One of the first indications of how your website’s SEO is doing is looking at the amount of traffic coming to your website.
In Google Analytics, you can find the overview of your traffic in the Audience section. This tells you how many sessions there were on your website in a given time period.
However, this doesn’t tell you which part of that traffic results from your SEO efforts. It just shows you all traffic to your site. To find the traffic coming directly from search engines (called ‘organic’ in Google Analytics), you’ll need to go somewhere else.
If you go to Acquisition > All Traffic, you’ll see a list of sources where your traffic comes from. Usually, the traffic from search engines (more specifically, Google) is somewhere to be found in the top 3.
Find the search engines you want to know the volume of traffic for – recognizable as medium=organic – and select those checkboxes. If you hit “Plot Rows” after that, you’ll get a nice graph showing you the total traffic and lines in other colors for the sources you’ve selected.
If you want a view that’s a bit more precise, you can click the pie chart icon to see the exact numbers and percentages of the total. And if you want to see all the organic traffic combined into one, click the medium tab.
Of course, you can again plot the row for the line graph here as well.
Unfortunately, the organic keyword tab listed under the campaign tab doesn’t do much anymore nowadays. Apart from showing (not set), it shows you where people end up and don’t provide many keywords (np = not provided).
What does organic traffic say about my SEO?
Now you know what to look at in Google Analytics to see how much traffic you’re getting from search engines.
If you’re not getting a lot of traffic from search engines, then that tells you that you need to work on your SEO. There’s a lot of potential traffic you may be missing out on!
If you notice the number of organic traffic is declining, you need to work on your SEO. Especially if the decline is large. Perhaps you’ve got a crawlability or another technical SEO issue. If the decrease is drastic, all alarm bells should go off. A Google Algorithm change may hit you.
Dive into your Google Search Console and check if you can find what’s causing the decline. Suppose you’re noticing an increase in organic traffic; well done!
Think about what you’ve been doing lately that might have caused this increase. You want to know these kinds of things because it’ll help you understand your own SEO better.
The above only tells you how your overall SEO is doing. However, most times, you’d want to focus on something more specific than your entire site.
You’d want to focus on a specific page or post.
Page-specific SEO monitoring
If you want to see your analytics at a per-page level, you have to go to Behavior > Site Content> All Pages.
Here you’ll see your site’s top 10 pages, ranked on amount of page views.
If you have a specific page you want to look at, you can fill in the URL (without domain name) in the search bar. You’ll now be able to see that page’s data. However, these are still all the page views, not specified to traffic coming from search engines.
To find the traffic originating from search engines, there are two ways to go.
The first one is via filtering the data in the table: you have to click the “Secondary dimension” dropdown and click Acquisition > Medium. Additionally, you can click Source/Medium if you want to specify per search engine.
Clicking the checkbox for the “Organic” medium and hitting “Plot Rows” again will give you the line graph for your total and organic traffic. It’ll also show you other traffic sources, which is always interesting.
Again, if you want a more specific view, click on the pie chart icon. Comparing the percentages of organic traffic for your specific page to your total organic traffic can also give you a good idea of how your page is doing. And obviously, ideally, you’d want to see a line that’s moving up (or at least not downward).
The second way to go is creating a segment that only includes ‘Organic traffic.’ I absolutely adore segments because it makes Google Analytics so much easier to use. Google Analytics offers you a ready-made segment called ‘Organic traffic.’
Choose that segment from the list, and voila, you’ll only see traffic coming from search engines. Now you can analyze all pages in the Behavior section and check if you see an upward trend (or not).
Obviously, everything I mentioned here is related to monitoring your SEO and not finding issues related to your SEO. To find possible issues, we always look at many things, a few of which are explained below.
These things will help you find issues that might be related to your SEO.
If you click on Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages, you’ll get a list of pages through which people enter your site. Landing pages are important because they’re the first thing your visitors will see.
They’re literally the pages people land on coming from a traffic source. An important metric on this screen is the ‘Bounce Rate.’ This metric gives you the percentage of people who left your landing page without doing anything on that page.
So you want visitors to spend more time on your pages and, preferably, even engage with your site.
