SEO Analytics: How to Make Data Your Competitive Advantage
If you’re running an SEO campaign for a client, you know that not only does it take time to see a return on your marketing efforts, but as results start coming in they can also fluctuate dramatically over time.
You may be publishing content regularly, building backlinks to your website, and doing everything else that goes into a successful campaign, but these variations will occur nonetheless, and they can sometime worry clients.
The changes in performance may be from a new Google algorithm update, or may simply be a seasonal trend in traffic, but regardless you need to be aware of it, analyze its impact on the site or app, and be able to make decisions from these insights.
That’s where SEO analytics comes in.
SEO analytics is the process of measuring, analyzing, reporting, and acting on insights from the overwhelming amount of data at your fingertips.
In this guide we’re going to discuss the step-by-step process of setting up and making the most from your SEO analytics.
This guide is organized as follows:
- What is SEO Analytics?
- Step 1: Preparing to Succeed
- Step 2: Setting up the Right Analytics tools
- Step 3: SEO Analytics Reporting
- SEO Analytics: Case Studies
Let’s get started.
What is SEO Analytics?
One of the advantages of running an SEO campaign over a more traditional, let’s say direct mail marketing campaign, is that every piece of data is tracked, reported, and easily accessible with the right tools.
SEO analytics is the process of taking this raw data and making sense of it with metrics, data visualization, and summaries. The ultimate goal of analysis is to be able to take this data and derive actionable insights from it.
The actionable insights that we’re referring to could be things like:
- Identifying new opportunities to rank for high search volume keywords
- Identifying that page load speed is negatively affecting your bounce rate and user experience
- Identifying which traffic sources are driving the most organic conversions
To successfully analyze SEO data from various sources, it’s generally recommended to use a tool that can help you quickly perform tasks such as daily metric tracking, data visualization, and efficient reporting so that you spend your time on the marketing itself instead of inside a spreadsheet.
One important point to note is that analytics for SEO is generally centred around understanding your own data, as opposed to analyzing external market data. By external market data we mean things like keyword research, which is obviously a useful task for any campaign, but it generally isn’t considered part of your SEO analysis.
To put it simply, with SEO analytics you’re trying to figure out exactly what is working and what your current obstacles are for successfully driving traffic and conversions for your clients.
Now that we’ve discussed what SEO analytics is and why it’s crucial to an effective marketing campaign, let’s look at a step-by-step process of how you can get started with it.
Step 1: Preparing to Succeed
Before we get into the SEO tools and analytical techniques, let’s first review what you should have in place before starting your analysis.
There are two crucial pieces to put in place before you start SEO analytics, these include:
- Deciding who is responsible for the various tasks involved in SEO analytics
- Choosing the frequency that you’re going to review your SEO analytics
Assigning Roles for SEO Analytics
Even if you’re a one-person marketing team, it’s still important to have an idea of the various roles and responsibilities involved in SEO analytics.
A few of the most important tasks of SEO analytics include:
- Collecting data from various sources
- Visualizing the data
- Analyzing the data and summarizing insights
- Preparing and reporting the data to clients
It could be a single SEO analyst that performs these tasks, or you can use software to automate much of it, but generally you want more than one team member reviewing that data on a regular basis.
Choosing a Frequency for SEO Analytics
The frequency that you’re going to perform SEO analytics is another useful consideration to make early on.
Depending on the size of the marketing budget, it generally makes sense to review your analytics at least once a week. That said, if you choose to go with an analytics SEO reporting tool you can have key metrics automatically sent to you and your clients on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis so that you’re always up-to-date with your data.
Step 2: Setting Up the Right Analytics Tools
Now that we have an idea of how to preprare for SEO analytics, it’s time to start collecting data. In particular, the tools we’re going to set up and review in this section include:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
There are many other tools out for analytics, but since we’re generally trying to rank on Google the first step is almost always to set up Google Analytics, which is a website SEO analytics tool that tracks and reports site traffic.
