Search engine optimisation is ultimately about maximising the effectiveness of your organic website content to ensure it is indexed and presented by search engines to your potential customers. It is used to drive more relevant traffic to your website by having your web pages rank on the SERPs (search engine results pages) for specific keywords and search phrases.
Sounds simple enough right? Not so much anymore. Like anything powerful in digital, SEO has a colourful history of good, bad and ugly techniques, and has dramatically evolved over time. While the end goal of SEO is always the same, the execution and competitive nature of this digital age strategy is forever changing.
By now you should be aware of what Google Analytics is and its capabilities for your SEO efforts. But in case you need a refresher, it’s a free data analytics gift from Google to help you understand how audiences are engaging with your company’s website or app. Metrics and customer footprints provided show businesses how successful their website is at converting visitors into customers.
Once you’ve identified your goals, and what a successful interaction is for you, you can track important success metrics or, more importantly, identify where you are lacking so you can improve and optimise your strategy.
It’s not just about choosing the right words anymore. Google bots take into consideration your site speed, responsiveness, design, legibility, readability, usability and much more. In fact, there are over 200 Google ranking factors to keep SEO on their toes.
Why Do We Still Need SEO?
Much of what we do now to optimise a website for search, also optimises the site for people. So they basically come as a packaged deal. Search engines want to understand what your site is all about and ensure that it is secure, relevant and useful to their loyal users. Without any SEO efforts, your site may be at risk of penalty, or mistrust by both users and search engines.
Paid campaigns are the fastest and most efficient way to get your offerings in front of the right people at the right time, but it is very closely related and supported by organic optimisation. Without the essentials of SEO, you might not even get the opportunity to advertise. Best practice SEO is now VERY involved and it takes time to shoot a new or refurbished site up the ranks.
Keep reading – we’re going to outline the key essentials in developing your SEO action plan, and how to leverage the features of Google Analytics to drive success.
Where Does Google Analytics Come In?
The Analytics platform is not just a tracking and reporting tool, it also provides digital tools that help you conduct your research, and evaluate your site, content, and products.
- Metrics show which web pages users spend the most time on, or which pages they’ll visit before leaving your website without taking any action.
- You can see how many new customers you’ve gained through digital channels and how that number changes over time.
- You can also see which other channels, such as social media, are the most effective in bringing in new customers.
- Create goals to enable new reporting outlining the path to conversion
How Google Analytics Can Improve SEO Essentials
So, of these 200+ ranking factors, which do you choose to focus on, and in what order? For best results and a solid indication of how your SEO strategies are working, Google Analytics should be utilised before, during, and after SEO efforts. For existing sites, and before implementing your SEO strategies, use Google Analytics to perform a website audit. The truth is, all SEO elements are connected. So, depending on what stage you’re currently at with your site build, you’ll need to keep all other pieces of the puzzle in mind as you progress.
Ultimately, this is what you want to achieve:
- Ensuring search engines can find and index your website and pages without a hitch, and are sent the right signals in order to understand your website’s structure
- Help search engine spiders (the bots that crawl web pages) understand the meaning and quality of your site content and what you’re all about
- Focus heavily on high quality, user-friendly content and design that matches the intent of the user
- Ensure search engine algorithms ‘trust’ your website in order to rank it higher than other websites with similar content…ie. your competition
- Implement best practice techniques to ensure low risk of penalties, and high success outcomes
Getting the technical back-of-house optimisation correct really lays the foundation to the success of all of your SEO efforts. It’s easy to become too concerned about how your site looks and reads. But if your optimisation infrastructure is not on point, your other SEO efforts will fail.
Best practices include:
- Setting up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
- Specifying a preferred domain
- Optimise and validate your robots.txt – the text file in your root directory that instructs which pages to crawl and index
- Ensure your site is secure with an SSL security certificate
- Specify a logical URL structure
- Enable Schema data markup and breadcrumbs
- Specify canonical URLs when you have pages with similar content
- Optimise and submit your XML Sitemap
- Optimise site speed (both mobile and desktop)
- Ensure your site is mobile responsive on all devices
Find out where your visitors are located and what device they are searching from
People these days are using their smartphones more so than computers. If your mobile traffic is low or has poor metrics, you know you need to make your site more mobile-friendly.
- To get an idea if this trend is also true for your website, you can view the mobile traffic report which is under Audience / Mobile / Overview.
- Make sure pages load fast, adhere to Google mobile guidelines, and have ‘call to action’ buttons in prominent positions
- Another report that can help you provide the right content to your visitors is the location report found under Audience / Geo / Location.
- You can see where your customers are coming from and tailor content to them
- For example, if a lot of web traffic is coming from people in America, you can display product prices in their currency (USD). Or, if the traffic is coming from a non-English speaking country, you can create a translated page in their native language. This enables users to interact with the content more easily and makes their experience of using your website more enjoyable.
