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How you can use Google Analytics to monitor your organic traffic

Posted by Andrew Tobert
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How to use Google Analytics to monitor your organic traffic from Wordtracker the leading keyword research tool

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Monitoring organic traffic is a key part of any SEO professional’s job. And with Google Analytics, doing this is easy, and free. Here’s a quick guide to help you explore some key metrics.

Google Analytics is one of the web’s most popular analytics tools. It’s a free service, so you should set up an account now if you haven’t already done so.

key organic Google Analytics metrics

1) Organic search traffic

Google Analytics (GA) lets you see where on the web people found your site, or the source of your traffic. For example an organic search engine query, or a link from another page. It also shows you the medium, organic, paid or referral traffic.

To check your traffic, click ‘Acquisition', 'All Traffic', 'Sources/Medium' on the left hand side of the navigation bar, as shown in this image.

analytics organic traffic sources

Looking at the where on the web people found your site can be informative. You can get an overview of which avenues for traffic are performing well over time. If you're getting lots of organic traffic you are drawing people into your site for free, most likely from creating lots of good quality, unique content that is well optimized and in demand.

Similarly, if you’ve been link building to certain pages, using keyword rich anchor text, you should see (over time) traffic from these referring sites increase.

You can then compare this with any changes in your keyword rankings to see if there’s a correlation. You can also assess the value of your paid marketing channels if you're investing in these as well.

2) Search engine optimization section

We also need to look at the Search Engine Optimization section to see the search queries visitors used to find your site.

Go to 'Acquisition', 'Search Engine Optimization' as shown in the image below, you can see that you have three options here: Queries, Landing Pages, and Geographical Summary.

analytics organic traffic sources

 

I'm going to ignore Geographical Summary because it just tells you where your customers have come from, which won't be interesting (or actionable) for most of you. But let's focus on the other two areas.

Queries

If you want to look at subsections of that search queries used to find your site, type in some of your target keywords in the search bar. Google will then show data for the keywords that contain that term. Here is the report for Wordtracker.com. I’ve put in Scout, so all terms that contain that phrase are returned.

This section of GA lets you see how people are reacting to your site in the search results. Let's look at Wordtracker's:

Wordtracker Scout and Google Analytics

The keywords you’re looking at are the top 2,000 traffic drivers to your site. They're only estimations (notice how they're all conveniently round numbers).

Looking at the traffic for certain keywords can be very informative. You can see how many people are searching for you by name (and how this changes over time). And you can see what stage of the buying cycle your customers are at. Are they looking for more general products, like laptops, or something very specific, like Samsung Series 3 laptops? These insights can help you ensure the content on your site matches your customers’ needs.

You can then compare this with any changes in your keyword rankings to see if there’s a correlation. There might not be. Often you can optimize a page for a given term like shoes, but you might not see any improvement in ranking for that term, at least not for a while. But if you’re looking at your traffic too, you might see an increase in traffic for long tail terms (like discount women’s shoes) that you’re not tracking the ranking for. Tracking both keyword traffic and keyword rankings will give you a fuller picture of how your SEO is doing.

With Queries, you can also see you how many people saw your site in the search results, then clicked through. We call this the clickthrough rate, or CTR.

People are more likely to click on your search result if it ranks well (so it appears at the top of the page where users can see it), they recognize your brand or the page description is written persuasively. Improving your brand strength and search engine ranking takes time, but you can change your page descriptions quickly. If you’ve got a low clickthrough rate, see if you can improve the description with persuasive copy and strong calls to action, like ‘click here’ or ‘check us out today’. You could see uplift in traffic very quickly. The BBC did this. Just by changing the page description, the clickthrough rate went from 67% to 81%!

You can also improve your CTR by using rich snippets. These allow Google to show more helpful information in the search results, like reviews or important dates. Snippets make search results more relevant to what the searcher is looking for, so they are more likely to click through.

As a rough idea of what sort of CTR you can expect, Wordtracker’s top ranking keywords typically get around a 20% clickthrough rate, rising to about 80% for branded searches like wordtracker. If your site isn’t very well known, or you don’t rank very well, your CTR will be much lower. But watch this improve as your brand grows.

Surprise ranking

Looking at your Queries, you might spot some terms that you’re not actually targeting. These can improve your business in unexpected ways.

Wordtracker ranks for LinkedIn logo for example. It's a great traffic driver, even if it's not one of our target terms. But we can still create relevant content for it. Users may arrive at the site looking for the LinkedIn logo, but if we can entice them to download an e-book in exchange for their email address, we've capitalized on that traffic. But we do this only because it’s a quick win. Don’t spend your time chasing irrelevant traffic because it’s unlikely to convert. But if you do get some traffic you weren’t expecting, think if there is an easy and quick way you can capitalize on it.

Landing pages

The pages people arrive at on your site are called landing pages. And the better your landing pages rank, the more traffic they’ll get. So with Google Analytics, we can monitor landing page traffic and see how our SEO is working.

You can see from Wordtracker’s analytics that we get lots of traffic to the LinkedIn page.

Linked traffic

This is happening because we have great content that talks about LinkedIn and lots of links to that page.

If you want more traffic to a given landing page, make sure the content is well-written and focused. So if you want a page to rank for Samsung laptops, only talk about Samsung laptops on that page. Also try to get more keyword rich links to those pages. So in this example, try to get links that use Samsung laptops in the anchor text.

Get started!

To look at these numbers in Google Analytics right now, check out this Google dashboard I made. Click the link, and select the GA profile you want to use. You’ll then see the metrics we’ve talked about, using your site’s data. They’ll be presented in a dashboard, so you’ll see a collection of tables and charts. To drill down on a given data set, and click the header and go through to a full report.

google analytics dashboard

In the dashboard I’ve also included some referrer data. This let’s you see the other sites that are driving traffic to yours and the impact of various factors. For example, if you’re running a social media campaign, you’d expect to see more referral traffic from the social networks you used, like Facebook or Twitter. Similarly, if you got a link from a very popular site, you’d expect that link to drive lots of traffic. The referral section is how you monitor this.

Wonding what to do about that nasty (not provided) data? Here are some tips from Chris Liversidge on how to combine Webmaster tools data with Google Analytics data to fill in the gaps.

This dashboard is just designed to get you started. As always with Google Analytics, explore the data for your own site and see what insights you can extract. Don’t be afraid to play around. Google Analytics offers a treasure trove of information, so go explore!

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