You can think of Google Analytics as a tool that will tell you what someone does after they’ve landed on your website. That includes how many pages they’ve visited, which page they exited from, amongst countless other data points.
Here’s a step-by-step process for you get started with Google Analytics:
- Create an account or sign in to an existing account at google.com/analytics/.
- Set up a property in your account. A property represents either your website or app that Analytics is going to collect data from. To set up a property simply click on “Admin” and then click “+Create Property” in the Property column as shown below:
- Next you want to set up a reporting view in your property. A reporting view allows you to create filtered perspectives of your data; for example, you could filter for all the data in a particular region. To do this, you simply navigate to “Admin” and choose the relevant property. Next click on the “+Create View” button in the View column.
- Next you’ll need to add the Google Analytics tracking code to your website so that it can collect data. To do so, click on “Admin” and select your property. Under the property click on Tracking Info > Tracking Code to find your Google Analytics ID. Adding the Analytics Tag to your website is beyond the scope of this article, but you can check out this article for more information.
- Now that you’ve added the tracking code to your website or app, the next step is to set up “Goals” in Analytics. Goals are the best way to measure important events on your website, and can include things like completing a purchase, reading 3+ articles on the site, or collecting an email address.
Understanding how many people complete the goals you set up is crucial to SEO analytics as it gives a clear metric to evaluate the success of your website.
Now that we’ve got Google Analytics set up, let’s look at a few ways you can use it for SEO analytics. In particular, a few of the insights for improving search engine optimization that Databox highlights in an article include:
- Creating SEO-related goals: Here's a tip from the digital agency Avalanche Creative regarding SEO-related goals:
"We love using the Reverse Goal Path in Google Analytics to show our SEO clients how improving and adding content is contributing to the most important factors: results. This means you've got to have Goals set up properly with Google Analytics (form completions, clicks to call, sales, etc.). From there, you can see what landing pages lead to the best results and what pages people interact with most on their way to the most desired results; your goals."
- Finding top performing pages: Regularly looking at your top performing pages allows you to figure out which pages to prioritize for optimization is another useful tactic. You can find your top performing pages right on the Google Analytics home page.
Now that we have Google Analytics set up, let’s look at Google Search Console.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is another useful SEO analysis tool from the Google Suite, which describes itself as:
Search Console tools and reports help you measure your site's Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results
As mentioned earlier, Google Analytics is an excellent tool for analyzing everything that happens after someone clicks on your website. GSC, on the other hand, provides in depth analytics into everything that happens before someone clicks on your website (i.e. while they’re still in the search engine).
A few of the use cases for Search Console include:
- Analyzing impressions, clicks, and position in Google Search
- Identifying which queries are bringing people to your site
- Testing the mobile usability of your site
- And much more
Let’s now look at the step-by-step process to get it set up and ready for SEO analytics.
- First you need to login to Google Search Console - keep in mind that you should login with the same account you used to setup Google Analytics so you can sync the two.
- Next click on “Add a property” and choose between adding a Domain or a URL prefix as shown below:
- Next you’ll need to verify domain ownership. We won’t cover verification in this article, but if you’ve chosen to add a Domain it requires DNS verification, and there are several other verification methods if you use a URL prefix.
As soon as you’ve added your property to GSC, Google starts tracking data for it right away, even if you haven’t verified it yet. After you’ve verified your website, you’ll have access to all the data they’ve been collecting.
Now that you’ve set up your website or app with GSC, let’s look at a few of the most commonly used tools for improving SEO with Search Console that are mentioned in this Ahrefs article on the subject.
In particular, a few ways you can use Search Console for SEO include:
- Improving ranking for underperforming keywords: If you’re ranking in anywhere except position one or two, there’s room for improvement. To find underperforming keywords in Search Console go to “Search Results” and turn on position data and average CTR metrics as shown below. Then you can scroll down and choose a filter for any keywords ranked in below a certain position.
