Using Google Analytics to optimize your SEO performance

Person using Google Analytics to optimize SEO performance.

Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools for small businesses to use in order to gain insights about the performance of their websites, the behavior of their users, and even the practices of their competitors. This type of information can be incredibly useful when you want to optimize your SEO performance.

But if you’re new to Google Analytics and all its features, you may be struggling to get the most out of it. Don’t worry – all you need to learn is where to find valuable data, how to interpret it, and how to act upon it.

How does Google Analytics help you optimize your SEO performance?

Graphs on a computer screen.
Google Analytics is all about providing you with the data and insights you need to improve your website.

Google Analytics is Google’s web analytics service that was launched in 2005. It is one of the top tools for increasing traffic, measuring the success of a website, and learning more about how users interact with it. You can gain a great deal from it even if you never pay a dime, but there’s a monthly fee for some additional features and more in-depth analyses.

Google Analytics is so popular that virtually anyone who runs a website today almost certainly uses it. If you don’t already have one, you should definitely make an account. If you know how to use it, Google Analytics can be monumentally helpful in providing data and insights that can guide your strategy the right way.

Optimize your SEO performance using Google Analytics

If you notice that your SEO is not working or you simply want to gain more from your practices, you can use Google Analytics to improve your SEO. Here are just five steps you can take today to optimize your website better:

Find underperforming content that you can freshen up for a traffic boost

Pages, even good ones, don’t rank forever. After some time, even your top-performing content will experience a drop in rankings. Luckily, there’s an easy way to fix this – just update and republish some of your best and most important content to give it a boost. Before you can do that, however, you need to identify quality content that’s seeing a decline in traffic. In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition>Search Console>Landing Pages. Once there, set a time frame for comparison and sort the table by the metric you’re most interested in. Then, try to find the root cause for the drop in traffic. In many cases, the content is too old to rank as highly as when it was first published. Freshen it up a bit and republish to drive traffic to it again.

Focus on improving content that converts

Person browsing a website on a tablet.
Find out what converts your customers, then make it even better than it already is.

There’s certainly merit to improving pages that aren’t performing well. But how much could you gain if your best content ranked even higher than it does now? You can find out by improving on your top-performing pages. Go to Acquisition>Search Console>Landing Pages again. This time, select a goal that’s important to you and sort the pages by conversion rate. Take note of the top pages on the list before moving to Conversions>Multi-Channel Funnels>Assisted Conversions. There, select a conversion type from the drop-down menu and set a time frame. Finally, select “Organic Search” as channel grouping at the bottom of the page. This will show you content that people visit before converting and which indirectly leads to their conversion.

Now combine the lists of top-performing pages in both categories – these are the pages that convert your users. Next, it’s time to improve upon them. Inspect the pages to see what you can do to make them even better. Are there certain on-page SEO practices that are missing? Could you add some organic keywords to ensure the page ranks for multiple searches? Would multi-media content help? Find ways to make your top converters convert even more.

Discover new keyword opportunities

When we talk about keywords, we tend to focus on what people search on Google in order to find your website. But your website might also have an internal search function. Knowing what your users search when already on your website can tell you what exactly they are looking for. So set up internal tracking through the Admin page of your Google Analytics account. Give it a few weeks or months before you start looking at the data. Then, go to Behaviour>Site Search in the Search Terms report. Finally, apply a filter to eliminate mistyped searches and sort the resulting table by the (weighted) percentage of search exits. Here, you will find what specifically the people visiting your website are hoping to find. Incorporate keywords from internal searches into your content strategy to drive even more traffic to your website.

Set up alerts for 404 errors

404 error page.
Nobody likes seeing an error page so find your broken links and fix them!

Although a few are inevitable here and there, 404 errors (page not found) need to be dealt with because they can be incredibly frustrating for users. But you can’t fix a broken link if you don’t know it’s there. So make Google Analytics inform you when these error pages reach a certain threshold. First, go to Admin>View column>Custom Alerts>Create a new alert. Then, set your first condition to the title of your error pages (must be the same for all pages). Next, set the number of instances that will trigger the alert. That way, you will get informed when there’s something wrong with your website, and you can fix it before it becomes a problem.

Use annotations to track changes

The longer you run your website, the harder it’ll be to keep all the changes you’ve experienced neatly organized in your mental library. So don’t – let Google Analytics do that for you. You can add notes to any time chart in the tool. Explain what caused sudden dips in traffic or what inspired better ranking. Perhaps you failed to publish content for a while and saw a significant drop in rankings. Or maybe you started a better link-building strategy and suddenly had a lot more traffic. Over time, you’ll notice patterns of failures and successes that can help you develop better strategies in the future.

Simple things you can do in Google Analytics that can help you optimize your SEO performance

In addition to these arguably more advanced ways of using Google Analytics insights to improve SEO, you can also try some simple and straightforward steps toward optimizing your website using data-driven insights:

  • track the demographics and interests of your visitors – this will help you fine-tune the type of content you put out
  • discover organic keywords – if you’re ranking for them when you’re not even trying, imagine how well you can do when you actually target these keywords?
  • find your top referrals – websites that are already linking to you will likely be open to hosting more of your backlinks
  • measure engagement with different pages – this will tell which type of content your users like best and what for

One final note: it’s worth remembering that Google Analytics is just a tool. It’s only as good as you are at using it. So if you want to optimize your SEO performance with Google Analytics, you need to become very familiar with the tool itself.

Author bio

Maggie EdwardsMaggie Edwards is a content manager at Digital Dot New York. Her background in mathematics gave her a burning passion for using statistics, analysis, and other data-driven solutions to improve SEO and marketing. In her writings, she tries to inspire others to do the same.