Google Analytics is the Only SEO Analytics Tool You Need: Here’s How to Use It (Part 1 of 2)

Also, How to Prove the True Value of SEO for Your Boss, Client, or Business

Image via Welkin.

SEO is often a Catch-22 for small and medium-sized businesses.

One common question we get from our clients perfectly illustrates why:

“We hear buzzwords like SEO a lot, but how do we know if investing time and money into SEO is worth the investment? How do I know how much SEO adds real value and profit to my business?”
Interest over time on Google Trends for “SEO” in the United States, 2004 — present. Image via Google Trends.

One option to test the value of SEO for your business is to hire a full-time digital marketer, digital analyst, or SEO consultant. Of course, they will have to prove their business value to your company using analytics.

Or maybe you want to test the value of SEO yourself using the many SEO tools out there on the market. Backlinko recently created a comprehensive review of 189 SEO tools that are currently on the market. But most of them are costly or at best freemium tools that lock away most of the valuable features for the paid tier.

And herein lies the chicken-and-egg problem facing many small and medium-sized businesses:

Businesses want to investigate if SEO will really have positive return on their investment of time and money. But they often must pay a big sum upfront for a digital marketer or consultant to analyze whether SEO is the right marketing channel for them in the first place.

But it doesn’t have to be that way — this is where Google Analytics comes in!

Image via Vertical Response

As you probably know, Google Analytics a free digital analytics tool, and by some measures, it is already being used by more than half of all websites on the internet. And for most SMBs, it’s actually the only SEO analytics tool you need to evaluate the value of SEO for your business.

So in this week’s post (Part 1), we’ll first show you how to find your organic search traffic metrics in Google Analytics. Then we’ll walk you through how to use Google Analytics to measure the value of SEO for your manager or client.

Part 1 will cover:

  1. How to find your organic search traffic in Google Analytics reports
  2. How to measure the value of your organic search traffic with Google Analytics

In next week’s post (Part 2), we’ll explain:

  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!

How to find your organic search traffic in Google Analytics reports

Just so we’re on the same page, let’s start with some basic definitions.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the technique of growing the amount of high-quality organic search traffic to a website via search engines like Google.

By “organic search traffic,” we mean website visitors who search a keyword and click on a search engine result, rather than a pay-per-click (PPC) ad. In other words, this is free traffic from search engines, rather than paid traffic from digital ads.

Now that we know what SEO is, let’s start with how to find and isolate your organic traffic on Google Analytics. There are at least two main ways to look at how your organic traffic is performing.

Option 1: Drill Down in the Channels Report

The first way is to simply go to your Channels report (Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels). This will show you how your different channel groupings are performing in terms of traffic, engagement and conversions. By channels, we mean different ways that visitors are getting to your website (e.g. traffic from Paid Search, Referral, Social, etc).

Click on Organic Search to drill down on your organic search traffic (i.e. see metrics for only your visitors from organic search).

This will then display your Organic Keywords report, which shows your top-performing keywords sorted by the metrics of your choosing (Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels >> Keyword).

For example, you may want to sort your organic keywords by bounce rate (the percent of users who get to your site and immediately leave without further actions). This will let you see which keywords drive the most highly engaged or high-quality traffic.

Segment by Search Engine: You can also segment organic search traffic by source if you want to look at specific search engines (i.e. how many visitors are coming from Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc). Go to Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels >> Source (tab).

Segment by Landing Page: Lastly, you may want to identify the landing pages that are driving the most organic search traffic to your site. By landing page, we mean the first web page that a visitor sees when they visit your website.

To see the highest-traffic landing pages for your organic search traffic, click the Landing Page primary dimension in the organic keywords report (Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels >> Landing Page).

Option 2: Add “Organic Traffic” as a Segment in Any Report

However, perhaps you want to further analyze your organic traffic in a different report. If that’s the case, you can add the “Organic Traffic” default segment at the top of the report. This will allow you to dive deeper on your Audience, Behavior, and Conversion reports for your Organic Traffic segment.

Now that you know how to find SEO metrics in Google Analytics, let’s talk about which specific metrics to analyze to quantify the value of your organic traffic.

How to measure the value of your organic traffic with Google Analytics

So why do you want to measure the impact of your SEO?

Because it’s typically undervalued by CEOs and SMB owners. After all, quantifying the value of SEO and organic traffic for your business is a unique challenge.

Because organic search traffic (like social traffic) often sits at the top of the marketing funnel, many if not most consumers these days do not convert to paid customers the first time they encounter your website.

Image via LTR Digital Group.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, you may need an email marketing or remarketing campaign to make the conversion. As such, organic search traffic often doesn’t get the credit it deserves for bringing in revenue to the business, and is chronically undervalued by management.

What’s why I use the “Multi-Channel Funnels” reports in Google Analytics to measure the value of SEO. Specifically, I recommend using the “Assisted Conversions” report (Conversions >> Multi-Channel Funnels >> Assisted Conversions).

This is possibly the best report for investigating whether Google Analytics is underestimating the value of organic search traffic (or any channel) with last click attribution (a digital analytics model gives credit for a conversion to whichever channel the “last click” came from).

The report focuses on the “Assisted Conversions” metric, which represent conversions in which a channel appeared on the conversion path, but was not the final conversion interaction.

Like players in basketball, the value of a channel in digital marketing is more than just points scored directly, but also the number of assists.

Think about an assist in basketball, where a player may not be the person who actually puts the ball through the hoop, but may assist their teammate. Because assists provide important value to the basketball team and make “scoring” (or “conversions”) possible, the number of assists is an important metric to track to understand the value of a player for a team in both basketball and digital marketing.

Therefore, the Assisted Conversion report is your best bet for understanding the true impact of your SEO. You might be surprised to find that the measurable value of your SEO efforts is double what you thought it was.

Step 1: Go to your Assisted Conversions report

Click Conversions >> Multi-Channel Funnels >> Assisted Conversions. There you’ll see the number of assisted conversions and the value of these conversions for all your channel groupings.

As you can see in this screenshot, Display has the highest Assisted / Last Click Conversions ratio for the Google Merchandise Store, meaning Display’s impact on the company’s number of conversions is the most understated.

Step 2: Look at your Assisted Conversions for organic search traffic

Click “Organic Search” under “MCF channel grouping.” Here you’ll see

Step 3: Compare your Assisted Conversion Value with Direct Conversion Value for Each Source (Search Engine)

For the business in this screenshot, most of the assisted conversions for organic search is coming from Google. If you compare this company’s Assisted Conversion Value of Google organic search ($2912.08) with its Direct Conversion Value ($2717.08), you’ll see that the real value of Google organic search for this business is more than double its Direct Conversion value.

In other words, an SEO analyst can show their manager or client that the value of SEO is double what they originally thought it was based on direct conversions alone!

Now that you know how to demonstrate the value of SEO with Google Analytics, let’s talk about which metrics to monitor to understand how organic search is performing for your business.

Next Steps

Today, we covered: (1) how to isolate your organic search traffic in Google Analytics reports, and (2) how to measure the value of your organic traffic with Google Analytics.

Image via Search Engine Journal.

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

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

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 whether SEO — or any channel — is right 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), sign up with the form at the end of the post, or shoot me an email at patrick@humanlytics.co.

Tune in next week for Part 2 of tracking SEO with Google Analytics, where we’ll walk you through how to choose the right SEO metrics for your SEO dashboard with Google Analytics.

Specifically 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

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.