Analytics and tracking is a key component of SEO – and sometimes one of the most enjoyable part of life as an SEO! The vast amount of data and reporting options out there, however, can muddy the waters when it comes to identifying the reports you should really be paying attention to on a daily and weekly basis.
In this post, I would like to provide some suggestions on what you should be looking at when it comes to deriving insights, providing recommendations, and assessing the value and ROI of your SEO initiatives.
1. Organic Site Traffic
This is probably the most fundamental report in your arsenal, and one that an SEO will turn to most often. Quite simply, how effectively are you driving traffic for your website / brand / company? Are your site visits increasing steadily week on week, month on month, and year on year? In Google Analytics, you will be looking for the ‘Acquisition’ report, which breaks down your traffic by source (Organic, Direct, Referral and Social).
Obviously you will want to see your organic traffic on an upwards curve, but in terms of the wider digital marketing mix, and how SEO and other channels work together and complement each other, you will also be keen to see the other traffic sources showing positive growth too. For example, if your direct traffic is increasing (perhaps as a result of a campaign, promotion or greater brand awareness), this is an opportunity for SEO to benefit since people may then search for your brand name or your products or services, after they have become aware of what you offer.
Equally, they may link to your site, helping to increasing your rankings and traffic over time.
2. Conversion Reports (Goals, Funnels, Paths)
How well are your organic landing pages converting traffic to sales, leads and inquiries? This is a question that the goals, funnels and paths to conversion reports in your analytics suite can answer. If you are developing or updating pages that receive lots of organic traffic, then naturally you will want to consult these reports in order to assess whether they are performing as intended, or whether they can be improved (and in most cases, they can be!).
It may be that you need to also consider multi-variate or split testing on these pages to find out what changes are going to help you achieve your goals, but your conversion data can help inform your overall website strategy, and as such proves invaluable when seeking to change page layouts, introduce new features, or update content or ad placements on a page.
You will also want to compare and contrast data across traffic sources. For example, you would expect traffic to organic search pages to convert at a higher rate than traffic to pages driven from social media, since users are actively searching for something when they land on the former.
3. Bounce Rate
Your website’s bounce rate is a steady and often-referred to metric. Simply put, it tells you the rate at which people leave your site after viewing only one page, and is a good indicator of how well your website and web pages are performing relative to what your visitors are looking for, and what actions you want them to take. For example, if you are driving traffic from organic search to a set of product category pages, but these pages have a very high bounce rate (meaning many visitors are not clicking through to individual product pages), then this data can tell you that you may need to make substantial changes to these pages in order to stop visitors from leaving.
A high bounce rate is not always a bad thing though, as many might assume. If a single page can answer a query satisfactorily, or where the desired action can be taken on just that one page, then a high bounce rate may actually be desirable – or at least perfectly ok. Examples are straightforward ‘this page answers your question’ type pages, such as weather forecast or exchange rate websites. There is no need to click onto other pages since the site visitor can generally get the answer they are looking for via the page they land on.
4. Average Time on Site
Similar to bounce rate reporting, the average time on site metric provides a good indicator of how engaged visitors are with your content, and the actions you wish them to take. The importance of the average time on site will vary depending on your industry, site type (e.g. content versus Ecommerce), and a wide range of other factors.
Generally speaking, if you have a blog or a content website where you want people to spend a significant amount of time, you will want a high average time on site. If on the other hand you want visitors to take actions quickly (such as signing up to a newsletter or entering details on a lead capture form), then perhaps a low average time on site is fine – or at least for specific pages.
5. Site Speed and Onsite Optimisation
Last but certainly not least, an SEO-friendly website is one that is reasonably fast and performing optimally from a technical point of view. Therefore, your site speed and related reports can offer some useful insights into the crawlability of your site, how quickly you are serving up pages to users (average page load time), as well as suggestions on how to optimise your pages for speed and performance (via e.g. Google Developers PageSpeed Insights).
I hope this guide has proven useful in terms of your analysis and reporting approach. The most important thing to bear in mind is to view all metrics in the light of the bigger picture, and not to focus too closely on any one metric in isolation. It is wise to view all metrics in context, and to know that there are always multiple factors at play when it comes to interpreting the data and deriving insights and recommendations from your reports.