Organic Search SEO

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Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Steve Masters tagged ,

Not provided - AnalyticsNow that Google has decided to hide more and more keyword information related to traffic, how do we evaluate the organic search traffic coming into websites? Being able to see the keywords that drive organic searchers to a website is invaluable, but as Emily Mace wrote in December, Google started restricting this data.

In an update in January, Emily also warned that more of the data was going to become hidden. Well, the time has come. Either through fears of privacy complaints or some other reason, Google has tightened up again. Now it’s impossible to get a true picture of keyword trends in Analytics – go to the Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic section and you will see a large proportion of your search traffic is listed with (not provided) in the ‘Keywords’ column.

Not provided in Google Analytics

Ignore (not provided) and look at the landing pages

There are still ways to analyse your organic traffic, despite the (not provided) data.

First, what I like to do is set a custom filter at the top of the Analytics screen. Set a filter to display only data relevant to ‘non-paid search’ traffic. Then go to the ‘Content’ section of Analytics and select ‘Site Content’ and ‘Landing Pages’.

Landing pages

This shows all the pages of the site that were the first pages visited by someone after they searched. You can segment this data by other dimensions, such as the user’s location, browser type, device and so on.

Essentially, what this gives you is a list of pages that are being landed on the most from search.

Look at bounce rates, time on site etc

While you are looking at this data, you may not know the keywords that drove people to those pages, but there are lots of other useful metrics that can help you improve your site’s performance.

Bounce rates and average time on page

Look at the bounce rate for each page and how it relates to the overall bounce rate for the site. Any page with a higher than average bounce rate may need some work, including any of these activities:

  • Improve the content of the meta data and the page to make it better match searcher intent.
  • Perhaps the page needs a stronger call to action or something else to click on to stop people reading and leaving.
  • Does the page take a long time to load? See if it can be sped up.
  • Read more about whether your bounce rates are accurate.

Additionally, look at the average time on the page and the exit rate. The exit rate tells you when someone exited the site from a page after having looked at other things. The difference between exits and bounces for a page can tell you some interesting things. For example, a high bounce rate but a low exit rate will show that the page doesn’t work when it’s the first thing people see, but it does work when they are led there from another page.

See what pages were viewed during a session

With the same non-paid search custom filter, you can click on ‘All Pages’ within the ‘Content’ section. This will show you all pages that were viewed in a session after someone found the site through search.

Navigation Summary in Analytics

On any one page, you can look for the ‘Navigation Summary’, which will show you the pages they looked at before and after a given page.

I use this on important pages to understand how people are getting to the page from within a site. This information helps to improve navigation or other usability factors.

Compare landing pages with other types of traffic

Using custom filters again, you can look at landing pages broken down by traffic type. For example, set custom filters for organic search, paid search, direct traffic and referral traffic, then look at the ‘Landing Pages’ table. You will see four sets of data for each top landing page.

Types of traffic

This is especially useful in comparing pay per click traffic with organic. Perhaps there are some pages that you are paying to get people to, which perform well, where you would benefit from achieving more organic traffic.

View conversions from organic traffic

If you have goals set up in Analytics you can filter your traffic by conversions. In the custom filters section, you can create a filter for non-paid search only and visits with conversions. This will filter the stats so that only visits that started as an organic search and ended in a conversion will be shown.

You can then look at landing pages to see which pages were the starting point for a conversion, as well as which pages were viewed during a session.

You can do this, of course, for other specific traffic types or all traffic types.

With keyword data (not provided), we can manage

It would be great to know what keywords bring users to the website, but we can live without it. My examples above are just a few of the ways you can get meaningful data from Analytics.

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About the author

Steve Masters

Steve Masters

Steve is Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing. Follow on Google Plus and Twitter