SEO is a game – a ball game if you will – and one you can’t take your eye off for even a second. It is well documented when updates to Google algorithms are likely to take place (and when they have run), so you know when it’s best to check your rankings for drops or changes.
For this, you can install the chartetelligence plug-in on Chrome, which allows you to overlay the updates on a graph of your rankings. This means that you can see quickly and easily if a change has occurred that’s directly due to changes by Google such as Penguin and Panda.
In the above example there is a clear drop in rankings following the Penguin update, but also other little drops that are apparently unrelated to algorithmic changes. This shows that rankings can change at any time, so it is always best to be tracking your performance daily. If you are managing a portfolio of campaigns or are running your site in addition to the daily running of your business, this might not be realistic and that’s when you need a bit of help to keep on top of things. At some point too you have to sleep, and even the most vigilant SEO can be hit overnight by changes to rankings, something particularly of issue in countries outside of the US – such as the UK.
Setting up some basic alerts in Google Analytics is the best way to discover quickly and easily about any changes of which you need to be aware. By setting up these alerts, you have an additional safety net should you miss a day or so of checks on your Analytics. You’ll be sure your watchdogs are ready to let you know of anything that needs your attention.
Setting up a custom Google Alert is simple:
- Go to the admin area of your Analytics account
- Select Custom Alerts
- Click on create new alert
- Set the time frame and segments you want to monitor
- Then chose the metric to measure
And that’s it. You can completely customise the criteria to fit with exactly what you want to track and have as many set up as you like (such as one for a 10% drop and another for a 20% increase). The best way to work out what you need is to create alerts for all the things you would ideally like to know about, then delete any if you are getting information overload and they aren’t as helpful as you first thought.
Google alerts can be set up for all kinds of things that you might like to monitor during the course of your SEO campaign. You could, for example, set up an alert to let you know if there’s a sudden drop in the amount of time people are spending on your site, as this could indicate technical issues with the page loading time. You can also track technical things too like where 404s are displaying to visitors, enabling you to check and fix these quickly where they occur.
Outside of standard SEO, this tool is great as part of a wider marketing campaign. If you have posted a link to your site, for example, either in the form of content or an ad, you can measure the click-through rate by adding an alert for referrals. This will help you to tailor your marketing according to past successes and steer clear of things that did not work.
This is not to be used as a substitute for manual checks as, just like all technology, it is fallible and it’s still important to be checking your data with a pair of human eyes. This should most accurately identify any changes that the alerts may not pick up. As an extra precaution, however, this tool is invaluable and could help you make changes before it is too late.