Google Analytics is an amazing program. Some people think it’s limited, and some conspiracy theorists think it gives Google too big of an insight into our internet activity. But for your average business or online store – Google Analytics (a.k.a. GA) is simple to use… and that is the problem. At face value GA looks like an extremely simple piece of software that is easily navigable – and it’s not. By default Google Analytics gives you a 30 day window of data, and this just isn’t enough time to determine if your SEO campaign is exploding, performing as expected or completely stagnant. But by taking a few steps you can see exactly how far your SEO campaign has come with just a few clicks.
This is the first report you see when you log into Google Analytics
What, if anything, does this report tell you? The problem with this report is that it lacks context and without context – data is meaningless. If you are trying to determine the progress of your SEO campaign, this report tells you nothing.
The “compare to past” feature in Google Analytics is somewhat handy
But sixty days is still too short of a time frame to judge the effectiveness of your SEO. This report shows that there has been a little bit of growth month-over-month, but it still doesn’t provide a good analysis of how the campaign if functioning over time.
If you want to see the value of your SEO campaign over time, two steps are required:
Step 1: Creating An Advanced Segment for Non-Branded Organic Search
Advanced Segments are awesome, I love them as much as I love procatinator… and I LOVE PROCATINATOR. Advanced Segments are extremely useful for looking at a particular type of traffic. They are located in the upper left hand section of the GA screen: in the new version (V5) of Google Analytics (right side in the old version)
There are two types of Advanced Segments in Google Analytics, predefined and custom. The predefined section has some great Advanced Segments that are very useful. However, if you are really looking to get granular and exact with your data you are going to need to create your own – but don’t be scared – it’s easy!
To accurately evaluate how your SEO campaign is functioning it’s imperative to create a “Non-Branded Organic Search” Advanced Segment. Non-branded search refers to visits that come from organic search listings that are completely devoid of your branding. There are two options when creating this Advanced Segment, let’s go through the more simple one first:
Step 1.1 Selecting the Medium
First things first, you want to set the medium to include only organic search, like so:
Step 1.2 Excluding Branded Keywords
For Digital Third Coast, this means all of the different variations of our company name. However, if you work for a company that sells a proprietary branded product or has prominent industry figures for leadership, you should exclude those keywords as well:
This can be especially time consuming for a larger site with a lot of branded products and Google Analytics limts you to 20 “or” conditions. By using Regular Expressions (aka Reg Ex) you can create an Advanced Segment that allow you to exclude numerous different keywords, but fair warning… it will require you to unleash your inner nerd – but let’s be honest, we both know they are dying to get and out play
There’s no reason to beat around the bush, Reg Ex is difficult… but it is so darn awesome that it’s worth it. With Reg Ex you can use wild card symbols that allow you to account for subtle spelling variations and typos – it takes out a lot of the leg work. For the purposes of this blog post it is way too complex – but if you want to learn more about it, read this blog post about how to use Reg Ex in Google Anlaytics. Google also has this great video that explains how to use Reg Ex quite well.
For Digital Third Coast, I have set up this Reg Ex Formula:
It contains various forms of our branding that people are using to find the site. The “.*?” character combination on both sides of the excluded keywords removes any search query that contains the keywords in question, not just searches using those specific keywords alone.
The keywords that are showing up in Google Analytics are now, for the most part, a direct result of your SEO campaign.
Step 2: Dial Back The Date
Determine what month your company started its SEO campaign – now set the beginning date to three months prior to the start date in Google Analytics and switch the view from days to months. This will allow you to see the real growth over your SEO campaign’s entire span. If you are engaged in a successful campaign, your data should look something like this:
This report shows long term stable growth for non-branded organic search. It is exactly what you want to see after an extended SEO campaign. There is only one way to describe data this awesome.
[Disclaimer: Although this report gives you great insight to how your SEO campaign is progressing, it is not a complete picture. SEO reporting needs to also include conversions to determine ROI. If you want to learn how to set up goals in Google Analytics, check out this awesome blog post.]