Learn how to make the best use of Search Console reports in Google Analytics. This article discusses some of the ways in which you can use each of the Search Console reports to gain useful insights into your website’s search performance. We walk you through how to link Search console with Google Analytics and then highlight some of the great reports you can get useful SEO insights from to help direct and manage your SEO efforts
Google Analytics offers four SEO reports:
To access these reports, you will need to link your Search Console account with your Google Analytics account.
If either of these tools sounds unfamiliar to you, you may first need to:
Once your Analytics and Search Console accounts have been linked, you will be able to find your Search Console reports by opening up your Analytics account and clicking ‘Acquisition’, then ‘Search Console’ in the menu to the left of the screen.
You will now see your Devices, Queries, Landing Pages and Countries reports, listed under Search Console. Let’s take a look at some of these new reports now available to you now you have linked the two tools.
The devices report sorts data on your search acquisitions according to the device they used to access your site – desktop, mobile or tablet.
This report can tell us all sorts of useful things, such as:
Which is the most popular device amongst our search audience?
We realise this may seem a little obvious, but knowing how the majority of users are experiencing your website will help you do what you do better.
For example, you may have put loads of time and effort into conversion rate optimisation of your site for desktop users – but what if most of the people who actually visit your site are using mobile devices? In this case, your CRO time would be better spent on adapting the mobile view of your website. This is just one of many examples of how knowing about the devices your visitors are using can improve your strategy.
Your device popularity data may also draw your attention to devices on which your website is seriously underperforming. Keep an eye on time on-site and bounce rate for particular devices. If there’s a surprising discrepancy between your results for different devices, you should investigate whether there’s some kind of technical or user experience problem holding one of your device views back.
Google tailors each web user’s experience to the device they are using, which means your web pages are likely to fare better on certain device types than others.
By clicking on one of the device types shown in your Devices report (e.g. desktop), you can dig further into the data and see the best performing landing pages by device type.
You can use this information to find out what you should be doing more of – in terms of content strategy – to appeal to users of each device type. For example, by looking at the top of the list and finding your best-performing blog page for mobile users, you can take that page as the model for future content targeting mobile searches.
If you have e-commerce tracking enables in GA then the Transactions, Revenue and E-commerce Conversion Rate columns allow you to gauge the average and net value of your acquisitions from each device type. Understanding this helps to gauge how devices are being used in the conversion process and will help you to gauge how different device experiences are possibly influencing final outcomes. Look for discrepancy trends between different devices and if you find them investigate what might be causing the difference.
This report labelled Queries in the left-hand side navigation menu gives you an overall list of search queries used to find your website via Google. You can sort the list by Clicks, Impressions, CTR or Average Position. The data you see here is fed in directly from Search Console, as Google Analytics itself does not track visits on a keyword level. Like all your Search Console reports you can only see the last 90 days of data. Data outside of that period is no longer recorded. You will also notice that data from the previous 48 hours are excluded from search console reports so don’t panic if it isn’t working when you run a report up to the latest date. There is always a two-day data lag on Search Console data. It’s just how it works.
You will notice that lots of your queries are somewhat unhelpfully lumped into a category labelled ‘(other)’. Whatever your views on why Google may be hiding this data, it’s been like this for a long time and it is not available so you have to work with what data you are given and park this hidden aspect of how some of your analytics data is presented.
Here are a few ways you can use your queries report data to sharpen up your search performance:
Viewing your queries by clicks will tell you which queries – and by extension, target keywords – are driving the most traffic to your site. This comes with the caveat that lots of your search traffic will be hidden in the ‘(other)’ category we discussed previously.
This can be a good measure of the effectiveness of your SEO campaigns. For example, if you’ve been engaged in a content marketing campaign designed to boost your rankings for keywords surrounding a certain topic, seeing a high or rising number of clicks for queries related to that topic will give you a basic indication that the campaign seems to be proving effective.
Another effective use of the Queries report is to sort by CTR and see which queries are underperforming in terms of their click-through rate. Any underperformance needs to be taken with consideration for the average position that page is attaining.
If you see a query that’s relatively high ranking ( positions 1-10) but getting loads of impressions but barely any clicks, there may be an opportunity to significantly increase the traffic it brings in.
Consider reviewing your page title and meta description to see if you can improve the click through rate. Can you improve either, to make people likelier to click through? Try to match what you write in the meta description to what the searcher is trying to achieve. Here’s an example:
Search query: Buy luxury chocolate boxes
Page Title: Luxury Chocolate boxes
Meta description: From truffles to tablets, strawberry creams to salted caramels, our luxury chocolate boxes are perfect for chocolate lovers. Free UK Delivery.
That ending – “free UK delivery” – is crucially important, as it taps into the searcher’s inferred intent-to-buy. When using techniques like this it is also a good idea to reinforce that message on the landing page you take them through to. When crafting meta descriptions make sure you keep them relatively short, snappy and factual. Any longer than 160 characters and they may get cut short or replaced by an automated version based on the first paragraph of content on the page. It is also worth seeing how other search results pages deal with the subject in the Search engine results pages and make sure your pages really stand out as offering the most relevant content for the search query in question. However, at the same time as doing this, you have to be sure to deliver on that promise when the user experiences the page you are taking them to or you won’t be doing the search user or yourself any favours.
