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Google Analytics tips for SEO

Written by David Harry   
Thursday, 13 November 2008 03:07

Playing with advanced segments and custom reporting

Recently the folks at Google Analytics rolled out some new features in the form of Advanced Segmentation and Custom Reporting. It is still in beta and being released to accounts over the last few weeks; yours truly just got access last week – so let’s look at some potential metrics and reporting that we can do in line with our SEO programs.

Google Analytics for SEO

Three of the main areas we look at are;

  1. Search traffic – how much traffic are search engines sending, growth rates and conversions
  2. Keywords – which terms are bringing the most traffic and affecting conversions
  3. Content performance – which content items are performing the best and search traffic growth.

Today we’ll look at ‘Search traffic’ and how we can use Google Analytics to dig better understand the efficacy of your SEO program.

Search traffic analytics

Many times in the SMB world we’ll have limited engine targeting, as far as targeting Google more so than say Live. Because of limited budgets, many small business owners simply can’t afford to be chasing the engines with smaller traffic share. Looking at over-all search traffic growth is a simple, but effective metric. So fire up GA and go to;

Traffic Sources > Search Engines’

One of the simplest views is month over month;

MOM Search Traffic

This will give you some ongoing data as to the progress of your campaigns. As important as search traffic growth is, be sure to ALWAYS investigate the conversions (goals) tab as well. Here’s what our ‘Goal Conversions’ info looks like;

MOM Conversions

And don’t be cheeky – as noted we were consciously moving more peeps to our primary conversion… so it’s doing what we want. As far as traffic growth, Google is the main target in this campaign and has been steadily improving 15-25% month over month and conversions are growing as well… happy times… back to the metrics ;0)

Digging deeper

So that’s the basics, let’s say we want to look into the actual visitor engagement this month? Understanding the engagement levels from search engine traffic will help give an over-all view of how well things are going.

For that we can make a few advanced segments to; the first we’re looking at is page depth. Generally speaking, (varies by site type) we want to try and engage users to at least 3 pages as these tend to be the strongest visitor segment and have higher conversion rates.

So, the first advanced segment we’ll make is for visitors that have gone deeper than 3 pages on the site like so;

Custom segmentation

Now when you go back to the; ‘Traffic > Search Engines’ report, go up to the top right and select where it says ‘Advanced Segments’. In the drop-down select, from our custom ones, the new segment we just created (whatever name U gave it).

Custom segments 2

As you can see, I have been creating a wide variety of them for different purposes…. More on the others in time.

For now let’s look at this month’s search traffic with an eye to those super-visitors that went at least 3 pages into the website; our report now looks like this;

more custom segments

What does this tell us? For starters just under 9% more Yahoo visitors are digging deeper and generally seem more engaged. We also note that the average Googler visit are of a shorter span, new visitors and most likely to bounce. Anecdotally our Live traffic is the most active as far as ‘repeat’ visitors, be that what it may. Ultimately we cannot discount the Google traffic as its sheer mass still makes it the target of choice.

But let’s talk turkey... Show me the money – or conversions at least. Is the increased engagement making a rat’s ass of a difference? Click our ‘Goal Conversion’ tab;

Getting segment value

Now considering ‘Goal 2 and 2a’ are my primary conversion points, it seems my Google traffic is making out just fine.

What is great about using this simple engagement segmentation is that we can see how effectively we’re engaging traffic from search engines and converting it as well. From here we can dig into the actual keyword data for cross supporting data which can establish the over-all efficacy of the program. That is to say, we also want to look at which keywords/phrases are driving conversions and which aren’t. More on that later.

DIY Reporting – Creating custom reports

Now, one thing that you may come across is when the reports just don’t offer up all the metrics you’re interested in. So let’s try a few new angles on our search traffic report that can also be helpful. Let’s have a look at some engagement data and conversion data wrapped into a traffic report.

We want to go to the custom reports interface and create a new report;

Google analytics - custom reporting

You can use different metrics to get different results – this is something I advise playing with on a site by site basis; but here’s what we’d have with this report (including our page depth data segment);

Custom reporting II

This time we’ve included the data from our primary conversion point as well as some other engagement data.  We can really start to see the importance of the relationship of page depth (engagement) and our conversions. This is simply an example to get you going… U want to know some of the real nuggets, well… pay me – a guy has to make a living – this is more about getting your juices flowing.

The main point I wanted to get across is there are a variety of ways to look at your search traffic in order to establish if current programs are bearing fruit. Create some reports that best represent your key indicators and start a baseline to work from.


Now let’s say that we’re targeting a given region, in this case; Australia. If we want to see what percentage of our search traffic is from the targeted region, we create a location segment.

Geo targeting search traffic

Now if we go back to our ‘Traffic > Search Engines’ report and activate our new custom segment which gives us this;

More geo-targeting

And as always, check the conversions tab as well. This begins to give us an idea of not only how are targeting is going, but how well it is converting. You really need to play around and find the data that best suits your situation.

These are simply a few of the metrics involved in benchmarking over-all search engine performance relating to your SEO efforts - as always, get creative. Often each project will have it's own Key Performance Indicators... find them!


