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Extracting valuable insights from Google Analytics

Five Ways to Extract New Insights from Google Analytics

Google analytics provides a wealth of valuable SEO data. But are you using it to its full potential to help create better content, drive more traffic and convert it more effectively?

It often helps to mine Google analytics data for SEO intelligence with a specific business objective in mind. The analytics and SEO tips covered in this article are all techniques I use to help me decide what new content to create, and whether or not my content is making an impact.

Remember that any SEO insight you derive from analytical data needs to be moderated by your social marketing and business requirements. Just because Google rates you very highly for one keyword doesn't mean you should focus your entire SEO content strategy on that topic - you might alienate loyal readers who enjoy your coverage on a wide range of topics.

1. Segment analytics data for today

By default, Google analytics displays about a month's worth of data. This is great for a brief overview of how your site is performing, but you can derive deeper SEO insights by splitting the data into segments - day, week, month, year, historical.

I always take a look at my current day's analytics information. It's useful to:

  • Determine the immediate impact of content as soon as it appears in Google's index: Use it to measure the impact of trending, topical content. The article entitled "Google's Panda and Penguin updates are great for bloggers, marketers and business appeared immediately in the number one spot for "Google panda penguin", just after the Penguin update went live. It continues to drive plenty of highly engaged traffic.
  • Isolate localized spikes in referral traffic: In the grand scheme of things, a referrer who sends a hundred hits in one afternoon won't make much of an impact. However, if you are watching on the day it happens, you can leverage this knowledge. Find out who said what about you, and react appropriately. It may lead to a new social connection or business partner.

2. Exclude erroneous traffic spikes from analytical data

Every now and then a social media site, or news site, will send a thousand visits in a couple of hours and then go silent again for months, years or forever. These traffic spikes, if they're large enough, can warp your data and skew your SEO strategy as a result.

How to exclude source data from Google analytics

To remove referral traffic from a specific source in Google analytics:

  1. Click the "advanced" link
  2. Select "Exclude"
  3. Select "Source/Medium" from "Dimensions"
  4. Enter the name of the source (i.e. stumbleupon) and click Apply

Remember that you can add as many advanced rules to your data as possible. This helps to focus on specific aspects of your site's SEO and analytical data.

3. Use content navigation to analyze traffic patterns

It can be difficult to "guide" visitors to a conversion. It helps to understand exactly how people are navigating your site in order to make intelligent decisions about how to improve the conversion rate.

The content navigation summary can shed light on what people are looking for when they browse a certain page. Often the results can be surprising and lead you to a new understanding of what visitors want.

The Google analytics navigation summary can provide valuable SEO insight

To use the content summary:

  1. Click the "Behavior" tab in the left sidebar
  2. Select "All Pages" under "Site Content"
  3. Select the "Navigation Summary" tab at the top of the page
  4. Select the page you want to analyze from the "Current Selection" drop down

The navigation summary is particularly useful for gaining insight into what people are looking for. Do they go to your services? Do they read your blog? Do they bounce?

4. Use secondary dimensions

By default, Google analytics displays the primary data dimension only. However, the secondary dimension can help provide drill-down information about the primary dimension's data.

For example, looking at the "Audience >> Location" data map for traffic from the U.S on my site, it's possible to see where my visitors come from.

This is interesting and all, but I also want to know how they arrived at my site. This can tell me if a localized surge in traffic occurred because of a specific event, marketing campaign, etc.

The Google analytics 'secondary dimension' facility provides powerful SEO intelligence

To display a secondary dimension in your data, use the "Secondary dimension" drop down and choose the pertinent option.

5. Segmented visitor flow view

Looking at lists of statistical SEO data is one thing, but being able to actually visualize the flow of traffic into and around your website is a very powerful feature of Google analytics.

Google analytics makes it easy to visualize this flow for different segments of your market - great for precision SEO intelligence gathering. It's hugely valuable, for example, if you want to understand what new visitors are doing, as opposed to regular visitors who might already understand what you do and what you offer.

The Google analytics 'Visitor Flow' provides powerful SEO visualization tool for analyzing segmented traffic patterns

To access the visitor flow visualization, select "Audience >> Visitor Flow" from the left sidebar. You can then segment the data according to visitor type - new, returning, paid, non-paid, etc.

In addition, it is also possible to filter the results by one of the default dimensions, so you can limit the traffic you are looking at by location, source, content and system.

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