Landing pages report
The Landing pages report ranks your web pages according to their search performance, as measured by:
· Acquisitions (Impressions, Clicks, CTR, Average Position, Sessions);
· Behaviour (Bounce Rate, Pages per session); or
· Conversions (E-commerce, or other Goals such as contact form submissions).
This provides a lot of flexibility in terms of how you interpret the performance of your landing pages.
Here are some simple ways to start using the Landing pages report:
By looking at the clicks (in the Acquisitions section) or Conversions for a content page (i.e. an evergreen content page or blog article), you can appraise that page’s value, according to either your average acquisition value or conversions associated with the page in question.
This can be a useful way for marketing managers to assess the ROI of a content item – though it doesn’t take into account certain benefits, such as the overall search rankings boost that content can provide to a website.
Often, SEO experts will carry out optimisation with a view to priming each web page to rank well for just one or two queries. However, in reality, pages often draw in traffic for a multitude of different queries. By clicking on one of the pages listed in your Landing pages report, you can see a list of all the different search queries that brought people to the page in question.
Here is an example of what was behind the listing for one of our landing pages reports for an article about digital marketing personas. There is lots still hidden in (other) but look how many variations on a theme different search queries are generating.
Viewing the search query data behind each of your top landing pages can be particularly useful for assessing the effectiveness of specific SEO actions. You can also begin to ask the all important question- Why? Why is the page ranking well for these queries and what might you be able to adjust on the page to help improve the rankings and performance. Pick a few key pages and focus your time and attention on them. it can be surprising what you can learn from this process, but you do need to be systematic and follow through on each of the changes or adjustments you take to see if they made any difference.
In particular pay attention to pages or queries with an average position ranking of just outside the magic first page results of positions 1-10. We all know the top 3 positions are the sacred traffic multiplying space but competition for space is really fierce. Lower the stakes a little and go for an easier target. Very often with a little coaxing of the on page content to improve relevance for a particular phrase you can move a page into the first-page results space for these terms and start enjoying the higher traffic those positions offer. We have found that starting slightly further down the page ranking tree on page 2 is a good place to start because as you try to rise up the average listing positions things can become exponentially harder the closer to the top of page 1 you try to get. Overall if you carefully pick your battles you can attain a lot more success with this strategy than the sometimes gargantuan efforts required when trying to get to the very top only to fail. Never forget that you can always grab a top 3 position through Adwords. Yes it costs, but so does hours upon hours of tweaking testing and optimising content in the hope of getting to the top of the pile. There really isn’t any such thing as a free listing!
We’ll end with the most straightforward of the Search Console reports in Google Analytics: the Countries report.
This report breaks down your search acquisition, behaviour and conversions data by the countries from which visitors found your site. You can click on any of the countries listed to see landing page data for the top landing pages for the country in question. Drill down again into a top landing page and you get the top queries for that page for users from that country.
It’s always great to see lots of people visiting your site from overseas – but to really understand what that traffic means to your business, we suggest you study your conversion rates for visitors from each country. If certain countries are bringing in sky-high conversions-per-acquisition, you’ll know to target more of your inbound marketing towards those regions in future. If you are getting good levels of traffic from specific countries and a poor conversion rate you will obviously need to investigate why. Perhaps language or payment/currency differences are the root of your problem? Test and investigate.
If you want to create a website that appeals to all sorts of people around the world (and we’re guessing you do), you’ll need to place accessibility at the heart of everything you do. That means easy navigation, straightforward copy and plenty of rich media to illuminate the meaning of your written content.
A great way to assess the accessibility of your content is to look at the bounce rate and pages per session columns, in the Behaviour section of your Countries report. This will give you some indication of whether or not your content works for visitors from each country. A high bounce rate and low pages per session average might suggest not.
If your website copy is in English but you are getting poor Behaviour results from other English-speaking countries, you should check your content to make sure it doesn’t include any hyper-local language or brand names that only your local audience might understand.
Even the most worldly of professionals can sometimes fail to identify certain attractive opportunities for their companies or projects in other parts of the world.
The Countries report can help you avoid this potential pitfall, by drawing your attention to countries where your content has an organic appeal.
Start off by reading through your list of countries. Do any strike you as surprising? We’re often amazed to find out how far afield some of our readers are based (hello to our friends in Ghana, India and the United States!)
When you’ve identified the most surprising country that’s bringing in lots of traffic, click on it to see which landing pages are responsible for the trend. You can then use this information to inform your future marketing to the relevant country. And don’t isolate your actions from these reports in an SEO silo. If particular countries are converting well, speak to your PPC team about trialling some campaigns in that country or region. It may open up a whole new world of customers.
If you want to check out the reports featured in this article without going to the effort of linking your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts, simply follow this link and have a play around:
The demo lets you try out all the features discussed in this article. If you want to get a feel for what it’s like to use SEO reports in Google Analytics, load it up and try going through all the processes we’ve described. You’ll be ready to gain new insights into your own website’s search performance in no time.