Choosing the right metrics for your SEO dashboard with Google Analytics (Part 2 of 2)

How to Build a Weekly Workflow for Tracking SEO Analytics

Image via Digido.

In last week’s tutorial, we explained how to find your organic search traffic in Google Analytics, and more importantly, how to measure the value of your SEO.

But now that you know how to make the case for the value of investing in SEO to your boss or client, what metrics should you actually look at.

And beyond knowing the right metrics, how do you create a weekly workflow for making data-driven business decisions based on your SEO data? After all, if tracking your analytics is not a weekly habit for your team and leadership, then your business isn’t really a data-driven business.

In this week’s post (Part 2), we’ll show you how to use Google Analytics to monitor how your SEO and organic traffic are improving over time. We’ll also show you what SEO metrics to track with a SEO dashboard.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. Which SEO-related metrics and reports should you track on Google Analytics?
  2. How to build a SEO dashboard to see your key SEO metrics at a glance

Let’s begin!

Which SEO-related metrics and reports should you track on Google Analytics?

Consultants like to say that an analyst shouldn’t “boil the ocean,” meaning you shouldn’t (and can’t) analyze every possible combination of metrics. Well, when it comes to SEO, you also can’t optimize the ocean.

Don’t be this guy. Image via Memegenerator.

So what should you track and optimize? Like with all digital analytics, you should track metrics related to your business goals.

Interestingly, the business goal that many SEO marketers judge themselves by is their ability to rank for certain keywords.

Many business owners and managers, on the other hand, see the goal and value of SEO in terms of increasing traffic, engagement, and/or conversion.

But both of these kinds of SEO goals are important to track. That’s why we recommend measuring both types of goals.

Let’s start by looking at tracking SEO’s impact on traffic, engagement, and conversion (the business leader goals). Then we’ll explore keyword reporting, and how Google Analytics can help you track how your business ranks for the keywords you care about (the SEO marketer goals).

Metrics to Measure SEO’s Impact on Website Performance

Overall organic sessions growth over time (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Sessions column for Organic Search) — this measures how the quantity of your total organic traffic is changing from day to day. If you see a sharp decline, try to diagnose the cause. If you see a significant increase, try to identify what events or marketing activities contributed to the increase, and see if you can replicate these results.

Quality of organic traffic by conversion (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Conversion rate column for Organic Search) — Whereas total organic visits captures the quantity of your organic search traffic, you also want to track the quality (i.e. conversion rate) of your organic traffic.

If your engagement is low, you may be targeting the wrong audience or you may have a problem with your website’s messaging. If your conversion rate for organic search is low (and your engagement is steady), you may have a problem with the user experience of your website. Try adjusting these factors to see how it affects the engagement and conversion of your organic search traffic.

Bounce rate of landing pages (Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages > Bounce Rate Column) — The bounce rate of landing pages indirectly influences SEO. If people look at your page and immediately bounce (i.e. exit without any further actions), then Google interprets this to mean that your visitor did not find what they were searching on your landing page. In other words, your page wasn’t relevant enough to what that visitor was looking for.

To identify the pages with the highest bounce rate, go to the Landing Pages report and click the “Comparison” view. Then choose bounce rate in the last column. You can then compare each page’s bounce rate with the average bounce rate of your site. You should further investigate any Top 10 landing page that is above 20% of your site average to see what is driving the high bounce rate (e.g. site error, lack of relevant information, messaging, etc).

Other SEO-related metrics you may want to explore include:

  • Top Organic Keywords by % of New Visits
  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Entrances
  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Goal Completions
  • Site Speed (Behavior >> Site Speed >> Average Page Load Time)

How Google Analytics Can Show You What Keywords to Rank For

A key goal of SEO is to rank well in search engine results for certain keywords. Here are 3 Google Analytics reports to identify which keywords to target and track how your SEO is performing for these keywords.

1) Queries report (Acquisition > Search Console > Queries)

This report displays the search terms that people type into Google to get to your site. This requires you to set up an integration with your Google Search Console account. To learn how to set up the integration, check out this help page.

2) Internal site search (Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms)

Many website have internal site search (e.g. “search on this site”). If that’s the case, your internal site search terms can give you a sense of what people want or expect to find on your site. If there are topics that people are searching (e.g. return product) that you don’t have a page on your website for, then you may want to design new pages based on these queries.

By increasing the chances that visitors find and engage with a page relevant to what they’re looking for, these new pages may help improve your bounce rate and SEO. These search terms may also give you ideas for what keywords you should aspire to rank for.

To use track internal site search queries, you need to enable site search in Admin . It will ask you to type in the query string for searches. To learn more about how to set up Site Search, check out this help page from Google Analytics.

3) Paid and Organic Keyword report in Google AdWords (Pre-defined Reports > Basic > Paid and organic)

The Paid and Organic Keyword report is the best report for making sure search ads and your SEO work together, rather than detracting from each other (i.e. “cannibalizing”).

It does this by helping you identify keywords that are performing well organically, which you may want to reduce your ad spend for, since you don’t want to waste money on Adwords ads if you’re already ranking on the first search results page organically. Conversely if you don’t rank on the first search results page for a keyword, you may want to put more ad spend behind that keyword to display an Adwords ad on the first page.

