When it comes to SEO, measuring performance is essential.
An SEO analytics process is an integral part of measuring performance and ensures you dedicate time to deciding what to measure and report.
You can use this analytics data on an ongoing basis to show why your client should continue working with you, since you know that you’re collecting suitable types of data related to their critical SEO KPIs.
In addition, you increase your chances of success, as you have all the data available to you to make effective decisions as part of your SEO strategy.
What is SEO analytics?
SEO analytics refers to collecting data and making it ready for analysis and visualization to aid in creating or monitoring your SEO strategy.
The process for SEO analytics is as simple as:
Why is SEO analytics so important?
Some may think of having an SEO analytics process as a lower priority and something that just slows down getting to other more critical tasks.
However, there are several reasons why checking that suitable types of data are being collected when starting a new project will contribute toward getting results from your SEO strategy, including:
To ensure you’re measuring the right metrics.
To make data easily accessible when reporting and working on key SEO deliverables.
To aid with decision-making.
Understanding SEO analytics shows your organic traffic performance and helps you create the next plan of action. If you start an SEO strategy without an analytics plan in place, you’ll end up not knowing how well the strategy is going, nor whether the strategy is making the improvements that you’d hoped.
Choosing metrics & KPIs
While this part of the plan is essential, I’ve already written detailed articles to help you understand critical SEO metrics to track and common KPIs to measure for SEO, so I'll keep that section brief here.
If you don’t already know what metrics and KPIs are important, start with these posts:
To understand SEO analytics for a site, you need to collect relevant data in preparation for analysis.
While data accuracy is not always perfect, using the same tools and settings helps measure changes that occur over time.
We’ll look at why you should collect the data as part of your analytics plan and recommend tools to manage the data for each of the following.
Acquisition, behavior, and conversion data
This analytics data shows you how you’ve acquired users and what they’ve done once they’re on your site.
There are plenty of tools out there that will provide tons of information on acquisition, behavior, and conversion data. Here’s an overview of the types of analytics data you’ll get from these types of tools.
The two key traffic analytics to collect are:
Sessions: The number of times users visit your site (from the same device). This can include one user visiting your site multiple times on different occasions, e.g., visiting a site five times over a week is five sessions.
Users/Unique visitors: The number of individual people visiting the site (from the same device). The same person visiting from multiple devices will be counted from each device.
The key areas of user engagement to understand are:
Bounce rate: The percent of users who leave your site without visiting other pages.
Session duration: How long a user spends on your site.
Pages per session: The average number of pages users visit in a session.
Key metrics to collect relating to conversions and revenue are:
Goal completions: Goals are trackable events that match objectives you want to measure, like a purchase or a contact form submission.
Revenue: Gross revenue.
Average goal/order value: The average amount of money a user spends on an order or completed a tracked goal on your site.
For all of the above metrics, they can also usually be segmented or split by:
Device: Mobile, desktop, or tablet
Location: Country, city, and regions
Landing pages: The URL the user entered the site on
Source: Organic, social, paid and direct
Tools to collect this data
The main tools you could use to collect this type of data are:
Search query data
The data in the previous section gives you a base-level understanding of how you’re acquiring users, what their behaviors are, and whether they’re doing what you want them to on your site.
However, with search, you have another level of data to indicate how you’ve acquired them — the query they used to reach your site.
Multiple tools provide query-level data. There are three types of data you’ll get from them:
Market analysis tools, like Semrush/Sistrix/Ahrefs
Rank trackers, like Advanced Web Ranking
Google Search Console for actual query data
Get actual data on the number of clicks, average positions, and impressions you receive in search engines via first-party data search engines collect.
This source of data is invaluable for SEOs, as it concretely tells you things such as:
The number of clicks you get for a query.
Where you rank, on average, for all queries you rank for.
How many times a search engine shows your URLs within a search result.
How often users have seen your listing in search results (impressions), which you can use as a proxy metric for the number of times users search a query.
One downside of GSC is the data is a few days old. However, it provides actual query data, so it’s worth the wait.
