The Google Search Console (GSC) is definitely the best free, if not the best source for your website’s SEO performance data. The problem is that while the data is awesome, it’s often not entirely clear how to use it. In this article I’ll discuss a few concepts that help you make sense of the the awesome Google Search Console data.
You can either use these concepts to venture into the depth of the GSC on your own or use Keylogs to make your live easier :).
💸 Know your money pages
Identifying and knowing your top performing pages and keywords – often called money pages – is crucial when analyzing your SEO performance. Your money pages are the ones that really bring in your users and account for the lion’s share of your income.
Identify your rankings using the 80⁄20 principle
A common concept to identify your top performers is applying the 80 ⁄ 20 rule, or Pareto-principle, to your site. Applied to your website it means that 20 % of your pages (or keywords) will be responsible for 80 % of your traffic (and revenue).
To run this analysis I recommend exporting your rankings from the Google Search Console into a spreadsheet. Then do the math on your impressions and clicks column separately to identify your top 20% for each metric (usually they correlate quite a bit).
Keylogs comes with a built-in 80⁄20 analysis and your top performers will be marked for you by default. More info here: How to identify your SEO top performers with Keylogs
Keep a close watch on your money pages
Once identified, you should watch them closely – if one of them loses a single rank, you’ll lose a lot of traffic and revenue. I recommend to track the pages and respective keyword and check up on them regularly. This way you can react fast if there is any sign of them losing ranks.
With Keylogs you can start tracking and build a backlog of your Google Search Console data with a single click.
Focus your SEO efforts on your top portfolio
Make sure your money pages are ranking on the first page and even better in the top 5. If not, focus your SEO efforts on ranking them better. Start with on-page optimizations like adding and optimizing content and internal linkings. If you feel like you’ve done everything you can on your site try to get some (organic) backlinks. Remember: these are your money pages so they are worth the effort!
🙈 Branded vs. Non-Branded traffic
If you have a somewhat established brand name, chances are you rank #1 for it on Google. That’s great wouldn’t you say? Well of course it is, but it’s not really due to SEO. And it’s even bad when trying to determine your SEO performance. I’d bet that if a big brand like Levi’s would have a super SEO-unfriendly flash site, they would still rank #1 on Google
Brand traffic is worthless when analyzing your SEO performance
If you have never analyzed your search traffic with your brand name traffic in mind you might be in for a big surprise: most of the traffic that makes your SEO stats look nice is probably brand traffic. And this makes it kind of „worthless“ when identifying your real SEO performance.
Why worthless you ask? 2 reasons:
- Click through rate is always higher for brand search and since you most likely rank #1 for your brand name and probably get a big portion of your traffic from it, this greatly distorts your stats making it hard to determine the performance of blog posts.
- people that google „yourbrand“ already know you and are just too lazy to enter „yourbrand.com“ into the address bar. So basically it’s not really „searching“ what they are doing. They already know where they want to go.
The crux with the search intend
What’s that got to do with your performance? Well if „yourbrand“ is the keyword where all your money is coming from, lean back, relax and skip to the next section. If not, consider this:
Person A googles for „Levis“
Person B googles for „Levis 501 34“
Which person is more likely to have a purchase intend? Which person is more likely to look after some general brand information or maybe just wants to browse for inspiration? Exactly, in most cases you need to go on the long tail to make conversions from SEO. New clients will most likely come from queries like „blue jeans“ or „hipster denim pants dark blue“ than from your brand name.
Filter out brand traffic when analyzing your contents performance
This does not mean that other, inspirational or brand traffic is completely worthless and to be ignored - but you get better results and insights ignoring the brand traffic. That’s why it is good practice to filter it out when analyzing SEO performance. That way it’s stats don’t pollute your KPIs and you can focus on developing your content and growing your traffic more easily.
In the Google Search Console you can filter out your brand in Search Analytics. Choose „Queries not containing“ and consider entering a part of your brand name only to account for misspellings. In Keylogs you can simply add a set of keywords you’d like to filter to each website and filter on demand by flipping a switch.
🏠 Homepage vs. Non-Homepage vs. Blog traffic
This analysis is similar to the branded vs. non-branded technique but it is focused on pages rather than keywords. It also works if you don’t have a strong brand name or even combined with the brand filter. In any way it’s a very insightful technique, if you want to analyze the performance of your content marketing efforts.
Set up different properties to segment your traffic
It is highly recommendable to set up a different properties for your blog (and other big content subcategories within your site) at the Google Search Console as this will make the task a lot easier with more accurate results. If you are using subdomains you are probably doing this by default but it also works well if you have your blog in a subfolder (like /blog). You can then combine your properties again to a property set in the Google Search Console to look at the full picture.
Make sure to set up the properties before you start a campaign as Google treats each property individually and only starts to record data once the property is set up. You can’t „split“ an existing one and since you can filter your homepage traffic only but cannot filter all traffic but the homepage in the Google Search Console I recommend you set up different properties for your blog and other subfolders that are relevant to your SEO activities. This way you can easily analyze the different sets in the GSC as well as combine them into a big picture - this works in GSC as well as in Keylogs.
Having separate sitemaps for subfolder properties is nice to have but not necessary as long as there is a main one submitted to the GSC with the root domain. If you use subdomains on the other hand make sure to submit a sitemap for each as google treats them as different websites rather than one.
Better and deeper insights
This technique is especially useful if you run a content marketing campaign on your blog or have dedicated content areas on your website that you’d like to monitor individually. You’ll get a better understanding of their respective performance.
Also it’s a nice way to trick the Search Console limits: instead of having 1000 (or 5000 via the API) results for your whole domain you get this amount just for your /blog subfolder. More results means more ranking keywords, and better insights quality. This is especially useful for large sites.
No tool gives you better data on your websites overall SEO performance than the Google Search Console. Must be because the data comes right from the source! Unfortunately, it’s often rather hard to work with the data because the UX - even of the new Google dashboard - is …. let’s say cumbersome at best.
In my opinion the new dashboards for AdSense and AdWords dashboard are even worse than the old ones. They look nicer, of course, but I never find what I’m looking for ever. Or at least never quickly. That’s partly because they try to force everything into material design and that’s why I do fear the new Search Console will not become a lot better either.
The good news is: that’s why I started Keylogs! I wanted to make my and your life easier when working with the Google Search Console. Since it comes with a free tier why not check it out right away! :)