on September 1, 2022 • 31 minute read
Did you know that 67% of all clicks go to the first five organic results in a search engine?
You are probably already aware of just how important it is to compete for the #1 ranking spot and have the right SEO strategies in place to achieve it.
There’s just one problem – you aren’t sure whether your SEO investment is paying off.
Luckily, you can get to the bottom of this by turning to one of the best free tools available for tracking SEO efforts – Google Analytics.
When used properly, Google Analytics can provide you with gold nuggets of valuable data that you can use to stay on top of your SEO campaigns.
Once you start tracking your SEO efforts with Google Analytics, you’ll also be able to improve your overall strategy.
We asked 50+ SEOs how they track SEO performance via Google Analytics and rounded up 16 best practices based on the advice shared.
Before deep-diving into how Google Analytics can help you track, measure, and improve your SEO efforts, let’s take a step back and take a general look at SEO analytics.
SEO analytics refers to the process of collecting, tracking, and analyzing your marketing data with the core aim of growing your website’s organic traffic.
This is extremely useful because it allows you to identify improvement opportunities, gain a deeper understanding of your website’s data, and ultimately maximize ROI on your SEO efforts.
There are great SEO analytics tools available for measuring your SEO data currently on the market. One of the most commonly used free SEO analytics tools is Google Analytics.
And, you can always use Google Analytics Reporting to convey that data to your team or your client.
Google Analytics is a web analytics and SEO tool that provides advanced statistics and basic analytical tools for website optimization and marketing.
With the ability to capture valuable insights regarding website performance and visitor data, Google Analytics is considered a must-have in any marketer’s SEO toolkit.
Aside from SEO, Google Analytics is also commonly used for improving marketing campaigns because it captures various customer behavior analytics.
Still, Google Analytics will give you the best results when combined with other tools. According to the companies we surveyed, SEOs use at least 2 additional tools along with GA to measure SEO performance.
Related: The 22 Most Useful Google Analytics Reports in 2022
Considering that Google Analytics is the product of the very search engine that visitors use before opening your website, it can capture some unique insights and data that other SEO tools can’t.
Some of the most notable features of GA that help improve SEO include tracking website performance, collecting visitor data, assessing marketing activity success, monitoring goal completions, spotting patterns in user engagement, and acquiring target audience and demographic information.
With this data in your arsenal, you’ll know which changes your website needs to better suit customer needs.
For example, you can focus on creating more engaging content if your bounce rate is high. Or, you can better understand where to shift your marketing campaigns based on target audience demographics.
But how often should you check GA for SEO data? The majority of the SEOs surveyed monitor data on a weekly basis. However, some companies prefer to check their rankings daily. For example, like Chris Christoff from MonsterInsights recommends looking at the “top Google Search Terms daily if you want to measure your SEO efforts accurately. If you’re targeting a specific keyword, you can see how well that word performs and where it currently ranks. Checking this information daily allows you to make gradual, effective adjustments to your SEO strategy.”
Using Google Analytics for SEO can literally transform your website’s performance and help you spot problematic areas immediately.
If you want to understand how your visitors are behaving on your landing pages, there are several on-page events and metrics you can track from Google Analytics and Google Search Console that will help:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our SEO and website conversion experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing the most important metrics for monitoring your landing page performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s check out the best practices for tracking your SEO performance with GA.
One of the things our respondents agreed on is that by connecting your GA account with Google Search Console, you can acquire a lot more relevant SEO data than by just focusing on one tool.
“My number one tip for measuring SEO with Google Analytics is to connect Analytics to Google Search Console,” says Leadhub‘s Kim Doughty.
“If you’re just using Google Analytics without using GSC you will never see the whole picture. With GA and GSC linked, you can use queries to identify opportunities for improvement with target keywords and the pages you want to rank for.”
Brandon Howard of All My Web Needs agrees with this: “The biggest problem with using Google Analytics to track success with SEO is the keyword field is largely “(not provided),” so it’s difficult to combine the keywords people use with behavior on the website.”
After syncing both tools, go to Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages in Google Analytics to see which landing pages people are hitting when coming from Google. That will give you an idea of the top focal search terms people are using to find you.
