So you’ve conquered your website and implemented best practices in search engine optimization for each of your existing web pages. Congratulations, but what’s next? Well, you should certainly be link building… but what else should you be doing? Well, you should start with the assumption that you (or your SEO firm) hasn’t come close to realizing your web site’s full organic search engine potential.
I often tell clients that proper on-page optimization should be an ongoing process. We’ll begin with that end in mind, but in this series of posts – yes, there will be others – we’ll start with the beginning stages of the on-page search engine optimization process and how you can leverage analytics to get your SEO project started off on solid footing.
Before you start optimizing your site…
I find it absolutely mind-boggling that most SEO firms head straight to keyword analysis without gaining an understanding of what’s already working on a website. Instead, they map out the site and start performing keyword research to discover which terms are most suitable for each of the web pages they’re analyzing.
Here’s a thought… before you rush to implement the terms that get the most searches while maintaining some threshold of relevancy, why not consider the search terms that are already working? I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty damn important to consider keywords that the search engines have already determined are relevant to your web pages and consider enhancing that as well? In other words, shouldn’t you consider keywords that are already ranking and generating traffic as you select appropriate keyword terms for your web pages? If you don’t take this approach, you may very well be taking a giant step backward in your quest to gain more visibility on the engines.
Step 1: Set up or access your Web Analytics
Most companies are using web analytics these days. If you’re not, Google Analytics is free and easy to implement and it provides the basic data you need to gain insight into your website’s performance. For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll assume you have at least 3-6 months of data to work with. If not, implement Google Analytics today so you can leverage this data in a few months. You can work with a shorter date range of data, but obviously the more data you have the more statistically significant your findings will be.
Step 2: Export search data
Most web analytics applications enable users to export data. If you are using Google Analytics… log in >>> select “view reports” >>> select “traffic sources” >>> select “keywords”. This will take you to a screen that shows you the top keywords that have referred traffic to your site in the past 30 days. You can adjust the date range in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Adjust the date range to display data for the past year (or shorter if you don’t have a years worth of data). Under the graph on the left hand side there are three options to view the search data; total (paid and non-paid search traffic), paid, and non-paid. Select “non-paid”. At the bottom of the page you will see a drop down list labeled “Show Rows:”. The default value is 10. Change this to 500. Now, on the upper left hand corner of the page, you’ll notice a button labeled “Export”. Click on the Export button and select the “CSV” option. This will export the data into a format that you can use MSExcel to manipulate. If you have more than 500 keyword terms, simply navigate to the subsequent page(s) of results and repeat the process as necessary.
Step 3: Run a Ranking Report
Now that you’ve extracted your keyword data from your analytics software, simply run a ranking report on all of the terms that have generated organic search engine traffic to your website and note which pages are ranking for which search terms on Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Depending on how many search terms you’re dealing with, it may be reasonable to do this manually. In most cases though, it’s probably not a bad idea to invest in ranking software that automates this process. I recommend IBP from Axandra. It will automatically check your rankings on each of the terms you specify and tell you which URLs (if any) on your site are ranking for those terms. You can also export the ranking report data to MSExcel.
Step 4: Compile a Pre-keyword Analysis Report
Armed with this data, you can now create an MSExcel spreadsheet listing each of the URLs that you intend to optimize along with the search terms that the pages are currently ranking for and how much traffic those terms have generated over the date range you specified in your analytics software. Pretty slick, right. You are now in the position to make sure that you (or your SEO firm) are not going to unintentionally overwrite what’s already working for you.
Step 5: Read my next post… Leveraging Analytics for SEO – Part II
In my next post, I will cover other sources of data that can and should be included in the keyword selection process. I hope you found this useful and encourage your feedback if you have questions or something you’d like to contribute to the conversation.