Toys to go

One great aspect of the custom segmentation and reporting is that they carry over to other accounts you may have access to. Most SEO consultants (that’s me) manage many accounts and ALL of your custom goodies go with you.

This can be a problem when tighter segmentation is required on an account by account basis, but still groovy. I’d like to see the option of ‘sharing with all profiles’ mind you.. if it exists, I haven’t found it yet. All in all, the new additions are welcomed and I encourage you to play around to get the most from it. I really could have gone deeper, but this post became a marathon as it is, get some rest.

Next time we’ll look at some custom segments and reports to better understand the keyword analysis in your optimization programs. After that, content performance and search traffic.

Stay tuned!

More stuff;

Google Analytics Custom Reporting

Google Analytics Advanced Segments

Be sure to catch part II in the series; Google Analytics - keyword analysis

Other reading – while there wasn’t much out there yet, here’s some num nums to feed the need;

Google analytics releases advanced segmentation -  Avinash
GA advanced segmentation; the allegory of the cave - Weblinc
GA advanced segmentation - epikone

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+1 # Mike Wilton 2008-11-13 10:08
Great post Dave! I noticed the new Beta upgrades to Analytics recently, but hadn't had a chance to mess with them yet. You gave some pretty solid insight to what it can do.
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0 # Dave 2008-11-13 10:27
Yo ho MW... I was going to do more until I realized how far this post was getting carried away... and so it's going to be a few more to get the job done.

Hopefully in a few more weeks I'll sort out which ones work best - so far has been interesting.
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0 # Kyle James 2008-11-13 12:02
Awesome, awesome post! I've also started playing with these new features, but it's always great to visually see how others are using the new features. Thank you so much for sharing.

I've spent a lot of time in the advanced segments features. I really like how this helps visual campaign data. You can pull out certain source types then go see how they compete against the overall campaign.
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0 # George Gilmer 2008-11-13 18:15
Great post! I've been enjoying the new segmentation features... you've got me really excited to drill down and put it to more use.
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0 # Sankar Datti 2008-11-14 06:54
I am a SEO Savvy. Recently had a interest on Google segmentation. I got very less knowledge on it. After going through your post got a good knowledge on it.

Thanks & Regards
Sankar Datti
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0 # Jun 2008-11-15 06:02
I got my access to Advanced Segmentation and Custom Reporting a week ago too. And I love it.

BTW... nice goal conversion rate. Hopefully I'll get to the same level soon... :cheer:
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0 # TomL 2008-11-16 17:08
Great post! Google Analytics is a great tool if you can use it correctly, this is a fantastic guide to get the most out of it.
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0 # Feydakin 2008-11-19 20:26
I have never been a fan of pulling down my pants any further than necessary for Google.. I think they know far too much about the inner workings of all of our businesses than they should..


Some of the new analytics tools make it hard to not use them.. It makes me sad for the other analytics companies out there trying to compete with Microsoft and them giving away everything for free just to lock people out of markets..

Oh, I meant Google..
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0 # Traian 2008-11-19 20:31
Hi ,

I also wrote an article about Google Analytics tips. It's called Google Analytics Tips and Tricks. Please, take a look.
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+4 # David 2008-11-21 20:42
Great post, the only issue I have with these segmentations is that the clients don't like some of the data.

You run a segmentation to see who doesnt view more than 3 pages, and they see that their link building company is the major source of these visitors.

I think the issue is that we must be careful that we dont drown our clients with all these new amazing reports, i think a gradual introduction to some elements is a better approach.
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0 # Seo Services India 2008-12-29 00:41
Hey fantastic post. You have explained the whole segments so nicely and clearly. Each and every thing described by you so easy to understand.
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+1 # Tobias Fox 2008-12-30 09:13
Great work. I like the many screenshots in your tut, that makes things much more easier and faster to read.
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+1 # James Strutton 2009-05-25 15:00
This is way good and fun of a read post!! .. Thanks
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+1 # Takis mpalaskas 2009-06-03 01:51
Dave, Brilliant Post!! I was having some troubles with Google analytics and you have shared a lot of helpfull info!!

Will Help me a lot in my SEO!

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0 # Gareth Jameson 2009-06-12 16:22
Thank you for your tips; awesome post :woohoo:
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0 # sasa 2009-06-19 08:20
What a great style. Very informative one, I hope you will continue your research.
I will even buy an essay on this subject.
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0 # Seo 2009-06-20 15:54
The Greasemonkey script for Firefox that you mention has been converted into a convenient Firefox plug-in. It can be found here:
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0 # Prepaid Calling cards 2009-06-21 14:55
Great tutorial,Dave.This is one of the better explanation I've seen.Thanks for sharing.
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0 # web site host 2009-06-23 16:05
Google Analytics is a great tool if you can use it correctly; this is a fantastic guide to get the most out of it. Well, you can't specifically track the exact position of the keyword that was clicked like you can do with AdWords. But it is possible to determine the page he was on. web site host
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-1 # Aneekalam 2009-10-19 16:22
You run a segmentation to see who doesnt view more than 3 pages, and they see that their link building company is the major source of these visitors.

Cosmetic dentists Palm beach (
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0 # Dave Barnett 2009-10-28 16:02
Excellent article, given in step by step order. Explains it the best of any I've seen.
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