When it comes to analyzing the synced data, the SEOs we surveyed also shared a few tips. For example, CanIRank‘s Christy Kravetz recommends not to look at just the traffic on the exact phrase. Instead, “total all the traffic coming in from related or longer-tail phrases that contain the optimized phrase. We refer to this as “halo traffic.”
Before implementing an SEO strategy, experts suggest creating SEO goals in Google Analytics to gain more granular insights. Apart from setting up goals in GA, you also need to create a corresponding conversion page to track your efforts. These conversion pages are sometimes called acknowledgment pages and simply notify the submitter that the form has been received.
Chris Sheehy of Sidewalk Branding Co reminds us that this conversion page “should have its own URL and include the NOINDEX meta-tag, so they are not displayed organically, which will reduce false-positive hits and add reassurance to the client of reporting accuracy.”
When setting goals to measure the performance of SEO campaigns, you shouldn’t be focused on simply tracking your organic traffic. Instead, you should be measuring the quality of your organic visitors. To do this, Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers recommends “setting goals for leads generated coming from organic SEO. We check how much organic traffic a page gets and, most importantly, how many leads we got from those visitors. The higher the conversion rate, the better.”
However, even though GA goals can bring tremendous value, marketers tend to overlook them because they find the creation process too complex.
If you are looking for a simpler solution, you can try Databox’s goal tracking feature.
With Databox, you can set goals for any metric you’re already tracking and visualize it against current performance. The perks of using our goal feature, among others, is that you will also have access to historical data, allowing you to set more realistic targets. What’s more important is that you will know whether you are on track or off track within the first few days of the month, allowing you to act in a timely manner, instead of trying to accelerate performance mid-month.
When using Google Analytics for SEO, it’s vital to use the right segments and filters to remove spam traffic for accurate reporting.
Vic Spall of Browser Media remind us to pay attention to two main types of spam traffic – crawlers (fake referrers) and ghost spam. Spall also shares how to filter out this traffic from your GA data.
Start by setting up a new view in Google Analytics. This is important, so you don’t mess up your raw data.
*Note that the new view will prevent spam traffic from appearing in your reports from the day you implement it. But it won’t remove spam traffic retrospectively. To remove spam traffic retrospectively, you need to use GA segments and build a custom dashboard solely for organic traffic.
To eliminate spammy traffic, you can also use regex codes to capture multiple iterations of known spammy domains that use different TLDs, for example. However, if your get spam traffic via direct, you need to exclude traffic that does not match your hostname.
We wrote a complete guide on identifying and filtering bot traffic in Google Analytics. Also, we have a guest post from an SEO specialist on useful Google Analytics regex codes you can use for more accurate reporting.
Regularly checking your top-performing pages and identifying opportunities for optimization is another great tip our correspondents shared. This can be anything from updating an article with fresh content to adding a more powerful CTA.
Even though these pages are already ranking well on Google, you should make sure they remain in the top results and bring maximum returns.
Alex Birkett recommends also checking whether there are “pages that have dropped significantly in organic traffic or pages that get a lot of traffic but drive very little business value.”
These are the pages that have a promotion, update, and CRO potential lying around.
Another good thing that can come out of this is that by analyzing your top-performing blog post, you’ll also have a better idea of which topic your content should revolve around in the future.
You can find this report by going to Behavior > Top Landing Pages > Filter by Organic.
Google Analytics Content Drilldown reports can help you track and compare the performance of your most popular website segments, like your blog. Within the Content Drilldown report, you can check out specific URL page views, exit rates, bounce rates, and average time spent on page.
Our respondents use this report to gain insights into which website segments and pages are performing well and whether there is any duplicate content on the site.
For example, Prep Expert‘s Shaan Patel says that the Content Drilldown tool is their “go-to tool for measuring SEO in Google Analytics since it breaks down your non-sales page impressions and clicks.”
“We use this especially to track our blog content pages to see what topics are trending well, so we can further optimize them with FAQ schemas and other lead magnets.”
The only major limitation of the Content Drilldown report is that you have to check multiple different sub-directories to compare the performance of your pages.
