You can do everything right to optimise your site for search, but if you’re not tracking your SEO results, then how do you know what’s working? Analysing the data has all sorts of benefits:
- Spot any potential issues and make adjustments to improve.
- Compare data, including traffic and conversions, to previous periods, gaining an understanding of changes over time.
- Demonstrate the benefits of SEO work to managers and decision makers.
- Get to know your users and their behaviour.
- Identify areas where you could boost your site ranking.
Fortunately, Google provides several free tools that contain a huge amount of information to help you track your results. This guide takes a look at some key areas you should track, how to analyse them, and what they can tell you about your SEO.
Tool: Google Analytics 4
How to find the information: Reports > Acquisition
Traffic to your website is measured by the number of individual users or individual visits. A single user can make multiple visits. You can see how traffic changes between two dates, or compare two separate periods of time through GA4’s acquisition reports.
Analysing website traffic lets you see when people are most likely to visit your website and whether visits are increasing overall. Ideally, website traffic should increase year-on-year, so if it doesn’t, you may want to look at how you can improve your SEO and marketing strategy.
Changes in website traffic can also highlight unusual activity. A sudden drop in visits could indicate something is wrong with your site that prevents people getting onto it (for example, if your server is down), or that you have been negatively affected by a Google update. If the latter, research updates implemented around that time and find guidance on how to improve.
On the other hand, if you see a one-off sudden spike in traffic, it could suggest that you’ve either been hit by spam traffic, or that something has triggered a peak in interest. This could be, for example, a feature on TV or in a national newspaper.
Tool: Google Search Console
How to find the information: Performance > Export
One measure of SEO success – in very basic terms – is search engine ranking. When someone searches a phrase (keyword) relevant to your business, how close to the top does your website appear in the results? The higher, the better.
Because of this, tracking your position is a useful way of measuring the effectiveness of your SEO.
To analyse rankings, you need to first decide which keywords you want to track. There are a lot of options out there, and you can’t optimise for them all, so select a few priorities to focus on. Find a balance between the most popular keywords (those with the highest number of searches) and those that are more niche to your topic.
A higher number of searches means more people are interested in that topic, but you will also be competing with more websites. More detailed searches see fewer hits but suggest people are closer to making a purchase, so are more likely to convert when they do visit.
Google Search Console tracks your average rankings over a period of time. You can export a report that lists all the keywords that have triggered your website in the search results. Pick out your target keywords and make a note of the average position of each.
If you can’t find a keyword in the report, there could be a few reasons. The phrase may not have been used during the time period, or searches may have been minimal. This is common with low-volume keywords and keywords that target small geographic regions. In this case, you can do your own search (on a browser clear of cookies and browsing history) and manually count where you rank.
Another possibility is that your website was not shown for that particular search at all. If this is the case, you should audit the relevant pages to make sure they are properly optimised.
Look out for big changes in rankings. Sudden drops or jumps could indicate that an algorithm change has hit your website. In such instances, rankings can fluctuate for a while, so allow a few weeks for them to settle. If your rankings remain considerably lower, it could indicate that Google doesn’t like something about your site. You should look at what improvements can be made.
How to find the information: Reports > User attributes > Demographic details
Demographics tell you about the kinds of people visiting your site based on information such as location, gender, interests and age. This information can inform your SEO as it demonstrates the types of people interested in your product or service. If you track this data over time, you can also check whether demographics are changing and make updates as required.
Individual Page visits
How to find the information: Reports > Engagement > Pages and Screens
Take a look at which pages are most popular on your site. The pages with the most traffic indicate that the information is popular with your audience, but also that Google likes what you’ve done with SEO. On the flip side, underperforming pages can indicate a lack of interest, a lack of usefulness, or poor optimisation.
For lower performing pages, consider whether they’re useful to your site at all – would it be worth getting rid of them entirely? Or perhaps you just need to make improvements. Are the pages optimised correctly? Is there enough content and will your audience find them informative and/or entertaining? Do the pages function as they should and are they easy to read?
Conversions and events
How to find the information: Reports > Engagement > Conversions and Reports > Engagement > Events
A conversion is a specific set action that you want a user to take because it is significantly beneficial to your business. Quite often, this will mean a purchase, or some other event that includes a financial gain, though it could also be an action such as a newsletter subscription.
An event is similar but less important to your business. Events include general actions such as page scrolls and other user behaviours that indicate some kind of engagement.
Though GA4 does include some generic default events (such as Page Views or Clicks), these on their own won’t be particularly useful to most businesses.
Conversions always need to be manually set up, which does require some advanced knowledge. If you don’t already have that knowledge, you may need to ask a developer or an SEO expert to do the work.
Once implemented, you can view number of conversions, number of users making those conversions, and the resulting revenue.
Click on a conversion name to view the traffic source. The organic search figures will be the result of your SEO work so you can see just how much revenue SEO has brought you, and how it compares to other traffic sources.
Local search results
Tool: Google Business Profile
How to find the information: Business Name > Performance
If your business serves a local area, then use Google Business Profile to see how your website is performing with users searching locally.
Think of this as a mini version of your website analytics specifically for users in your locality.
There are lots of performance indicators here. The keywords triggering your profile tell you whether you’re content aligns with expectations; traffic and interaction changes indicate whether you need to improve your listing; and the platform and device breakdown provides you with an overview of how users find you.
How to find the information: Reports > Monetisation > Ecommerce Purchases
Ecommerce purchases can be similar to Conversions but give you more information about what is being purchased. This indicates your most popular products/services and changing trends over time. Like Page Views, a low number of purchases could indicate that there’s room for improvement on individual product pages.
By looking at the number of products that were added to a basket compared to the amount of purchases, you can also potentially identify issues. If there’s a large disparity, as yourself why. Is there an issue with the payment gateway? Is a page failing to load? Is the copy misaligned with expectations?
Again, ecommerce purchases will likely require some set up from a developer or SEO expert.
Analysing your data is an important part of SEO work, and it helps you identify changing trends, possible issues, and available improvements. Make use of Google’s numerous free tools to gain a wealth of information about your website’s performance.