Let’s face it. Optimizing your website for search engines is not a small undertaking.
We’re talking about hours upon hours of keyword research, backlink analysis, content creation, on-page optimization and link building.
There is no magic wand we can wave to make our target keywords instantly rank higher on Google (and if anyone tells you that they can, run far away, do not pass Go and do not collect $200), so our best bet is to follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines religiously, and adapt to algorithm changes quickly.
On top of that, you have to consistently track and measure your SEO progress to ensure that your site content is in Google’s good graces.
Luckily for us, Google makes the tracking part easy with their Search Analytics Report — a fantastic tool that shows your keyword rankings, search traffic data, and much much more.
Here are the ins and outs of using Search Analytics Report to extract in-depth SEO data for your business.
How to Access Search Analytics Report
The Search Analytics Report can be found within Google Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools).
Once you’re inside the Search Console, click on “Search Traffic” on the left menu to reveal a list of options. Search Analytics should be at the very top of that list.
How to Navigate Search Analytics Report
By default, this is what you see once you open the Search Traffic Report:
These metrics are available: Clicks, Impressions, CTR and Position. It’s worth noting that Position is determined by taking “the average position of the topmost result”, and you can learn more about how it is calculated here.
Besides metrics, you also have a few options for grouping your data: Queries, Pages, Countries, Devices, Search Type, and Dates.
The Queries grouping is especially important because it displays search terms that your site is ranking for, and can help answer critical questions such as:
— Is your site ranking well for all your target keywords?
— Do you have queries with high impressions and low CTR?
— Are all your branded keywords at the top of search results?
— Which keywords are bringing you the most organic traffic?
— Which search queries are most likely to show your site?
By selecting different combinations of metrics and groupings, we can collect copious amounts of interesting data.
How to Gather SEO Performance Data from Search Analytics Report
Once you’re familiar with the navigation of Search Analytics, it’s time to flex your analytical muscle.
We’re going to run the following SEO reports using Search Analytics:
Report #1: Branded Keywords
According to a study conducted by Google, branded keywords have more than 200% higher conversion rate compared to non-branded keywords. Coupled with the fact that reaching #1 organic ranking for your branded keywords is relatively easy, we can safely conclude that ranking for branded keywords should be among the top SEO priorities.
This report will help you figure out if your branded keywords are indeed ranking well and generating the necessary clicks.
To begin, click on the dropdown under Queries to reveal 3 options:
Choose Filter queries.
In the empty box besides “Queries containing”, type in your branded keyword. Omit superfluous terms like “Inc.” and “& Co” so that Search Analytics can generate all search queries that pertain to your company, not just a subset of branded queries.
Then, select any metrics that interest you. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m choosing all 4 — Clicks, Impressions, CTR and Position — to get a holistic view.
Last but not least, choose a time frame for your data set.
To see if your branded keywords’ metrics have been trending up over time, choose the Compare date ranges option.
Here I have selected “Compare last 28 days to previous period”, but you can just as easily pick two custom time ranges (ex: Q3 2016 vs. Q4 2016).
Voila! Now you have access to data related to your branded keywords. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to download and save this report.
Pro Tip: You can use this exact method to track the performance of your non-branded target keywords. Instead of your branded keywords, insert your target keywords in Queries’ filters.
Report #2: Monthly SEO Performance Report
This next report is a must-have!
By tracking your SEO progress every month, you get to closely measure how your search traffic changes over time and which keywords are the biggest contributors to your organic traffic.
To begin, reset all your filters.
Choose Dates > Compare date ranges > Custom…
The screen that pops up should look something like this:
In this example, I’m choosing to compare between January 2017 and February 2017, but you’re free to choose whichever two months that make sense to you.
Click on Queries, and Search Analytics will generate the keyword queries people have used to find your site during those two months, along with each search term’s clicks, impressions, CRT and Position data for both months.
Export this data to Excel or Google Sheets. Using simple formulas, you can calculate the magnitudes of changes between the two time periods. Here are a few examples:
— % change in avg. CTR
— % change in total clicks
— % change in total impressions
— Total change in avg. position
— % change in clicks for each search term
— Change in ranking for each search term
Report #3: Desktop Vs. Mobile
OfCom’s recent Communications Market report showed that people in the US, on average, browse around 87 hours per month on their smartphones, compared to only 34 hours on desktop. Given the increasing prevalence of mobile web browsing, you want to be sure that your website is easily findable through mobile search.
That’s what this report is for: to gather queries-level insights to improve your mobile SEO.
Let’s get started!
First, navigate to Devices > Compare devices.
You will get this pop up:
The default options are “Desktop” and “Mobile”, which are exactly what we need in this case.
Make sure to also choose the date range that you’re interested in investigating, and select Queries.
You will now see a detailed comparison between your Desktop and Mobile search queries.
As part of the data, you will get a graph that looks like this:
If you mouse over any point on this graph, you will get more granular details on a specific day within the date range that you’ve selected. Pretty cool, huh?
Pro Tip: Consider taking Google’s Mobile-Friendly test to see whether Google deems your site mobile responsive. To uncover potential usability issues for your mobile visitors, navigate to the “Mobile Usability” panel within Google Search Console for a thorough analysis.
Report #4: Top Ranked Keywords
If you’ve been focusing on SEO as your core strategy for driving traffic, then this report will most likely bring a smile to your face.
Here’s what you need to do:
Choose the past year as your date range, and select Queries.
Scroll down until you see the table of data. Click on Position to sort its column from smallest to largest (the little triangle beside it needs to be pointing up). All your search queries from the past year are now sorted by their organic rankings.
If your top ranked keywords match your target keywords and are highly relevant to your business, then your SEO efforts have definitely paid off. We won’t judge if you decide to do a happy dance around the office right now.
Not happy about your site’s SEO performance? Don’t worry. We can still knock it out of the park. Check out these free SEO tools, and let’s have a conversation about improving your site’s organic rankings.