- Improve CTR for pages with high keyword ranking: Even if your page is ranking highly in search engines, the next metric to optimize are pages with a low CTR. Again, to do this in Search Console you can toggle average CTR and position data in the “Search results” report, but this time you don’t want to filter for lower position pages.
Here's a tip from the founder of the digital agency Searchant regarding Google Search Console:
There's at least one quick trick that's easy to overlook with it. If you need a quick SEO "win," use Google Search Console to find keyword optimisation opportunities - look for keywords with high impressions but low clicks. Focus your page on those, and you've got a winner.
Now that we’ve looked at how you can analyze what’s happening before and after someone visits a website, let’s look at the best way to derive insights from the data.
Step 3: SEO Analytics Reporting
If you’re an agency owner you probably know that getting results for your clients is only half the battle, the other half is summarizing the performance, usually to a non-technical audience, and presenting the data in a professional way.
That’s where SEO analytics reporting comes in.
Since creating reports is usually one of the least enjoyable tasks for SEO professionals, we recommend going with a reporting software. Unlike the Goole Suite, there is a cost associated with reporting tools like this, but in most cases the time (and headaches) you save yourself are more than worth it.
Let’s look at a few of the tools, reports, dashboards you can use for SEO analytics within AgencyAnalytics.
Rank Tracking for SEO Analytics
One of the most powerful tools you can use to analyze the efforts of your SEO is a rank tracker.
As you probably know, there are countless ranking factors that go into ranking on a search engine, and these rankings are also constantly changing. While Google Search Console does provide you with position ranking for keywords, one of the main benefits of a third party rank tracker is that you can monitor positions across multiple search enginges like Google, Google Maps, and Bing.
A few of the other core features of a rank tracker that can be use in your SEO analytics include:
- Monitoring Multiple Languages & Locations: If your client is a local business with a presence in multiple locations or multiple even languages, the rank tracker allows you to add as many as you want into a single campaign at the ZIP code, city, or country level.
- Competitor Analysis: On top of monitoring your own client’s websites, you can also use the rank tracker to determine where their competitors are ranking to identify new opportunities for ranking.
- Advanced SEO Metrics: In addition to metrics like search volume and total results, you can track more advanced metrics such as mozRank, Page Authority, Domain Authority, and total backlinks.
Now that we know how you can use the rank tracker in your analytics workflow, let’s look at how you use AgencyAnalytics to visualize and report SEO results to clients.
Data Visualization & Reporting
There’s no question that the analytics tools provided by Google are extremely helpful for SEO, but one area they fall short is in ease-of-use for reporting. Reporting in the Google Suite requires you to combine Analytics, Search Console, and Data Studio, although the time spent compiling and processing data with these platforms adds up quickly.
The fact is, most clients don’t care as much about the technical details about an SEO campaign as we often think. Instead, they usually just want a simple report that they can actually understand.
In order to simply the reporting process, AgencyAnalytics has pre-built SEO report templates and dashboard templates. As you can see from the image below you just need to connnect your Google Analytics account and can then automatically create a dashboard populated with your data.
In particular, a few of the main sections in our SEO templates include:
- Goal Completions via Organic Search: As you can see below, if we click on the Organic Search tab we can see the total Goal Completions, Goal Value, Conversion rate, as well as a graph showing the progress over time.
- Organic Traffic: Another key indicator to include in SEO analytics is how many visitors are coming from organic search traffic, which as you can see below broken out into each traffic source.
- Keyword rankings: After you know the total traffic, its good practice to figure out exactly which keywords are driving clicks and conversions. As you can see below, each keyword in your organic search dashboard includes metrics for the bounce rate, goal completions, goal value, and more.
These are just a few of the metrics we include in our templates, although other key reporting metrics to include are SEO ranking changes, new and lost backlinks, a site audit score, top landing pages, and the number of reviews on Google.
