How to analyze Google Search Console webmaster tool data
Google Search Console (GSC) is definitely the best free source of SEO performance data for your website. The problem is that while the data is great, it’s often not entirely clear how to use it. In this article I will discuss some of the concepts that help you understand the great Google Search Console webmaster tool data.
You can either use these concepts to venture deep into GSC on your own or use other tools like Ahrefs Webmaster Tools To make your life easier :).
Know your money pages (important pages)
Identifying and knowing the best performing pages and keywords – often called money pages – is critical when analyzing your SEO performance. Your money pages are the pages that really bring in users and account for the lion’s share of your income.
Determine your ratings using the 80/20 principle
A common concept for determining the best performance is to apply the 80/20 rule, or Pareto principle, to your site. If applied to your website, this 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 Google Search Console to a spreadsheet. Then do the calculations on the impressions and clicks column separately to determine your top 20% for each metric (usually slightly related).
Keep a close eye on your money pages
Once identified, you should keep a close eye on them – if someone loses one rank, you will lose a lot of traffic and revenue. I recommend tracking and checking relevant pages and keywords regularly. This way you can react quickly if there is any sign of them losing ranks.
Focus your SEO efforts on your top portfolio
Make sure your money pages rank 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 improvements like adding and improving content and internal links. If you feel like you’ve done everything you can on your site, try getting some backlinks (organic). Remember: These are your money pages so they are well worth the effort!
Branded Traffic vs Unbranded Traffic
If you have a fairly well-established brand name, you probably rank #1 on Google. That’s cool, wouldn’t you say? Well of course it is, but it’s not really due to SEO. It’s even bad when trying to determine your SEO performance. I bet if a big brand like Levi’s had a super flash site with SEO, they would still rank #1 on Google
Brand traffic is worthless when analyzing SEO performance
If you’ve never analyzed your own 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 good is probably brand traffic. This makes it somewhat “useless” when determining real SEO performance.
Why do you ask worthless? 2 reasons:
- The click rate is always higher for a brand search, and since you are more likely to rank first in your brand name and possibly get a significant portion of your traffic from it, this greatly distorts your stats making it difficult to determine the performance of blog posts.
- People who already know you on google your “brand” and are too lazy to enter “yourbrand.com” into the address bar. So it’s basically not really “researching” what they’re doing. They already know where they want to go.
Essence of research (intention)
What does that have to do with your performance? Well, if “your brand” is the keyword that comes from all your money, sit back, relax and move on to the next section. If not, consider this:
Person A googles for “Levis” Person B for “Levis 501 34”
Who is the person most likely to have the intent to buy? Anyone likely to care about some generic brand information or maybe just want to browse for inspiration? Exactly, in most cases, you need to go ahead to make conversions from SEO. New customers are more likely to come from queries like “blue jeans” or “dark blue grainy jeans” rather than your brand name.
Filter brand traffic when analyzing the performance of your contents
This doesn’t mean that other, inspiring, or brand traffic is completely worthless and should be ignored – but you do get better results and insights ignoring brand traffic. This is why it is a good practice to filter them when analyzing SEO performance. This way the statistics don’t pollute your KPIs and you can focus on developing your content and increasing your traffic more easily.
In Google Search Console, you can filter your brand in Search Analytics. Choose “No Queries” and consider entering only part of your brand name to account for misspellings. In Keylogs, you can simply add a set of keywords you wish to filter for each website and filter on demand by flipping a key.
Home vs. Non-Home vs. Blog Traffic
This analysis is similar to a branded versus non-branded approach but focuses on pages rather than keywords. It also works if you don’t have a strong brand name or even combined with a brand filter. It is by no means 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 recommended that you set up different properties for your blog (and other subcategories of great content within your site) in Google Search Console as this will make the task a lot easier with more accurate results. If you are using subdomains you probably do this by default but it also works fine if you have your blog in a subfolder (eg /blog). You can then combine your properties again with a specific property in Google Search Console to look at the whole picture.
Make sure you set up the properties before you start a campaign because Google treats each site separately and only starts logging data once the site is set up. You cannot “split” an existing one and since you can only filter your homepage traffic but not all traffic but your homepage in Google Search Console, I recommend you to set up different properties for your blog and other subfolders related to your SEO activities. This way you can easily analyze the different groups in GSC and also combine them into a big picture – this works in GSC as well as in Keylogs.
It’s fine to have separate sitemaps for subfolder properties but not necessary as long as there is a master one sent to GSC with the root domain. If you are using subdomains on the other hand, be sure to submit a sitemap for each because Google treats them as different websites instead of 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 want to monitor individually. You will get a better understanding of their performance.
It’s also a great way to cheat Search Console limits: instead of getting 1,000 (or 5,000 via the API) for your entire domain, you can get that amount for your subfolder/blog. More results mean more keywords ranked, and better quality insights. This is especially useful for large sites.
There is no tool that gives you better data on the overall SEO performance of your websites than Google Search Console. It must be because the data comes directly from the source! Unfortunately, it is often difficult to work with data because the user experience – even the new Google Dashboard – is…. Let’s say cumbersome at best.
In my opinion, the new AdSense and AdWords dashboards are worse than the old ones. She looks prettier, of course, but I’ve never found what I’m looking for. Or at least never fast. That’s partly because they’re trying to force everything into the material design and that’s why I’m afraid the new Search Console won’t get much better either.