Another downside is that you only get data for a query when you start to rank well for it. For example, you need to have impressions for a search query for any impressions data to be collected.
This means that if you wanted to use impressions as a proxy for evaluating search demand, you would need to rank in the top ten on the SERP consistently.
Still, this data source is up there with the most valuable data to collect, and collecting it is as simple as verifying your site, and it’s free!
Advanced Web Ranking for daily keyword tracking
On top of using GSC/BWT, I’d recommend a rank tracker such as Advanced Web Ranking.
Benefits of using a rank tracker include:
Daily position data reported immediately
Snapshot of where you ranked when the tool checked the SERP
Reporting data not provided by search engines
Rank trackers have additional useful features, such as:
Tracking SERP features
Supplying competitive data
Tagging keywords into different groups
The downside to these trackers is that the information available is only based on what you put into the tool. Keywords aren't tracked for your site until you enter them, so you may miss important data to analyze if you didn't include your keywords.
Market analysis tools
Market analysis tools provide another level of search query data by continuously tracking a wide range of SERPs.
As mentioned, tools like this include:
There are a few key benefits of investing in one of these tools, including:
Access to a large dataset of keywords
Historical data from before you created your account
You can see data on your competitors
The main downside? The tracking isn’t daily across all keywords, and you have no input on what these market analysis tools track.
Still, these tools have a wide net on what they track, and the historical and competitive data is invaluable for SEO analytics.
Enriched keyword data
Regarding search query data and behavioral metrics like conversions and revenue, one thing to understand is that Google Search Console/Google Analytics does not connect this data by default.
For example, while you can see your site gets 1,000 clicks for a query, you can’t see how many of those 1,000 clicks converted on your site.
Google Analytics gave this type of data until 2011 when they stopped providing it and replaced it with (not provided).
Thankfully, however, there is a workaround.
The Keyword Hero tool uses various data sources to connect behavioral data with query data, providing valuable insights like conversion data for specific queries.
You can then use this to understand better which queries:
Drive the most conversions
Cause the most bounces
Have the highest conversion rate
The Keyword Hero tool works by adding a Google Analytics property and only starts collecting data once set up.
User behavior data
Alongside more metric-based behavior data such as bounce rates and session durations, tools like HotJar can collect more visual data on user behavior such as:
These may be commonly used by user experience (UX) designers but are becoming more important for SEOs. The convergence between SEO and UX is well-known, with Google introducing multiple algorithms that evaluate UX over the last several years.
Indexing / crawling data
Alongside data on performance, Google Search Console provides various technical metrics that you’ll want to collect for analysis.
Here are some of the data types you can collect:
Coverage errors: Includes server errors, redirect errors, and other critical errors that impact crawling/indexing.
The number of indexed URLs: Useful to know to diagnose any potential issues with indexing, like index bloat.
Page experience: The number and percentage of pages with a positive experience, meaning they pass the Core Web Vitals test.
Structured data validation: Useful for sitewide validation of existing structured data.
It's essential to collect and monitor the data from these tools to ensure site changes aren’t causing technical issues that are known to impact organic performance negatively.
Alongside GSC, you can find a similar set of metrics and tools within Bing Webmaster Tools, so make sure to set up an account in both.
Most tools will show you data within the actual application. Still, you can take that data further by using visualization tools that present it in different ways or simply make it more convenient by aggregating it in a single place.
Here are my favorite tools for analyzing SEO data.
Supermetrics for pulling from APIs
I’ll start this section with my favorite tool for extracting, transforming, and loading data from tools into a single place ready for analysis and visualization.
That tool is Supermetrics.
Supermetrics makes it easy to load data into multiple destinations, including:
It also has a vast number of API integrations that are consistently growing.
In addition to a wide range of integrations, the quality of the integration is also excellent, offering you far more options than other solutions.
For example, their GSC integration allows you to split the data source into custom dimensions like brand vs. non-brand.
You could then also filter the data to only include keywords from that non-brand segment.
