In the new Search Engine Optimization Section at Google Analytics, there are three reports: Queries, Landing Pages, and Geographic Summary.
All of these reports show your pages’ behavior at the search engines results page, while the older reports show you how your visitors behave. There is a Landing Pages report under Content as well, so don’t mix the two up.
SEO>Landing Pages shows you which of your pages are offered to people most often, your pages’ average position, and the click through rate for each page. Content>Landing Pages shows which pages had the largest number of visitors, and how they arrived at the pages. By comparing these metrics, and hooking them up with other data available in analytics, you can track down actions you can take to improve your website’s performance.
However, it definitely takes some detective work. Let me share an example of how you can take the data and track down a needed action.
The screenshot below (feel free to click and make it larger) shows the landing pages of our lab site, FreshPlans, in alphabetical order. We can thus see that our home page has been offered to searchers 1600 times, and only 50 of those people have clicked through. With a click through rate of only 3.2%, we can see that our home page is not irresistible. We can’t see what questions people typed into the search box, though.
At this point, we may be disappointed with the performance of our home page, but we don’t have enough information to decide what to do about it. In order to figure out what’s wrong, we need to delve deeper.
When we look at the Landing Pages report under Site Content, we can see that our home page is not the most popular landing page, as it is for most web sites, but is only the sixth most popular page. Our most popular landing page varies a lot, but at the moment it’s our page on the Little Red Hen, followed by a bunch more folktales.
When we narrow in to see the keywords people used to come to our home page, we can see that they generally were looking for the site by name — either “FreshPlans,” the name of the site, or “my fresh plans,” the domain name. A few people seem to have been looking for specific pages which they had perhaps visited before, or had heard about: a query for “freshplans rosh hashana,” for example, might have been in response to someone’s tweet that we had lesson plans for Rosh Hashana.
Returning to the Queries report, we can ask to see all the queries using the word “fresh” that were offered to searchers. The results are enlightening: we are being offered to people looking for fresh turkeys and fresh offers from the Olive Garden.
This shows that Google doesn’t understand what our home page is about. A little background may be in order here. Our little lab site has as its primary keywords “lesson plans” and “classroom themes,” both highly competitive keywords for our target audience. The top dogs for those terms are old, established sites with budgets and authority, and we were pretty confident that we could not compete for those terms. We know we can compete for long tail keyword variants on “lesson plans,” though, including all the above-the-fold-ranking examples below.
We didn’t optimize our home page; we actually have no static content at all on our home page, apart from our tagline, “Engaging learning tools for the modern K-12 classroom,” which contains none of our keywords. The rest of the page is dynamic, and changes each week.
We are essentially saying, “Nah, nah, nah, search engines, try to guess what our home page is about!” It’s a wonder it gets any search traffic at all. Our homepage probably ranks for the name of the site only because we have all these #1 ranked inner pages and some high value links.
Fixing this would make a good lab report, and I’m going to put it on my list of things to do when I have more time.
Some things you can look for in the SEO>Landing Pages report for your site:
- Pages with a high CTR (click through rate) but low average placement on the SERPs. These may be good pages that aren’t communicating well with the search engines.
- Pages with a high number of impressions but low CTR may be pages the search engines like better than the people do. Synthesize Landing Pages with Queries to make some guesses, and check your meta descriptions — but remember that many people use the preview function on the search page, so make sure they page looks good in the SERPs preview as well.
- Pages with a poor Average Position obviously need work to improve their rankings. Again, synthesize this data with info from the Queries report to plan the changes you need to make.
The SEO reports are brand new, and we’re bound to find more use for them as time goes on. I think that, especially for sites that don’t show a lot of seasonal change, they might give more useful info with longer periods of time than we used in our example. We’ll also be showing you how to use the Google Properties dimension with them later in the week. How are you using them?