Saturday, August 13, 2011

Using Google Analytics for Keyword Research

Back in May, I discussed the importance of conducting thorough keyword research as an integral part of any SEO campaign. Many rely on Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool to determine what keywords may be most beneficial to try and rank for based on search volume and competition. Others will supplement that initial work by researching what their competitors are trying to rank for. That is relatively easy, as all one has to do is analyze websites that are ranking well for the desired keywords and look for ideas.

But what if you have been running an effective SEO campaign for some time, and are ranking towards the top of Page 1 in the search engine results pages for your desired keywords? Where do you go from there if you feel like you have exhausted all of your resources? Assuming it is installed, Google Analytics may provide you with the additional keyword ideas that you may be looking for.

If you are signed in to your Google Analytics account, locate the Traffic Sources report from your main dashboard. This will appear on the left hand side of the interface. From there, sub reports will appear underneath, one of which is the Keywords report. That is where you want to go. It is important to select the "non-paid" feature if you are running a PPC campaign as well. This will ensure that the keyword information that analytics is displaying is coming from organic sources only. With this, you can identify what people are searching for that arrived at your site when they arrive at Google or Bing (Yahoo's results are now Bing's since they allied with Microsoft a while back).

At first glance, you will notice that you may already be targeting in your campaign the keywords that are driving traffic to your site. This makes sense, since Page 1 rankings for particular keywords will drive the most organic traffic. What you want to try and identify is what keywords may be driving less traffic that you may not already be targeting. Some of these keywords may be a valuable addition to your long term focus. The best thing to do is start at the back of the Keywords report. At the bottom right hand corner of the interface, you can scroll between pages; in this case, you want to scroll to the last page first, as this is where keywords that are driving relatively little traffic will appear.

Since the default setting in analytics is set to display one month's worth of metrics, it would be beneficial to set the calendar back as long as you have had Google Analytics installed, in order to view a larger subset of data. Keep in mind, if you haven't been targeting a particular category of keywords, it is unlikely that you are ranking high for them, and as a result those keywords won't be driving a lot of traffic to the site. Analytics, thus, won't give you many new ideas if you are only looking at data from the last month.

Finally, you want to identify what keywords are driving people to the site that actually stay on the site for longer periods of time, rather than exiting quickly, which would indicate your site does not offer what they are searching for. Keep an eye on the Bounce Rate (people that exit the site without viewing a second page), Average Time on Site, and Pages per Visit metrics as well. These will provide decent indicators as to what new keywords may be worth targeting as opposed to those that are not.

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