Google’s algorithm has steadily been moving away from on-page SEO factors that a writer or marketer can control. In place of these variables Google is looking more at the user experience (bounce rates, time spent on page, page interaction), content depth, click thru rates from search and semantic factors that indicate to Google what your content is about. Of course, there’s also PageRank – a formula developed by Google Co-Founder Larry Page that calculates the importance and authority of your website by crawling the links that point to you – which can also improve your content’s ranking.

Fortunately for you, there’s a free tool you’re probably already using that can assist you with optimizing your content for these now prized SEO variables. Google Analytics not only allows for segmentation and tracking key performance indicators, it has the necessary data and user behavior metrics to help you fix user experience, content depth issues and backlinks.

Below are 3 ways you can hack through your analytics to get better SEO rankings for your web pages and blogs.

Cross Google Analytics Data With Your Google Search Console Data

There is a key distinction with the available data from Google Analytics vs the updated Google Search Console (GSC, previously known as Google Webmaster Tools).

  • GSC will show you which landing pages are getting you the most impressions, clicks and what their average ranking is on Google SERPS. But there are still key behavior metrics you’re not able to see, that Google Analytics can show you. Specifically: Conversion rates for each web page, Bounce rates for each web page and Exit rates for each web page.
  • If you have a web page that is attracting a high number of visitors but has a bad bounce rate or exit rate, you’ve identified a huge opportunity for growth. Move your call-to-action up higher, make the first paragraph more interesting, or add multimedia to keep people on the page longer.
  • Conversely, if you have a web page that is leading to a 3x conversion rate against your normal average, find ways to write more web pages or blogs about the same topic. You likely found a lucrative set of keywords in your industry and you should exploit that by trying to rank on page 1 for similar phrases.

A good example of this would be a company that was ranking for the phrase “class” instead of “training.” These words have different connotations. A class is usually perceived as shorter and 1 day, where training is longer and more intensive. Depending on what the companies service is, they may want to rank for one of these words over the other.

Leverage Your Referral Traffic

Referral traffic should just be called ‘web friends.’ Every week you should see if new people are sending you web visitors. For another website to do this, they have to already have a link to your website or blog articles on their own domain. That means they’re perfectly comfortable with linking to your site already.

  • Visit their home page and look for contact information or info about posting guest blogs. So long as the content you create for them is relevant to their audience, they should have no problem accepting it.
  • Add a link in your bio back to your main site, or interlink the article you submit with URLs taking the reader back to related content on your site.
  • Within referral traffic you might also find spam websites linking to you – sending you low performing traffic with high bounce rates and sending bad trust signals to Google. This is not unusual and I see it more and more when I look at clients’ websites. To block these websites you need to update your HTC access file and you’ll also want to filter out the visitors they’re sending so you have clean data. If there are so many that you’re in danger of getting a penalty, use Google’s disavow links process to let Google know you didn’t add these links yourself in hopes of gaining more PageRank in a black hat sort of way.

When blogging on my own website, I often look to see if another SEO blog syndicated my content. If I see them in my referral traffic, I’ll do a Google search of my name plus their domain to find my content, then I reach out to them. (Bonus: Having your brand or name as a Google Alert lets you know very quickly who’s mentioning you on the web, which you might be able to leverage for additional links to your website.)

Install SEO Dashboards

Dashboards in Google Analytics provide both a high level and in-depth snapshot of specific, customized data you choose to have displayed. These dashboards are thus huge time savers – instead of bouncing all around Google Analytics getting lost in channels, segments and other data, you can combine them all into one neat display where all the numbers make much more sense.

Some of the top SEO dashboards are below. In some instances you’ll see your highest performing keywords in terms of revenue, in others you’ll unlock 5-7 word long-tail search phrases that are driving traffic. My other favorite insight from these dashboards is top landing pages and content.

On the very top left of your Google Analytics account is the dashboards tab. Click ‘new dashboard’, import from gallery and then search SEO or “organic search.”

For more information on how to get better rankings or true insights from your Google Analytics data, check out my SEO master’s class on 11/13 and my Google Analytics talk at Runway on 9/21.

Cort Tafoya is a marketer and branch manager at AcademyX, which provides software and web programming training.