I had the wonderful opportunity to speak last week at SES Chicago in the "Assess. Diagnose. Fix: How to Become a Leading SEO Mechanic" session. As part of that session, I discussed how continual monitoring of five areas of analytics can help you become a proactive SEO tactician.
Analytics are a great tool for aiding in SEO management, as it relates to driving traffic and assessing the conversion potential of our site traffic. However, the only way to get the most out of analytics is to review it with an eye for granularity and segmentation.
This being said, we don't see potential issues by looking at the surface. We see problems by slicing and dicing data and reviewing it in succinct segments.
We don't want to just simply review overall organic visits. We want to look at just our product pages traffic performance sorted by Absolute Change to identify the top performers and losers, both by traffic and by conversions.
Surface level analysis breeds surface level decisions. You have to use Secondary Dimensions, Filters, and Sorting Types appropriately.
Traffic by Source/Medium
This is still pretty basic but a biggie as many people see organic traffic drops and automatically say, "we've been hit by a Google penalty." Is the problem "search-wide" or within a specific engine?
Remember there are other engines aside from Google. Mutual drops in traffic can simply signal a seasonal trend or a behavioral trend away from your keyword targets.
Organic Traffic by Landing Page: Filtering by Absolute Change
A broad level view of organic traffic by landing page may show some winners and losers, but using the Sorting Type of Absolute Change will show you what page have recently taken the worst decline.
Organic Traffic by Landing Page: By Bounce Rate and Goal Conversion/Transaction Filtering
In the previous point we looked at the winners and losers from an Organic landing page referral standpoint. Now, we do much the same but we look at what landing pages have brought much less transactions.
Granted, these might not be the pages that were the ultimate converters, but they are an entry point that is leading to conversions. Recent changes to the messaging, navigational structure, copy, or calls-to-action may have changed, which can have an effect on bringing these visits through to conversions.
Page by Page Title: Filtered for Error Page Title Element
You only need to review this if you have a custom 404 page. Look at the title element of your 404 pages and then move into Pages and Pages by Title.
Use a secondary dimension of landing pages and then take note at how much traffic is entering the site and landing on a 404 page. This is a terrible first impression.
Site Speed Overview
While you can slice and dice site speed data from several different dimensions and secondary dimensions, you should be reviewing it at least at a landing page level. Your homepage may load quickly but internal pages could be a different story. It doesn't take long with very slow page load times to see Google crawled pages per day rate and your Organic rankings to fall.
Making Monitoring Easy
While it can be a little tedious to have to slice the data in several different dimensions, filters and sorting types. Google makes your job of being an analytics monitor a little easier with Custom Dashboards, Shortcuts and Event Alerts.
With these customizable offerings you can make a handful of the needed monitoring points for quick review without have to continual reset your segmentations.
Stay Ahead of the Storm
While there are other areas of your analytics profile which are in need of review, these are the quick data points that can help show you an indication that there are SEO inefficiencies or performance downtrends in your future. A little proactive management of your SEO campaign will keep you from getting the "what the hell is going on" phone call from management.