User Experience (UX)
The way your users interact with your website is one of the biggest indicators to search engines of whether your site can be trusted, and should be offered above other sites in search. The algorithms will take into account bounce rates, interaction, click-through rate, and how long users stay on your site (among many other things). If visitors keep exiting your site as quickly as they arrived, Google will deem it as having a poor user experience. You want to avoid that label at all costs. What factors can harm your UX?
- Slow site or page loading – you have about 3-6 seconds before your users will give up and go elsewhere
- Not mobile responsive
- Content not relevant to their search terms
- Poor site branding, design and content clutter
- Difficult site navigation
- 404 pages and missing/broken links
- Lack of information or illegible content
- Too sales-driven and not customer-centric
- Poor quality content and lack of engagement
- Minimal or limited contact information
- Lack of up-to-date content and recent information
Identify slow loading page times
- To measure page load times on a page-by-page basis navigate to Behaviour / Site Speed / Page Timings.
- Setting the middle column to ‘Avg. Page Load Time’ and the right column to ‘% Exit’ provides a report that shows the average page load time and the percentage of exits from the page – you can then see if there is a correlation and fix this accordingly
- You can take this information to your web developer to see what they can do about load time
- After your page has improved, you can generate the report again to see whether load time has had an impact on the percentage of exits – this is to help confirm it is load time affecting traffic.
Your website is about connecting your customers with your business – not the other way around. Your goal should be less about selling yourself, and more about helping them, making it easy and enjoyable for users to interact with your site, and to find the answers they are looking for.
Design & Content Optimisation
The critical customer-facing component of your site. First impressions last, so your Design and Content should be of the utmost quality, seamlessly branded, make perfect sense, and deliver users precisely what they were looking for – immediately.
The importance of your website design is paramount to making a positive impression on your users. Layout, colours, buttons, navigation, imagery, typography…it is all absorbed in seconds. Web users expect a concise, professional website clear of clutter and unnecessary noise across all devices.
- User-friendly, attractive strong brand identity
- Clear, concise, engaging copywriting that speaks to your customer – not at them
- Compressed images and non-server hosted videos where possible
- Thoughtfully categorised articles, content and useful information
- Delicate, yet comprehensive on-page SEO
Check organic site traffic and keywords that work
- Organic site traffic = non-paid / free traffic
- Go to the Acquisition tab on the left-hand side menu – here you’ll see a breakdown of traffic per channel
- To see these metrics in more detail, go to the Source / Medium tab
- To see which keywords drive people to your site, go to the Queries tab, under Search Engine Optimisation. This will give you a very handy overview of how much traffic you are driving for certain phrases, what pages and phrases you can nurture, and where attention is needed.
Find your most popular and least popular pages
- You can view this by selecting Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages.
- You can see page views, time spent on the website, the bounce rate, and the exit percentage
- You can also check landing pages – the pages people view when they click on a link
- You can compare stats on landing pages compared to popular pages
- This data gives you an indication of which pages people like to visit, and which pages they don’t.
- You can invest more effort into directing people to these pages (through a sidebar or ‘sticky posts’) to keep them on your website longer
- You can use this data to invent ways to keep people on each web page by improving content, usability and load time.
Using Analytics to Monitor SEO Efforts
Once you’ve started implementing your overall SEO strategies, you can leverage analytics data to monitor web traffic and see where you might need to change tack.
- Use it to measure the success of SEO strategies following the full implementation of optimisation
- Apply the comprehensive data and user insights to regularly tweak your user experience and nurture what is working well.
SEO is all about being found by the right people. YOUR people. We have the power of data to help us identify and overcome possible barriers stopping your business from moving onwards and upwards on the SERP.
Are users dropping off at a certain stage of the journey?
Is there a particular style of content your customers interact with the most?
Does the green CTA get more clicks than the blue one?
Test, test and test again. Refine, review and re-jig where required, identify opportunities and keep that fresh content coming.
Monitor, Nurture And Grow Your SEO
Remember the world of SEO is constantly changing. Consumer browsing habits, user-preferred content styles, search engine algorithm updates, the strategies your competitors are using – they all affect you and your digital presence. If you try to set and forget without keeping your finger on the pulse, you can quickly get left behind on the SERPs. Like anything in life you must keep feeding it to help it grow. Your digital shopfront is no exception.
If you’d like more detailed information on any of the items we touched on here, why not schedule a meeting with one of our Anchor SEO experts? We like to uncover what’s important to your growth and what your business actually needs, from SEO and PPC, to design and content delivery, and even sales and marketing alignment, if there’s a squeaky wheel we’ll fix it. Let’s talk!