To streamline this process and track your most popular web pages on one screen, you can use this free Google Analytics (Content Drilldown) Dashboard Template.
Related: Drill Down vs. Drill Through Reports: 13 Ways to Use Each to Analyze Your Marketing Performance
Most marketers resort to pruning every 3-6 months and when that time comes, tracking the results and documenting them can make a huge difference.
When updating content for SEO, it will typically take weeks or even months until you start seeing results.
By the time your updates start yielding results, it will be extremely difficult to evaluate the progress without proper documentation and tracking.
Hannah Tow of G2 says that the annotation feature on Google Analytics can help with this.
“Use the annotation feature in Google Analytics on a specific date. This will help you benchmark the performance of an article post-optimization and measure improvements.”
With Databox Annotations, you can even go a step further.
Our product allows you to add observations and insights directly to your Databoards, which means that everyone can map activities to results.
This eliminates the need for building multiple separate slide decks with the data and insights added later – instead, the insights can be found all in one place.
Related: Use Annotations to Explain Why Things Are Happening Directly In Your Dashboards
Google Analytics credits conversions and eCommerce purchases to the campaign, search, or ad that the user last referred to before converting.
But, what about website searches and referrals? What was their role in the conversion?
This is what the Multi-Channel Funnel report answers. It breaks down how the marketing channels you’re using are corresponding to generate conversions.
For instance, some users search your brand on Google and then make a purchase straight away.
However, they might’ve heard about your brand through a social ad or a blog while looking for products in your specific industry.
Using the Multi-Channel Funnel report, you can see how these previous referrals affected your conversions and sales.
Liubou Zubarevich of ScienceSoft reminds us that “organic users might not be so organic.”
“If a user came to the site by an organic search, and then came back later directly, GA remembers that they came via search and leaves their source as organic. Therefore, you should remember that traffic source is a characteristic of a session, rather than a user.”
This is precisely why the Multi-Channel Funnel can be so helpful in this regard.
However, even though the multi-channel funnel report in Google Analytics does hold lots of valuable information, you might notice that some metrics you wanted to track are missing.
If that’s the case, you can use Databox’s Query Builder to create the custom multi-channel funnel metrics that you need.
Related: 7 Ways Marketers Can Use Multi-Channel Funnel Reports in Google Analytics
A Google Analytics referral occurs when a website refers traffic to you, which results in a new visitor on your website.
In a nutshell, it’s one website’s recommendation to another.
This metric is especially important to track if you have active off-page SEO strategies in place since you’ll need to know whether you’re building the right links and how they’re affecting performance.
Kerry Sherin of North Star Inbound says that the best way to “find links that aren’t reported in other tools and also find relevant reports or bloggers to pitch to is by using Google Analytics referral data.”
If you want all referral-related data (e.g. which external sites generate traffic and conversions) in one place, you can download our Referral Overview Dashboard for free.
This dashboard will show you which external sites are helping you generate traffic and which ones have the highest impact on conversions.
Related: Here’s How to Increase Your Referral Traffic (Tips from 42 Marketers)
PPC (paid per click) is one of Google’s most popular services – it allows website owners to spend money on specific keywords that certain people search for on Google when looking for their products.
By investing in PPC, you can get fast results in terms of ranking, so the website pages you’ve decided to promote via this channel will be pushed on the SERPs as sponsored ads.
Depending on how you set up your ads, you can also appear on other websites sidebars or pages across the internet.
To run a PPC campaign effectively, the first thing you need to do though is to connect your Analytics account with Adwords.
Go to Product Linking > Google Ads Linking to find this option. In Google Analytics, make sure you have admin rights (instead of user rights) for the website you want to monitor.
Then, open your Google Analytics account and go to Admin > AdWords Linking. Simply pick the Adwords account you need and press confirm.
The category of your website is important in Google’s eyes. They want the sites ranking on page #1 to be authoritative–which is why sites with a niche topic tend to rank better.
If you want to check how Google views your website, LinkBuildingHQ’s Haseeb Najam says that Google Analytics is the “perfect tool” for it.
“The most important thing you’ll need to do is check the interest categories of your site’s visitors. This can help you to position your site E.A.T. score and adjust the content.”