To get a good idea of which pages have a high bounce rate, click the Comparison icon. In the last column, select the bounce rate. This will give the bounce rate compared to the site average for all your pages, starting from the most visited page.
Any page that has a red bar is below your site’s average bounce rate. Anywhere between 0-10% in red is basically fine, but anything above 20-30% should definitely be looked at, especially if it concerns pages in the top 10.
The bounce rate is important because it tells you something about the quality of your traffic and/or the quality of the page. It has an indirect influence on your SEO.
If people quickly jump back to the search results after a glimpse on your page, that means they probably haven’t found what they’re looking for.
Google takes this to mean your page isn’t relevant enough for the keyword the person has searched for, and rightfully so.
Internal site search
If you click on Behavior > Site Search > Overview, you’ll find a list of search terms people have searched for on your site using your site’s search. This is always a good dataset to keep track of since it can give you a good idea of what your audience expects to find on your site.
If there are any search terms there that you haven’t created a page for yet, it’s probably a good idea to try and fit a page on that subject in. Plus, it gives great insight into the words people are using.
Do they match the keywords you’re using?
Obviously, you do need to have your Site Search set up the right way. You have to enable site search and fill in the right query string for searches. You can check this Google Analytics documentation for more information.
Perhaps you’ve heard about “Mobilegeddon“? It is a Google mobile update; if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then chances are it won’t rank in mobile search results. Especially if a large portion of your audience visits your site using a mobile phone, optimizing for mobile is key!
If you go to Audience > Mobile > Overview, you’ll get a dataset that shows you how many people are entering your site using a desktop, a mobile phone, or a tablet.
Once again, click on the pie chart icon to get a good view of how many mobile visitors you have. If that’s more than 10%, you should definitely make sure your website looks good and works fine on a mobile phone.
If you’re noticing your bounce rate on mobile is significantly higher than on desktop, this can indicate that your mobile site isn’t all that mobile-friendly.
As said before, Google is taking the responsiveness of websites more and more seriously. It has become a true ranking factor in mobile search results, so you must improve your mobile site as much as possible and keep tracking this for your SEO.
Next to mobile-friendliness is site speed, a ranking factor as well. Not only is it a ranking factor, but it also has its impact on conversion and the usability of your site as well.
Checking the speed performance of your pages and improving it is a big win for your entire site.
Google Analytics has a special Site Speed section which you can find under Behavior > Site Speed. If you click on Page Timings, you can see the Average Page Load Time compared to the site average.
Additionally, you’ll get a quick overview of pages that are ‘slow,’ so this immediately gives you a to-do list of pages you need to optimize first.
There are a couple of site speed tools that can help you with optimizing your site’s speed.
What Reports Should You Focus On First?
The visitors’ report gives you a whole view of the type of people who visit your site. It includes such information as:
- the number of people who visited your site for the period you specified,
- how many new vs. returning visitors you received
- page views
- average time on site
- bounce rate and more
Traffic report shows you what channels your visitors came from.
It includes every single source of the traffic to your site:
- organic/search engines,
- referring sites,
- direct traffic,
- social media etc.
It also shows the percentage share of each channel in your traffic.
The landing page report shows you which pages visitors entered your website through. It indicates not only which pages are popular but also popular topics. I.e., if one particular blog post receives a lot of traffic (and the traffic doesn’t bounce), it might be worth creating more content on the topic, going deeper into it, and showing more thorough information.
This report shows what keywords visitors used to find your site in search. It used to be a significant report, but many of its keywords are shown as (not provided) since the encryption of search data.
You can still see some keywords in the report, and they can still provide insight into what topics bring visitors to your site.
Lastly, you have certain goals you want your visitors to complete. Sign up for your newsletter, inquire about your service, order a product, and so on. These are conversions on your site, and this report can show you when, where, and how they happened.
It can also show you if there is a problem, and despite getting traffic, there is no conversion on the site.
Three More Useful Options: Segmentation, Data Comparison, and Filtering
The above are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the amount of information Google Analytics can reveal about your website and your business.
Two beneficial options you should familiarize yourself with are segmentation and filtering.
Segmentation allows you to segment your traffic into groups to isolate or compare specific traffic types.
Google Analytics features some built-in segments you can start using straight away.