Are you happy with your website’s SEO?  It seems few businesses are.  In general, the complaints seem to go in these 3 directions:

  • “We’re not sure how our SEO is doing”.
  • “We’re not sure if our SEO is correct.”
  • “We’re not sure if any SEO has been done.”

Here’s How to Diagnose Your Search Engine Optimization with Google Analytics

The only reason to undertake SEO in the first place is to drive organic traffic.  So if the goal is to drive organic traffic, some simple measures from Google Analytics can show you how your SEO efforts are going:

  • Is your organic traffic growing each month?
  • How does your monthly traffic this year compare to last year? (Especially if your business is seasonal, may be useful to compare January 2014 to January 2015 results, etc.)

If your traffic is growing, the next thing to look at is the “quality” of that traffic – are visitors to your site finding what they were looking for.

How has your “bounce rate” changed in the past year?  (Bounce rate is the percentage of all visitors to that page who visited ONLY that one page.  A 100% bounce rate means every visitor to that page never went any further on your site.)  If you have a high bounce rate, that could indicate:

  • Your content didn’t answer your visitors’ questions
  • Your visitor couldn’t find what they were looking for
  • Your content is attracting visitors that are not your real target audience

What about time on site or average number of pages viewed trends over the past year?  Low time on site or low average pages viewed (or declining numbers) are other potential indicators of a problem with the content you’re delivering (visitors didn’t find the answers they were looking for), or it could indicate a navigation problem (visitors couldn’t find exactly what they were looking for or what to do next).

  • If your bounce rate is not that high, but your time on site or average pages viewed are low, that’s an indication you are attracting the right visitors – but they’re not finding what they need.

Google Webmaster Tools for Useful CTR by Keyword

Another diagnosis tool that’s free is google.com/webmaster/tools/. (You will need to connect your website to Webmaster Tools. If you can access Google Analytics as an Administrator, you should be able to connect to Webmaster Tools by clicking “add a property”.  Otherwise, have your webmaster give you access to Webmaster Tools.)

In Webmaster Tools, you’ll find “Search Traffic” in the left column.  Select “Search Analytics” to see keywords (check the “queries” box) for which your site appeared on google.com (choose the data range you wish to see).  Check the 4 boxes at the top to see:  clicks, impressions, CTR (click-through) and position.

  • You can sort by position to see the keywords for which you tend to appear on page 1 (in general, positions 1-10). But you may also find decent traffic and CTR even for terms that have a lower position.
  • You can also sort by CTR – to see how effective your “meta description” for each page might be in getting searchers to click.

Although Webmaster Tools has its limitations (the numbers are general averages), it does give you a simple (and free) look at your keywords from Google’s point-of-view.  If you were hoping to see your pages in a higher position for particular keywords, that may indicate a need to revisit your keyword focus on your individual pages – or add blog posts that focus on those keywords.  If they are very competitive keywords, you might consider using pay-per-click advertising to gain some search engine visibility for those keywords.

Good Meta Descriptions and Page Titles Critical for Driving Organic Traffic

If you see some low CTRs, that could indicate that your meta descriptions for each page aren’t enough to motivate your visitors to click. (If you haven’t specified meta descriptions, Google pulls content from the page to use for each page’s description in its search results, which may or may not be helpful for driving CTR.  Always better to specify your own description.)

If you’re using WordPress, you can add the free Yoast SEO plug-in.  This SEO plug-in will put a Page Title and Meta Description editing box at the bottom of each page where you edit pages or posts.

Page Title seems to be a very critical element in SEO.  Each of your pages should have a unique Page Title.  (Note “Page Title” should be specified separately from “the name of your page”, or what you call the page in your navigation, what the page URL is, and what the page headline is.)  Some beliefs that seem to be true about Page Title:

  • Your most important keyword for that page should appear early or first in the Page Title
  • Write the Page Title like a headline – because that’s what it’s used for in Google’s organic search results. Don’t make it a list of keywords, it should read like a headline.
  • Don’t put the name of your site in Page Title. Many websites, including WordPress sites, tack on the site name at the end of the Page Title needlessly.  Your URL includes your site name – there’s no benefit to including it in Page Title.  And including it can dilute the value of the other words in the Page Title (and create Titles that are too long).

Beyond looking at organic traffic, general position, CTR, and your descriptions and page titles, other important elements of SEO include:

  1. Individual page URLs — which should include the most important keyword for each page
  2. In-text links to appropriate pages. If you mention your new CRM software as an add-on product, be sure to link to the CRM software page – and put the link on the words “CRM software” or appropriate keywords for that page (rather than “click here”).
  3. Use of keywords naturally on the page. Always write your content first for your target audience, including keywords as they would logically be included in conversation.

You should also review your company listing in the big national databases for inclusion and consistency.  You always want to register your company name in exactly the same way with exactly the same address and phone number across the databases.  If you have multiple locations, be sure to always call each location by a consistent name, like “Response FX San Diego” and “Response FX Los Angeles.”  You can get an idea of how consistent your company is represented across the databases by visiting https://moz.com/local/search.

What’s your biggest SEO question?