You can learn more about what’s included in our SEO dashboard template here.
Insights & Decision Making
After you’ve collected all your data, analyzed the key metrics, and used a data visualization tool to report it, it’s time to use these insights in order to make decisions for the next period of your campaign.
Before getting into the technical details of your campaign, one of the best ways to present these insights and next steps to your clients is with an SEO report summary.
A report summary should generally be quite simple, short, and easy to read even if they don’t know anything about SEO. In particular, we recommend providing a breakdown of the following metrics:
- Project Goals and KPIs
- Tasks Completed
- Results Overview
- Plan of the next steps
After reading the report, the client should know exactly what happened during the period and the next steps you’re planning to take towards their goals.
With a reporting tool you have the option to create either SEO reports that can be automatically sent daily, weekly, or monthly, or you can provide your clients access to a white-labeled dashboard with personalized commentary so they can access their data whenever they want.
SEO Analytics: Case Studies
As you can see, even with the right tools SEO analytics can be a lot of work. To give you a bit of motivation for why it’s still worth your time, let’s look at a few case studies of people who have used analytics to take their agency’s to the next level.
Rankings.io - streamlined KPI reporting and saved $150k annually
Rankings.io is an SEO agency that helps lawyers and legal firms grow their businesses by ranking on the first page of search engines.
The CEO, Chris Dreyer, had been using Google Analytics, but one of the main challenges was that the data wasn’t laid out intuitively for non-SEOs. As a result, their SEO analysts need to spend a huge amount of time - over 240 hours each month - compiling data and preparing before they could send it to clients.
After Chris found AgencyAnalytics and started using it for their reporting, he found that the software fulfilled the role that used to require two or three full-time SEO analysts, which ended up saving them over $150,000 annually.
Here’s what Chris had to say:
"The robust reporting features of AgencyAnalytics automated the time-consuming process of generating KPI reports, essentially eliminating the need for an SEO analyst position.”
Dilate Digital - consolidated data from 6 tools into 1
Another example of how you can improve the efficiency of your analytics comes from a full service digital marketing agency called Dilate Digital. Since they are full service, one of their main challenges was pulling in data from a variety of sources including Twitter, Facebook, Google Analytics, Search Console, and Google Ads.
This ended up taking up a lot of time each month, so they went looking for an analytics solution. After trying AgencyAnalytics the CEO realized that all he had to do was connect a client’s portfolio (social media, Search Console information, ad campaigns, etc.) and all their data was available in a single platform.
As a result, with the dashboards and custom reporting options for SEO, PPC, social, email, reviews, and call tracking they were able to increase their reporting efficiency by 50%.
Here's what the founder had to say:
"We use AgencyAnalytics mainly for SEO and Google AdWords metrics. We track keyword rankings, backlinks, trust flow, citation flow, and website errors. We also track ad spend and cost per acquisition. Other things we measure include social metrics, Google My Business listings, and traffic flow from all sources—paid, organic, and referrals."
Summary: SEO Analytics
As we’ve discussed, one of the best parts of running an SEO campaign is that you have access to all the data you could ever need.
Whenever you’re working with analytics, there are countless tools to capture data, but since we’re generally trying to rank in Google it makes sense to start with Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
As an SEO professional, the hard part usually isn’t learning how to use Google Analytics or Search Console yourself, but rather figuring out how to efficiently analyze and present that data to your clients.
One of the benefits using a third party analytics and reporting tool is that you can consolidate data from as many sources as you want and then easily access them from a single dashboard.
A final benefit of pairing the Google Suite of analytics tools with reporting software is that you can white label everything to match your agency’s branding, which means you save yourself time on the analytics side and look more professional on the presentation side.
Do you have any questions about SEO analytics?
Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Peter Foy
Peter Foy is a content marketer with a focus on SaaS companies. Based in Montreal, QC, when he’s not writing he’s usually studying data science and machine learning, you can learn more about him at mlq.ai.