Everyone uses Google Analytics, but hardly anyone knows how to use it to improve SEO.
This isn’t surprising. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but extracting valuable and useful insights can often feel like pulling teeth—especially for beginners.
But it doesn’t have to feel this way. You just need to know what data to look at, how to interpret it, and then take action.
This guide will show seven actionable ways to use Google Analytics to improve SEO and cover some common mistakes to avoid.
1. Find low-hanging opportunities to boost traffic
Pages don’t always rank forever. Just look at the decline in traffic to Ahrefs page of their list of top Google searches in 2018:
That’s a 54% drop in just over a month. But shortly after, traffic skyrocketed.
So, what changed? They updated and republished the post to bring it back to its former glory.
The question is, how do you find pages ripe for republishing?
Here’s the process:
Go to Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages.
Select a time frame for comparison. We’re primarily looking for content that needs republishing, so it’s worth comparing at least six-month periods.
Sort the table by clicks, then select the landing page you want to investigate to see search query data.
Look for potential causes, find patterns, and take action to drive more organic traffic.
Of course, the final part is easier said than done. So, what should you look for?
Consider whether the page is about a topic where freshness is a ranking factor. That was the case with Ahrefs post about the top Google searches. People didn’t want to see popular searches from 12 months ago, so traffic started to drop.
Here are a couple of useful secondary dimensions to get you started:
- Device Category: If the traffic change is mainly attributed to one device category, start checking for device-specific UX issues, page speed issues, and content differences between devices. Remember, Google uses mobile-first indexing, so if your website shows mobile users less information than desktop users, that could be a problem.
- Country: Traffic drops from specific countries might mean localization or indexation issues. If you have content in more languages, start by auditing your hreflang tags.
2. Find high-converting pages and improve their SEO
The ultimate goal of SEO is usually to drive more sales from organic search. One of the easiest ways to do that is to improve rankings for your most valuable pages.
Here’s how to do that:
Go to Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages.
Select an important goal and sort the table by conversion rate.
Plug each URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and check the Organic Keywords report.
Filter for keywords where you rank in positions 3–10.
Hit the “SERP” button and compare your page’s SEO metrics to those that outrank you. In this case, it looks like the pages above Ahrefs have way more referring domains.
Take action to improve your page where it falls short.
Not an Ahrefs user?
- Find the keywords you rank for in Search Console.
- Search for them on Google.
- Check backlinks to the top-ranking URLs in the free backlink checker.
- Compare them with your page to see if and where you fall short.
3. Improve landing pages that contribute to conversions
People rarely land on websites they’ve never visited before and buy something right away. They go on a journey, often visiting multiple pages on your site in the process.
By default, Google Analytics credits 100% of the conversion to the last landing page the user visited (provided that it was a non-direct click). But the reality is that the person probably wouldn’t have converted if they didn’t read a blog post first or interacted with other pages on the site. So technically, this page helped assist the conversion.
Improving SEO for these pages will probably lead to an increase in conversions and revenue.
But how do we find them?
Go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions.
Select a conversion from the dropdown. (All conversions are selected by default, which isn’t ideal.)
Set an attribution window. (This is basically a number of days that should be taken into account prior to the conversion.)
Make sure to adjust this based on the length of your business’ sales cycle.
Click on “Organic Search” at the bottom of the report.
Apply the Landing Page URL as a secondary dimension.
Voila. Now you see a list of organic landing pages sorted by the number of assisted conversions.
Prioritize these pages and improve their SEO.
4. Find keyword opportunities by tracking internal site search
If you have an ecommerce store, help center, knowledge base, or any big website, then you probably also have an internal search engine.
Visitors use it to find specific brands, products, and articles on your website.
One of the more interesting features of GA is that it can track these internal site searches.
Once you’ve been collecting the data long enough (months), dive into the Search Terms report, which you’ll find under Behaviour > Site Search.
Apply a reasonable filter to rule out super long-tail keywords and typos:
Sort the table by the percentage of search exits and apply the weighted sort type.
It shows queries that users searched for sorted by the probability that there was no satisfactory search result. Users left after conducting the search, which counted towards the search exit metric. We use the weighted sort to prioritize more statistically significant search terms.
Go through the terms and consider creating new content according to the search demand.
5. Automate organic traffic dips and spikes reporting
You can’t improve SEO if you’re not monitoring for issues. It’s inefficient to do this manually, so let’s set up alerts for organic performance.
Go to Admin > View column > Custom Alerts > Create a new alert.
Set up an alert that will fire after you experienced an X% increase or decrease in organic traffic over a certain period. A 20% decrease and 30% increase week-over-week is a good starting point, but feel free to adjust these numbers according to the volatility of your site.
Hit “Save Alert” and you’re done.
Now, while the reason for monitoring traffic drops is obvious, you might be wondering why it makes sense to do this with traffic spikes?
- If the traffic spike is legit, meaning that you’re driving more traffic from relevant keywords, you’ll want to replicate this with other pages.
- Search engines are not flawless. They might start ranking your pages for irrelevant keywords, and that’s something that you need to take into account for reporting.
6. Set up alerts for 404 errors
Let’s stick with monitoring and automatization for a little longer.
The “404 — Page Not Found” error is inevitable and something that you should monitor. And you can do this in GA.
First, make sure that all your 404 pages have a unified page title such as “404 — not found” or “Page not found.” Second, do not redirect them anywhere; the URL should stay the same.
If you meet these requirements, go ahead and set up an alert:
For the first condition, enter your page title for 404 pages.
For the second condition, start low and work your way up. That way, you won’t receive alerts if everything is normal. The bigger your site is, the bigger the number you should start with. Remember, some 404s are inevitable because of typos, so this number should be high enough to rule those out.
You now have everything you need for proper 404 alerts and monitoring.
From here, it’s just a case of figuring out what caused the 404. Was it a typo? Do you have internal or external links pointing to the URL?
7. Use annotations to pinpoint issues and changes
Google Analytics annotations are notes that show up on every time chart in the tool.
How are they useful? For logging changes.
Perhaps you figured out the reason for a recent traffic drop? Or deployed a sitewide technical SEO change? Or maybe you’re testing a new title tag format?
Whatever the change, logging it with annotations will often help save your sanity down the line.
To do that, choose a relevant time frame, click the roll-down, and enter your note.
Another benefit of annotations is the ability to gauge the effects of changes more easily.
For instance, if you notice a sharp increase or decrease in traffic, you can look back at annotations to reverse-engineer potential catalysts. You can then replicate changes that led to positive outcomes and avoid repeating mistakes that led to adverse outcomes.
One of the biggest SEO challenges is to show its value and make data-driven decisions. It takes more effort than let’s say search ads where you can directly track and influence everything immediately.
PS. When checking data in Google Analytics, especially if it’s critically important data like conversions, make sure that your data is not sampled. You don’t want your report to be based on incomplete and extrapolated data.
Choose a shorter period or a less complex query if you encounter something similar.