This report will show you search terms side-by-side with your Adwords metrics and organic search metrics.

This requires that you link your Adwords account with Google Search Console. You can learn more about using this report with this tutorial from Lunametrics.

You may also want to supplement these keywords reports with Google Trends to understand what keywords are trending. Check out our tutorial on using free Google tools for keywords research here.

How to build a SEO dashboard

So far, you’ve learned how to show the value of SEO to your manager or client, and which SEO-related metrics to track. But you probably don’t want this to be a one-off event. To make this sustainable and repeatable over time, you need to turn the SEO metrics we’ve covered today into a custom “SEO Dashboard” on Google Analytics, so that you can look at all your metrics related to SEO on one page.

Step 1: Create a list of the SEO metrics you want to track with Google Analytics

Start by asking yourself a couple of questions:

  1. What business questions do I want to answer with my data? For example, what landing pages are driving the most high-quality organic search traffic to my site?
  2. What business decisions do I need to make based on analyzing my data? For example, what organic keywords should I put more ad spend behind in my next Adwords campaign to increase conversions?

With your team, brainstorm all the business questions and decisions that can be addressed (at least in part) by your Google Analytics data, and then write down the metrics that would help you answer these questions or make these decisions.

Image via Wikihow.

Choose 3–4 of the most important business questions/decisions, and then choose 2–3 metrics to support each question/decision.

Based on our experience working with many small and medium-sized businesses, here are some of the SEO metrics I would recommend adding to a dashboard for most SMBs:

Acquisition Metrics for Organic Traffic

  • Total Organic Visits
  • All Organic Visits Over Time (Timeline)

Engagement Metrics for Organic Traffic

  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Entrances and Bounce Rate
  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Goal Completions
  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Average Page Load Time

Keyword Metrics for Organic Traffic

  • Top Organic Keywords by % of New Visits
  • Pages per Visit by Organic Keyword
  • Keyword phrases sorted by goal completions
  • Most Successful Keywords by goal completions

These basic SEO metrics are a great place to start, and you can always add or subtract metrics going forward as you learn which specific metrics are most impactful for your business.

Step 2: Create a Custom Dashboard in Google Analytics with your SEO Metrics List

To create a custom dashboard with these metrics, go to Customization >> Dashboards >> Create.

Configuring the custom dashboard is fairly straightforward. After you create a title for your SEO dashboard, add a name for your first widget. For a metric like Total Organic Visits, click “Metric” under Standard, and find “Sessions” in the “Add a metric” dropdown menu.

Then, as with all your SEO dashboard visits, you’ll want to filter for only organic search traffic. Click “Add a filter” and pick “Only show >> Medium >> Exactly matching >> Organic.”

For a widget like “All Organic Visits Over Time,” you’ll want to select the Standard “Timeline” option. For a widget like “Top SEO Landing Pages by Entrances & Bounce Rate,” select Standard “Table.” Choose Landing Page, Entrances, and Bounce Rate as the metrics, and 10 rows. Repeat this process for your other SEO metrics.

Optional: Import SEO Dashboard Templates as a Starting Point

If you’re running low on time, I would recommend importing these two SEO dashboard templates from the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery:

1) To import a custom dashboard from Kissmetrics with similar metrics to the ones I recommended above, you can use this link.

2) You can also use this more simple “SEO Performance” template.

This template tracks:

  • Total visits from SEO
  • Non-branded Visits from SEO
  • Branded Visits from SEO
  • Most viewed pages from SEO
  • Search engines used
  • Traffic sources
  • Cities finding website through SEO

You can then adjust these SEO dashboard templates based on your business needs.

At Humanlytics, we recommend checking your dashboard at least weekly. Check out our piece on why SMBs should track their metrics on a weekly basis:

Next Steps

As you can tell, learning how to analyze SEO with Google Analytics is not a trivial task. It takes a serious amount of investment in time and learning.

Many of the businesses we talk to are led by very smart and technical cofounders. But even these entrepreneurs who are trained in digital marketing and data analytics often don’t have the bandwidth or resources to distill actionable insights from their SEO data.

That’s why at Humanlytics, we’ve been helping a few dozen businesses optimize their digital channels, including their SEO and organic search traffic.

This is the reason the next feature we’re building in our digital analytics platform is an AI-based tool to recommend the right digital channels to focus on. This AI tool will tell you whether SEO is the right channel for your business based on your Google Analytics data, so you won’t have to waste any money on the wrong marketing activities.

Our AI-based marketing analytics tool delivers recommendations for the right micro and macro conversions for your business. PC: The Daily Dot

In other words, the tool automates everything we’ve explained in this tutorial so you can spend less time learning this stuff through trial-and-error, and more time doing what you do best — running your business.

If you’re interested in beta testing this feature for free (or need help setting up your conversion goals), shoot me an email at patrick@humanlytics.co. Thanks!


Did I miss anything? If so, write a comment below. Otherwise, I hope you found this tutorial helpful. As always, please shoot me an email at patrick@humanlytics.co if you have any questions, or if you need help with setting up your Google Analytics reporting.