Google has a couple of free tools that you can use to help trick out your SEO efforts. Yes, I said they’re free and in most peoples’ opinions (mine included), they are best in class. Yet it seems only the geeks and dorks are using them. I’m talking about Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.
You might have installed some analytics code or loaded webmaster tools, then went on your merry way and forgot all about it. I’d encourage you to have a second look, especially if you’re working on your SEO campaign and struggling to get more traction, as these tools might help you find out what you’re doing wrong.
What Is Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster tools is an application that allows webmasters to see what Google’s spiders see. It’s easy to get started with; the tool will give you a META tag that you’ll need to place onto the site to verify you are the owner, and then once that’s been picked up you will have access to lots of information about what the Googlebrain is thinking about your website.
What To Look For
There’s a lot of data here, some of it more useful than others. Here are a few things to have a look at:
- Crawl Errors: Did Google have any problems when searching your site? Major problems here can be disastrous from an SEO perspective of course, so be sure to investigate and remedy any issues here.
- Links to Your Site: This is a great snapshot of what pages in your site the most external links. You can drill down and see which sites are linking as well.
- Internal Links: Google also shows you its view of what pages inside your site are linked internally and how often. Similar to the external view, you can also drill down and click through to see the details.
Google Webmaster tools is just one slice of the pie when it comes to SEO knowledge. But considering that you can quickly and easily troubleshoot indexing problems and look at other high level reports, this might be the perfect tool for you if you’re looking for an overview report.
What Is Google Analytics
Analytics is simply a somewhat offputting term to describe a tool that offers graphs and charts that explain the statistics that are pulled off of your website. My view is that you cannot improve your website’s performance (SEO or otherwise) unless you’re measuring the performance.
I have tried other analytics packages, and for me Google is best-in-class. It’s easy to use and gives you a wealth of information without making it obtuse and difficult to understand.
What To Look For
Google Analytics is broken down into four key areas:
- Visitors: who is coming to your website
- Traffic Sources: where are those people coming from
- Content: what content are they reading when they arrive
- Goals: how are your conversion rates?
From the SEO perspective, the traffic sources are an important area, as well as the content. Some key metrics to look out for:
- Keyword referrals: are they keywords you are ranking for sending you good traffic? Are there other keywords that you didn’t know about which you’re ranking for as well? Extra Credit: which keywords are sending customers that stick around longer? Perhaps it’s time to refocus efforts?
- Hot Content: what content is hot? Is that content SEO optimised?
- Setup some goals: you can setup goals to help track conversion rates. This is somewhat limited depending on how you track a conversion (basically you need to track movement from one URL to another – so flash widgets and other technology might hinder you here).
Again, analytics is only one perspective on the overall picture. But to be more successful, you can’t work without it.