“Go to Audience > Interests > Overview in Google Analytics. It will show you Affinity Categories, In-Market Segments & Other Categories.”
Najam continues: “As a publisher, you can use this data to see the main interest of your website visitors and plan the content marketing accordingly.”
“Google will show you the categories it deems fit for your website. You can triangulate from these 3 category types to find some common interest/category. This should be your main category to establish your site as an authority.”
Another way to stay on top of SEO in Google Analytics is to create custom dashboards for specific metrics that you want to focus on.
According to SEOs, Google Analytics custom dashboards will help you see the bigger picture and make very specific improvements to crucial areas.
You can use them to focus on one specific website section and then cherry-pick the most important metrics. Doing this will show you which content is the most popular and how much organic traffic it’s generating.
ESM Digital’s Joseph Colarusso recommends “segmenting by channel, URL, location, etc. This gives you the ability to really focus on a piece of your website traffic so you can draw conclusions.”
Although creating custom dashboards is possible in Google Analytics, they aren’t exactly one of this tool’s strong suits.
If you want to streamline the creation process and get a much better custom dashboard much quicker, you should check out Databox’s SEO dashboard templates.
All you need to do is connect your data, pick which metrics you want to include, and then visualize them with a few clicks of a button.
With an SEO dashboard software like Databox, building custom dashboards has never been easier.
The custom alert service in Google Analytics often goes unnoticed, but it can be of huge assistance when it comes to proper SEO tracking.
In a nutshell, it allows you to efficiently monitor your data, without having to open the main GA interface. You are notified via email immediately if any data changes occur.
Nick Maynard of Ridgeway says that the best way to utilize the feature is to “set up triggers for your chosen parameter (say when Organic Traffic increases by 5% or Bounce Rate falls by 2%), and Google will send an email alert, making it easy to stay on top of key metrics.”
However, one issue with Google Analytics’ alert service is that you can’t track several metrics simultaneously.
This isn’t the case with Databox’s custom alert feature.
In Databox, you can easily set up performance alerts for metrics, goals, outputs, and outcomes and determine the conditions on when the alert should be sent.
You can set the alerts to be delivered to both you and your team’s email, which means you won’t have to waste time on unnecessary meetings to keep everyone updated.
Setting up the alerts literally takes just a few minutes.
Seeing that pages won’t always rank for years to come, updating and republishing your content is a great way to prevent it from getting outdated.
To find the pages that need to be updated, you should check out Google Analytics conversion data in Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages.
Then, you should choose a time frame for comparison. Since you’re searching for pages in need of republishing, it’s a good idea to compare six to eight-month periods.
Go through the table and choose which landing page you want to check out search query data for.
Now, see if you can spot any patterns that could help you generate more organic traffic.
Firstly, take topic freshness into consideration. Is your content still as relevant today as it was a few months ago? Did something change that will prevent the users from checking out your page?
For instance, if you wrote a post about specific Google Analytics features in 2021, some of them might’ve gone through significant changes since then, and the content won’t be able to help the readers anymore.
Secondly, check out if there’s any fluctuation in the navigational queries’ search volumes that caused a major organic traffic decline.
If neither of these two methods provides valuable insights, you should get even more nitty-gritty with the details.
Another good idea is to also go through device category changes and see if there are any localization issues if you’re targeting specific countries.
The internal search engine is most frequently used by visitors that want to quickly find specific brands, products, or content on your site.
What a lot of marketers don’t know is that Google Analytics can actually track these internal searches as well.
A good tip is to search for Google Analytics SEO keywords that don’t have a good landing page behind them (yet). For instance, you might not have content related to that keyword or the keywords aren’t in line with the search intent.
This official guide from Google should help you establish an internal search ranking. However, you can also check out our guide on how to set up and use site search tracking In Google Analytics.
After a few months of collecting data go by, you can go to the ‘Search Terms’ report that’s located beneath Behaviour > Site Search.
Use an appropriate filter so you can quickly eliminate unnecessary long-tail keywords.
Then, filter the report by search exit percentage and use the weighted sort type.
This is considered the simplest Google Analytics prioritization process. You’ll be able to check out queries users searched for, but didn’t find any satisfactory results.
