You don’t always need a fancy or expensive SEO tool to get insights about your SEO efforts. Google Analytics is totally free, and it gives you a wealth of data about your website’s visitors. Use the insights we’re about to share with you in this guide to up your SEO game and do basic keyword tracking in Google Analytics without spending a dime.
Before You Begin – Set up Your Google Analytics Account
If you’ve already set up your Google Analytics account, then you can skip to the next section. If you haven’t, however, don’t panic. All you have to do is create a free account and add the tracking code to your website. Google gives step-by-step instructions here.
You can also sign up for Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools), which is another free Google tool for website owners to get information about site performance, traffic sources, user behavior, keywords, and the user experience.
Google Search Console isn’t a requirement for getting keywords ranked on your site, but it can help with troubleshooting and search engine performance. For example, with Google Analytics, you might run a report about searchers behavior.
With Google Search Console, on the other hand, your report will have info related more specifically to the SERPs. Both GA and Google Search Console will be an invaluable part of your SEO work.
Understanding Your Google Analytics Account
The GA dashboard has a ton of options for savvy marketers, and it can be overwhelming. It doesn’t help that the menu and set up in the current version aren’t very intuitive, but we’ll walk you through each section so that you don’t get lost. In five minutes, you’ll be zipping around every part of the dashboard like a pro.
It’s tempting to go down a rabbit hole and look at everything that Google Analytics has to offer, from the ratio of new to returning visitors to bounce rate, and even whether your audience is on a mobile or desktop device, based in the United States or living in other countries. You can view all of that data (and more) by drilling down the left sidebar navigation.
Google Analytics Navigation
Each menu option in the Google Analytics left navigation has a carrot that can be expanded on click to get detailed insights and a report about your websites’ users, including the traffic sources and keywords that brought them to your site.
As you can see in the image above, you’ll have access to a basic GA dashboard, but what you see here barely scratches the surface of GA’s capabilities. You also have the option to build out custom dashboards with advanced filtering options. These custom dashboards are helpful if you need to create a report for a client or upper management about key site metrics and keywords that you’re tracking.
In addition to viewing past data, you’ll also be able to see a report about what your users are doing in real time, including whether any keywords resulted in them visiting your site. Though you won’t get any long-term actionable insights for your business from this section of data, it can be helpful to check in with your real-time dashboard to view what’s currently going on with your website, especially if you just launched a promotion or published some ads.
Audience data will tell you about your users, including their location, devices, age, gender, browser, and even their interests.
This option answers the question of how visitors got to your website, and it’s one of the first places to check to see how your SEO (search engine optimization) is doing overall.
If you’ve ever been curious about how users behave on your website, this menu option will give you lots of information, including which page people first visit and where they go once they land on your site.
You can track conversion data by setting up goals in Google Analytics. A conversion doesn’t necessarily have to be someone purchasing your products. Any desired activity can count as a goal or conversion, from a visitor clicking a call button to filling out a form.
Unlocking the Power of Google Analytics for SEO Insights
With Google Analytics, you’ll see exactly where your traffic is coming from, and even what keywords and search terms they typed into the search engines to get to your website.
Organic Traffic by the Numbers
Once you start putting some effort into SEO, you’ll naturally want to see if your efforts are paying off. One of the best ways to determine this is to check how much organic traffic you were getting before you began an SEO campaign. Then, you can track this and other traffic sources over time, hopefully watching it rise!
The figure above shows that Google advertising brought in the most traffic, followed closely by organic. Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium to view this information. As a reminder, this traffic volume is a direct result of how well your SEO and keywords are doing.
How to Get Your Keyword Data from Google Analytics
Now that you know how much organic traffic your website is getting, the next step is to figure out which keywords drive that traffic. Knowing this information not only alerts you to high-performing keywords, but as you’ll see, it will also show you opportunities to position specific pages higher in the search engines for the keywords that are most important for your business.
It’s a common misconception that you need to use Google Search Console and run a queries report to get this data. However, your GA account allows you to view this data without having to jump through a bunch of hoops or run complicated keyword queries.
We’ll go over some definitions to give you some context about what you see after you select Acquisition > Search Console > Queries:
The queries option from the Search Console menu option will tell you precisely which search keywords are driving clicks, and how many clicks you’ve gotten from that search query in a given period.
This figure represents the number of times someone saw your site in the search results for the search queries or keywords they used, even if they didn’t click over to you.
The average position shows how high up on the search engine results page your site shows for the search terms. As you can see in the figure above, you don’t have to be in the number one position (or even on the first page of Google) to get clicks for your target keywords, but the higher you do appear, the more organic search traffic you’re likely to get.
Short for click-through rate, CTR is the percentage of people who saw your site appear in the search engines that clicked on it. This statistic in the Search Console can tell you how well your content resonates with searchers.
For example, if 100 people did a keyword search for “martini glasses” in Google and saw your site in the search results, and five of those people clicked on the link to visit your site, then the CTR for that keyword would be 5%.
It’s not uncommon for your top-performing keywords to be branded, and this chart will show whether or not that’s the case for your websites. You’ll also be able to see at a glance if some of the search terms and keywords that you’ve been trying to optimize for are climbing in the ranks.
Taking Google Analytics Keywords Insights to the Next Level
After getting information about your overall keyword performance, the next step is to look at your landing pages to see which ones are getting the most traffic. The column titles are similar, but you’re going to interpret the data differently.
In many cases, your home page will attract the most traffic, but it’s also worth looking at the other top-performing pages on your site to see if there are one or more keywords driving traffic. Are those pages up to date with current content? Can you take advantage of this traffic by linking to other areas on your site from this page – perhaps an article or additional resources?
A high number of impressions indicates that the page is performing well in search, but if the clickthrough rate is low, it means that those eyeballs aren’t resulting in more traffic. Make sure that you’ve got an accurate and compelling meta description relevant to the keywords to encourage people to click on your content.
Here, we encourage you to look for pages that have an average position of 4 or 5. This indicates they’re performing well on search and have some authority, but there could be some things you can do to improve the page. Is the page in need of an update? Can you make it slightly longer to sprinkle in more keywords? Can you work on outreach to get more backlinks to a useful article?
Advanced Filtering for the Win
If your site has many pages or blog posts, figuring out which pages to further optimize based on the average position can be a tedious process. We’ve got a hack to make it easier, though.
Step 1: Turn on Advanced Filtering by clicking “advanced.”
Step 2: Look for pages that have a high number of impressions with an average rank of either 4 or 5 by selecting the relevant Secondary dimensions and entering impressions and average positions in the appropriate fields (shown below).
Find Out Which Keywords Drive Traffic to a Specific Page
If you’re curious about which keywords are bringing visitors to your home page or your best blog post, you can also access this information in Google Analytics.
Go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. You’ll see a list of all your site’s pages sorted by sessions. Select the page that you’re interested in getting keyword data about and select Keyword as a secondary dimension. If you are running advertising, you’ll also want to sort by traffic type to exclude paid ad campaigns.
Utilizing Google Trends
Not sure which keywords are worth the trouble? Google Trends is a keyword research tool that can help you prioritize your SEO efforts.
For example, using the keyword “martini glasses,” we can see that more searchers are entering this phrase into Google than in previous months. If your website caters to customers with a related interest, you can work on getting both organic search traffic and paid search traffic to this keyword.
The Bottom Line
Google Analytics is an incredible tool that delivers powerful and actionable insights, but there’s always the next level. If you want to spy on competitors effectively, you’re going to need a tool that offers competitive insights. Keyword.com does all that and more. Track up 1,500 keywords from your competitors, including Local GMB Tracking functionality. Sign up today for a 7-day free trial.