I’ll preface this post by stating that this trick reveals data I’ve longed for from Google Analytics for years, just never knew exactly how to extract it (without manually pulling the data, along with my hair). As a matter of fact, I stumbled across this hack when looking for something completely different, and when I saw the data presented, almost felt it was too good to be true.
Alright already, what is this “trick” you say? The basic gist of this Google Analytics hack is to actually be able to see what keywords you used to pull massive traffic for, that have completely fallen off the map. Everyone has their top 10 or 15 keywords they are targeting. However in reality, these 10 or 15 keywords probably make up less than ten percent of your total organic search traffic. The rest of your traffic most likely lies in the “long tail void”, keywords you may get tons of traffic from, but don’t realize it and hardly think to track.
However, something as simple as editing a page for other keyword purposes, or the harsh reality of algorithm updates, can have your head spinning and no idea what has happened. Enter this SEO Google Analytics hack. Let’s dive in.
SEO Keyword Data Extraction
Let me first start off by saying that unless you have at least a year, preferably two years, of analytics data for your website, this Google Analytics hack probably won’t be as fruitful. Since we are comparing SEO keyword data over time, the more keyword data you have over longer amounts of time, the better.
Let’s start out with how to extract this SEO keyword data.
- Navigate within Google Analytics to Source > Search > Organic
- Place any parameters you would like to filter your keyword list via Advanced Segments (I recommend filtering out any branded terms, terms that were relevant to a time sensitive/newsworthy piece, etc.).
- In the Date Range section, select a range encompassing data from year to date (At time of writing, this would be January 1, 2012-October 1, 2012)
- Select “Compare to Past” and select “Previous Year” from the drop down menu. From this view, you can gain some awesome intel as to what keywords you are absolutely crushing it for, as compared to last year. So naturally, to find the opposite information, all we need to do is reverse it!
- In the two date range sections, obviously the first range dates will end in 2012, and the compared to date range dates will end in 2011. Click into each date range and replace any 2012 with 2011 and vice versa. Click apply. (Often the first time this is done, Google Analytics will change your new “past date” to 2005. Just change it back to 2012 and it should be good to go)
PRO TIP: You can take this a step further, and splice this list using “Landing Page” as a second dimension. This will allow you to see what pages have had significant drops for specific keywords. However, if you have done any 301 redirects within the last two years, this data will be inconclusive.
Now what you should have is a list of keywords, and their traffic numbers comparing this year to last, all in descending order from most traffic to least. This is a quick and easy way to identify your highest traffic keywords from last year, and how much traffic they are getting this year. I would put money that even within the first 3-5 results, you will find some shocking declines, and crazy opportunities for quick wins.
Taking this Google Analytics Hack One Step Further
So you’ve got this data, now what? How do we interpret it? And how can we identify the cause of this drop, and how to get back to where we were?
First up, check the ranks. Select all the keywords that show significant drops and run a rank check for these. Usually the list is manageable enough to do this manually via an ‘Incognito’ window within Chrome browser, however for larger lists, you can automate this task via a rank checking tool like Market Samurai or Raven Tools.
Now we can start to weed out some speculation and pare down our data. It’s quite obvious that any keyword in which you are ranking number one for, chances are this is more of a trend issue in terms of search volume, than anything affected site-side. For intents and purpose of this Google Analytics hack, let’s throw out these keywords.
Once you have these keywords removed, you can get a better game plan for where to start diagnosing the issue. Prioritize the keywords you want to re-boost and get cracking.
Some questions you might ask are:
- Have I edited these pages in the last year, potentially decreasing keyword density?
- Have I moved or rewritten the URL of this page?
- Is there heavier competition now that previously for this particular keyword?
- Was I a victim of the Panda Algorithm update?
- If so, is my content “over-optimized?
PRO TIP: If you aren’t already doing so, I highly recommend running regular rank checks for at least your top 25-50 keywords, and at least on a monthly basis. With the addition of this data to this Google Analytics hack, you will be able to better target which keywords have actually slipped in ranking, as compared to your rank data from previous dates.
Going Beyond This Google Analytics Hack
I am almost positive there are a multitude of other ways this type of Google Analytics hack can be beneficial to gain some epic data insight. I’d love to hear what you all can come up with, so please feel free to share your findings in the comments below, or shoot me an email so we can share ideas with everyone. Onward!