The Definitive Guide to Google Analytics for SEO Professionals

Google Analytics makes it possible to track SEO efforts, and has been used by businesses the world over to track ROI on internet marketing. The new Google Analytics platform has been a steep learning curve for some SEO professionals, especially those who were accustomed to the classic layout. However, the "new" analytics comes with more than just a confusing layout. It also has additional features that make it easier than ever to track ROI from internet marketing and SEO efforts.
New Layout and Features
The new Google Analytics layout has an orange bar with these main tabs running inside it: Home, Account Selection Drop-Down, Reporting, Customization, Admin, and Help. The drop-down shows the current account/site that is being displayed. The default report shown in the main screen is the Audience Overview, which gives overall visits, bounce rate, pageviews, etc. for the past 30 days. 

The best thing about the new Google Analytics is how much it can be customized. For SEO professionals, the audience overview metrics are certainly important, but it's possible to create a custom dashboard that includes these metrics, as well as top keyword phrases and traffic referrals. This would give a good "at-a-glance" view of the top metrics that gauge the influence of SEO efforts.
The default dashboard metrics include new visits, unique visitors, visits (by location), visits by browser, avg. visit duration & pages per visit, goal completions, bounce rate, and revenue. These can be moved, deleted, or edited by hovering over the title of each section. To add a new section, select "Add Widget" at the top of page. This customized dashboard can also be emailed on a scheduled basis (weekly, monthly, etc) or exported via PDF.

It's also important to note that the dashboard and report customizations are only saved for the current account (as shown in the drop-down menu). When a new or different account is selected, the options are reverted back to default unless they have been customized as well.
When editing a widget on the dashboard via a pop-up window, you can choose how they are displayed: timeline, table, bar, pie, or metric. Each type has a variety of different options.

New Reporting Metrics
Some of customizations available on the widgets and dashboard can also be seen on the new reports via the Advanced Segments section. This allows the user to add additional reporting segments, such as new visitors or search traffic, to the current report.
The new reports also offer additional, more specific segments that weren't available in previous versions of Google Analytics. These advanced metrics give SEOs a better overall view of the actions people take on a website or blog.
For instance, the improved Visitors Flow chart under Audience Reports gives an easy, overall view of enter and exit pages (designated as Drop Offs), as well as what users do in between. 

Monitoring this chart can help identify key pages where users are dropping off as a hint that the page needs to be re-worked, either through content, call to action, or other marketing strategies. For example, if many users drop off after a package description page, then the package copy may be too confusing or the packages themselves may not be what users are looking for. Experimenting with different outcomes can help identify the issue. 
Another new feature of Google Analytics that will help SEO professionals is Cost Data Import, where users can see performance data for paid marketing channels, including non-Google paid search. Users can compare channels, keywords, and campaigns.

Social Media Reporting
The worlds of social media and search engine marketing continue to collide, especially because Bing and Google display social links in their search results. Google's new section on social media metrics makes it possible to see which social networks (which also include commenting systems like Disqus) are resulting in the most site referrals. Users can also set up a cost analysis by configuring conversion goals that determine social value.

Besides the referring social network, Google also gives information, when possible, on the user who posted the message and link, as well as trackbacks, which are links to pages on a website. This can be especially useful for referrals from external publishers as a result of guest blogging efforts. The social reporting section also includes reports on plugins and an additional Visitors Flow chart with the originating social network listed as the first step. By finding out which pages and content are attracted to social networking users, SEOs should better craft their content strategy for pages that social users visit most. This may include seasonal campaigns and giveaway pages.
Real-Time Statistics
One of the new reporting features that's exciting for SEO professionals is real-time analytics, which tracks live traffic, top active pages, and top keywords. It also shows top locations and pageviews per minute. This type of data is insightful for company executives who want to understand the real-time impact of a marketing campaign, and for SEOs who want an instant view of traffic based on new content, events, or campaigns. 

Search Phrases & Traffic Sources
The "real-time top keywords" is a great metric to track for SEOs, as well as the overall search phrases from a set time period, such as the last month or week. This is a classic feature of Google Analytics that continues to be especially valuable for SEOs.
Utilizing the Search Engine Optimization report under Traffic Sources in the Standard Reports sidebar, users can see the top sections of queries for a set time period. Checking this regularly can help authors come up with blog post or content ideas, as well as better optimization of paid search campaigns. For instance, if there are repeated queries for a service that a company website doesn't have a content page for (but currently offers), this should be added. Comparing the current date range to the one previous (e.g. the last 30 days with the 30 days before it) also gives SEO professionals a good idea of the demand of queries for specific keywords.
The Traffic Sources Overview and Referral reports are also a classic feature of Google Analytics that continues to be crucial. SEOs can see what percentage of their website traffic is from organic search traffic, paid campaigns, direct traffic, or referral traffic (e.g. other websites). Drilling down in the referral sources can also display the specific page that users came from.
Incorporating a strategy that includes the new features of Google Analytics, such as social networking, real-time data, and cost analytics, as well as the features SEO professionals know and love, such as traffic sources and keyword queries, those in the search industry can find a wealth of information about its websites users and their behavior. Tracking these patterns and implementing trends into existing SEO strategy and practices will lead to better customized on-page and social SEO that is more effective and yields higher ROI.

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