This level of detail can be found throughout all their connectors, making it a great option.
Please note that you don’t necessarily need to subscribe to Supermetrics, depending on the features you require and where you’d like to send data.
For example, when it comes to Data Studio, most tool providers develop their own free connectors. Data integration tools like this aren’t cheap, so you may want to research some free solutions depending on your budget.
Data studio for dashboards and reporting
Use a dashboard to bring the critical metrics you review daily to a central, easy-to-see location.
A Data Studio SEO dashboard is my chosen way of doing that.
The benefit of using Data Studio for visualization is that most tools integrate with it for free, including:
Google Search Console
Advanced Web Ranking
That means you don’t necessarily need to worry about things like paying for a third-party tool that will load your data into a destination for storage or visualization.
Data Studio is also intuitive to use, with a simple drag-and-drop interface.
Google sheets for one-off analysis
For years, the spreadsheet has been the home for easy-to-use data analytics, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m mentioning it.
Google Sheets is an excellent place for a one-off analysis that you likely won’t need to look at again. For example, if you had a drop in traffic to a specific directory of your site and want granular insights on what’s happened, you likely don’t want to build an entire dashboard around that drop.
An obvious choice for starting your analysis is exporting from the tools you’re using. Advanced Web Ranking, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console all have built-in exporting functionality.
However, the availability of add-ons within Google Sheets makes this even more accessible. Various add-ons allow you to pull data directly from the tool into Google Sheets, ready for analysis. Here are a couple of my favorites:
The Google Analytics Spreadsheet Add-on: A free add-on built by Google to extract data from Google Analytics
Search Analytics For Sheets: A free add-on to extract data from Google Search Console
Supermetrics: A paid add-on with a wide range of integrations
If you’re more comfortable using Excel, you can use it as an alternative.
Another option: Data Studio Explorer
Another simple way for a quick one-off analysis is a beta option within Data Studio called Data Studio Explorer.
Data Studio Explorer has a similar interface to their reporting interface you’ll use to create a dashboard. However, the main content focuses on doing a single analysis with charts or tables rather than creating a dashboard.
You can quickly filter or change the dimensions and metrics used, making it ideal if there is a specific analysis you’d like to do.
You can create one of these by clicking the "Create" button in the top left and selecting "Explorer."
More SEOs are embracing A/B testing as part of their analysis process to ensure that the changes they’re making are, in fact, positively impacting the site.
The main types of tests you’d be executing with an A/B testing tool would be:
Internal linking changes
Title tag changes
There are a variety of tools that have the functionality to help, including:
All of these tools are similar in the way they work. You have a control group and a test group of similar URLs in terms of SEO content + traffic; you then change the test group and measure the difference in traffic between the two before and after.
They all work by using the performance data collected via GSC, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got that set up.
In Search Success, once you’ve run the test, you’ll get the data charted for you, showing you the potential impact of the test:
You’ll also get a helpful write-up summarizing the data:
Forecasting SEO data
Another crucial part of SEO analysis is forecasting. Providing a forecast is something most SEOs get asked to do at some point, and pretty much all SEOs dread doing them.
Due to the number of unknowns with SEO, like potential changes in demand or changes Google may make, it can become challenging to predict the future.
That said, forecasting is a critical business requirement, and it’s beneficial when doing any kind of analysis.
If you need ongoing forecasting to be part of your SEO analytics process, I’d recommend using Forecast Forge.
It works with any kind of data, is simple to use thanks to it being a Google Sheets add-on, and also, it’s accurate, thanks to it using a Machine Learning model developed at Facebook called Prophet.
Ensuring you follow an SEO analytics process is key. Without it, you’ll find yourself struggling to understand performance changes because you weren’t collecting the information that’d have given you the complete picture.
Whenever you start a new project, dedicate time to ensuring you have your chosen tools for data collection setup and you have a plan for how you’ll visualize that data. By doing this, answering what’s happened, why, and what the business should do next becomes easier, saves you time, and better positions you as the expert.
Any questions on SEO analytics, tweet me.