And, you’ll see search exit metrics that display how many visitors exited your website after conducting the internal search.
To acquire more advanced search term data, you can use the weighted sort prioritization in GA.
Slow loading page time not only has a huge effect on user experience, but it’s one of the main factors affecting your search rankings.
For some reason, many SEOs tend to overlook this.
If you’re already investing a hefty sum in keyword rankings and SEO, you shouldn’t let the slow loading time drag you down.
To find this data in Google Analytics, simply go to Behavior > Site Speed Report.
Here, you’ll be able to check out page-load time and execution speed for interactions.
If you notice there’s an issue and pages take way too much time to load, report the problem to the site developers since they’re the ones typically handling page load time optimization.
In case you want to stay on top of site speed issues even better and immediately identify broken pages and other areas for optimization, you can check out the Google Analytics Site Speed Overview Dashboard.
This free dashboard provides you with key metrics like average page load time, avg page load time per device, pageviews, and bounce rate, all in one place.
Google Analytics offers countless organic search metrics for users to track, but if you aren’t tracking the right ones, your conversion rates won’t get any better.
Here are the 7 most important SEO Google Analytics metrics you should track to stay on top of organic search performance.
A ‘bounce’ (aka single-page session) occurs when a visitor on your website leaves the page without making any further interactions with the Google Analytics server.
The bounce rate is the total percentage of sessions that wind up as bounces (sessions that start and end on the same website page).
By tracking your website’s bounce rate, you’ll have a better idea of how visitors are interacting with it. Naturally, you want them to stay for as long as possible.
So, what does a good bounce rate look like? Robert Taylor of Advantix Digital explains: “A ‘bad’ bounce rate can be both too high and too low.”
“For example, if the bounce rate is 0%, that can mean that your Google Analytics tracking code is firing twice, making it impossible for a bounce to be recorded. On the other hand, too high of a bounce rate, over about 70%, can indicate issues with user experience or poor site design.”
Dwell time is a metric that showcases how much time a user spent on your page before returning to the search results.
If the dwell time on a specific page is low, it means that the content didn’t provide enough valuable information and match the visitor’s search intent.
Even though dwell time is similar to bounce rate, they don’t represent the same thing.
A bounce occurs each time someone clicks the back button without clicking anything else on the page, no matter if they spent 3 hours or 3 seconds on the page.
Dwell time is also something that Google factors in when ranking your page – if the content is relevant enough to the readers to make them spend more time on your website, it will be ranked better.
The time on page metric in GA signifies how much time users are spending on a certain page.
For instance, if someone spends 3 minutes reading an article, it will be counted as one time on page. If they move on to another article after they read the first one, Google Analytics will refer to it as two times on page.
This is one of the key metrics that can help you determine your website’s performance.
Google concluded that visitors who have longer times on page are more likely to convert into customers and will spend more money than someone who visits a site for a shorter time period.
You can find this data in the All Pages report in GA, which also contains Avg. Time on Page metric. This information is important to Google since it showcases visitor engagement.
Site speed is immensely important because, truth to be told, most of us aren’t very patient when it comes to getting information online. In fact, try to remember each time you ended up opening another page on Google just because the first one took too much time to load.
Website speed doesn’t only affect your SEO but (as we can conclude from the previous example) your UI as well.
To check if your website is well optimized in this area, head to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings.
As the name suggests, this metric refers to the mobile traffic your website generates.
Mobile traffic should be closely monitored since it can help you quickly spot any irregularities that can negatively affect rankings.
You can find mobile traffic data through Audience > Mobile > Overview.
Return on investment (ROI) is one of the most significant SEO Google Analytics metrics marketers track since it informs them of the amount of money each campaign is bringing.
Aleksandar Pesic of Market Republic argues that you should “forget about traffic, bounce rate, avg. page session and other metrics which don’t show how much money your efforts are bringing.” Instead, you should “focus on tracking goals that show ROI.”
“You can show your client reports of keyword positions and traffic, but if they don’t see the results on their bank account, it won’t matter,” Pesic adds.
The organic conversion rate displays the number of visitors that entered your site via search engine and ended up completing a certain action – such as buying a product, signing up for a newsletter, etc.
