit
As a general rule the higher the pages / visit the better, as visiting multiple pages of your site suggests more interest. However some people may land on one page and go straight to the contact page, or contact you from that page so it’s not really 100% reliable information, but it can give you an indication there is a problem if the average pages / visit is very low.

Average Visit Duration:
average visit duration
Just like with pages / visit the average visit duration could be low if the visitor finds the information they are looking for straight away then contacts you, but it could also be low if the user doesn’t find what they were expecting on the page which means it’s not a very reliable statistic.

You should use this information in conjunction with other statistics such as the bounce rate. High bounce rate and low average visit duration normally means the page isn’t really helpful for the visitors, which could be down to the design of the page or the information on the page. Alternatively maybe the page isn’t what the visitors were expecting when they clicked on the result in the search engines, which could mean there is a problem with the title tag or description of the page, as this is what is displayed in the search results on the search engines.

Bounce Rate:
Bouncerate example
A “bounce” is when someone visits your website but leaves within the first five seconds or less. You want the bounce rate to be as low as possible, as it means that everyone landing on your site is sticking around and not immediately leaving. There are many different things that can cause a high bounce rate. The design of the website, the navigation (it may not be obvious to users how they navigate to other pages), there may be annoying pop-ups, the content may not be what the user was expecting and so on.

The bottom half of the page shows more information about the keywords that are bringing in the organic traffic, and you can see the same statistics as above for each specific keyword, making it easier to identify any problem keywords.:

visits filtered by keyword

By default this page will display the visitors for the last 30 days. You can change the time period and compare the visitor statistics with previous time periods which is great to see if the Google SEO campaign is bringing in more organic traffic. To do this simply click the date (e.g. Oct 7, 2012 – Nov 6, 2012) at the top right of the page, just under Help and you should see a pop-up like this:

custom reporting

If you click the tick box next to “Compare to” you can choose what time period to compare the current time period you are looking at. By default it compares to the previous period so if you choose to display the visitor statistics for the last 30 days and click “Compare to” then “Apply” it’ll show your organic search traffic for the last 30 days, compared to the previous 30 days, and look a bit like this:

organic search traffic

You can change this however and compare any 2 set of dates you like, just click “Compare To” then change the drop down to the right of that to “Custom” and you can pick 2 dates. We often use this method to compare organic traffic before we started working on a website to afterwards.

increased visits

That’s the basics of the organic traffic covered, now lets look into the other types of traffic.

Referral Traffic:
Referral traffic is visits from other websites that are linking to you, this often also includes traffic from Facebook, Twitter and email campaigns. This can be useful to see if your social media, email campaigns or advertising are bringing in any more visitors to your sites. You can see your referral traffic by going to Traffic Sources -> Sources -> Referrals

Direct Traffic:
Direct traffic is the traffic of which the referrer is unknown, this also includes traffic from people typing the URL directly into the browser, or accessing the website from previously saved bookmarks. It can however also include traffic from email campaigns without campaign identifications, links from within documents (Word, Excel, PDF’s etc), visits from secure sites that don’t pass any referral data or traffic from sites that have been redirected to your site.

This blog posts only scratches the surface of Google Analytics, it can be used for more than just tracking where visitors are coming from and how many visits you have received. It can also be used to track downloads of files, how many people are reaching certain pages of your site, for example: multi-page checkout pages for an e-commerce sites to identify where people are stopping during the checkout process and much much more.

For more in depth usage of Google Analytics we suggest you read these blog posts:
Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics
50 Resources for Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics

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