For instance, if 100 people find your website via Google and 10 of them signed up for a product trial, the organic conversion rate in GA will be 10%.
Here is what Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada says about this organic search metric.
“My favorite way to use Google Analytics for SEO is looking at traffic vs. conversions.”
“The way I do it is by comparing the traffic I get for every single page against every conversion for every single page. This allows me to create a traffic conversion rate, which helps me schedule the time I need to allocate towards conversion strategies on specific pages.”
Stevens continues: “It’s easy to be pleased when you look at a website page and see the number of hits you get on it. All that traffic isn’t worth much if it isn’t helping you make money.”
“Using Google Analytics to help evaluate conversion is one of the best ways to increase website revenue. It also can point out any negative trends that are occurring, which you might not have noticed otherwise. Conversions should be going up every month.”
A lot of SEOs tend to have the wrong approach when it comes to SEO reporting and end up boring the shareholders with dry numbers and vague explanations.
Her are the 3 things you should on for successful reporting on SEO success:
Related: How to Build a Great SEO Client Dashboard? A Step-By-Step Video Tutorial
If you’ve ever tried to build an SEO dashboard in Google Analytics, then you know just how tedious this task can be.
But don’t worry, we’re about to show you some great Google Analytics SEO dashboard templates that you can use in your own business – for free.
Let’s dive in.
If you want to stay on top of your on-page SEO performance and understand which pages are generating the most organic clicks, sessions, and more, you can use this Google Analytics Landing Page SEO Dashboard.
Some of the main things you’ll learn include:
The Google Analytics Traffic Growth SEO dashboard helps you acquire better insights regarding your website’s traffic.
You can use it to identify which sources, social media channels, and referrers are generating the most traffic, all in one place.
Plus, you’ll be able to monitor bounce rate, mobile traffic quality, and sessions by geo location.
This free Google Analytics Content Analysis Dashboard allows monitoring SEO performance by tracking clicks, users, channel sessions, and devices, which later helps you measure overall SEO campaign success.
By using this dashboard, you’ll be able to quickly identify which areas aren’t working and start solving them immediately.
The main things you’ll discover with this dashboard are:
To acquire a deeper analysis of the channels, referrers, and pages that generate traffic and conversion on your site, you can use the Google Analytics Acquisition Dashboard.
Some of the key metrics included are top channels by sessions, sessions by social network, sessions by referrer, average session duration, and more.
The Google Analytics Website Performance SEO Dashboard is one of the best ways to monitor traffic sources and audience behavior, and pinpoint your website’s most-viewed pages.
Once you connect your Google Analytics account, you’ll learn:
Want to know whether first-time mobile and desktop users are engaging with your website? If so, the Google Analytics Mobile vs Desktop Traffic Quality Dashboard will provide you with all the relevant details.
Not only will you be able to track user experience by device type, but you’ll also know which areas need to be optimized.
The key metrics included are bounce rate by device type, pages per session by device type, sessions by device, and more.
Google Analytics is without a doubt one of, if not the most powerful free tool for tracking SEO performance.
However, SEO reporting isn’t one of its strong suits.
Sure, there are dozens of SEO metrics that marketers can track, but they are all scattered in different tabs, which means you’ll waste a lot of time juggling from one report to another to stay on top of them.
Databox provides a much simpler solution.
With dozens of pre-built SEO dashboard templates available in our gallery, your only job will be connecting your GA data, picking the metrics you want to include, and visualizing them with a click of a button.
This allows you to track all the most important SEO metrics like organic traffic, keywords position ranking, bounce rate, dwell time, etc. in one place.
That’s not all – you can also take advantage of our dashboard reporting feature.
Not only can you use Databox to monitor SEO performance, but also to directly make and share reports for clients or relevant stakeholders.
Tired of switching back and forth between Google Analytics tabs to compile the data needed to build your SEO report?
Instead of copying and pasting all those screenshots from different tools every month, you can use our all-in-one SEO reporting tool to automate the entire process.
Ready to visualize, analyze, and report your SEO performance in one place?
Sign up for a free trial and experience the benefits first-hand.
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