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If you’re not using Webmaster Tools you’re missing out

Google’s Webmaster Tools has long felt like the forgotten cousin of Google Analytics. Almost every online business I know uses Analytics (or at least has it installed). Very few, however, have Webmaster Tools set up.

This is a mistake, as Google has hidden some powerful functionality in this utility. There’s data in here you can use to push your team’s marketing efforts forward.

Setting up Webmaster Tools

To get started visit google.com/webmasters/. You can add your site’s URL by clicking the red Add Property button. You’ll want to submit both “www” and “non-www” versions for your site to the tool (HTTPS is another variation).

Once you’ve submitted your site, and verified your ownership, you’ll be able to start analyzing the data.

Analyzing Search Traffic

In this post, we’re going to explore the Search Analytics feature (which is currently in beta). To get there, go to the side menu, choose Search Traffic >> Search Analytics.

Google Webmaster Tools Search Analytics Beta

 

Here, you’ll be able to view historical trends of what queries people are using to find your site, what pages people are visiting, which countries they’re visiting from, and what devices they’re using when they visit your site. You can also see trend lines for the number of impressions, click-through-rates, and search result position.

Start by analyzing queries

Google no longer provides keyword data in Google Analytics. However, they now present a version of keyword data when you choose Queries in Search Analytics. Here’s a sample of queries from Sprintly (a product of Quick Left):

Sample queries in Google Webmaster Tools 

What can we learn here? A few things:

Clicks and impressions

In the example above, the query with the most clicks and impressions is “github project management.” This gives us a strong signal that there are a lot of people looking for a solution to this problem. How could we respond?

  1. Put out more targeted content aimed at these keywords. These could be landing pages or blog posts that emphasize how Sprintly solves this problem.
  2. Create an email course around managing GitHub projects. Interact with subscribers and discover what specific pain or workflow they’re trying to solve.
  3. With more targeted content, try to increase the search position from 8, to somewhere in the top 3.

Click-through rate (CTR)

The query that had the highest CTR was “how to manage team workload.” A high CTR means your content is definitely speaking to the target audience. They’re searching with a problem in mind, and they think you have the answer. How can you respond?

  1. Make the content they’re clicking on even better. You might have the right keywords on the page, but are you really helping them solve the problem? Look for ways to improve that landing page / blog post.
  2. Add a strong Call-to-Action (CTA) on that page. What do you want visitors to do once they’re visited your page? Do you want them to sign-up for your newsletter? Create a trial account? Make sure the page has a prominent button, or link, that helps them take the next step.

Position

What’s the average position of your site for a given query? Position will take the average of different geographic search results, and provide you with an approximation of where your site sits. Here are some things you can do with this information:

  1. If you’re ranking high (positions 1-5) for a given query, double down on that! Improve the content, and add new content that addresses that query. You may also want to run Adwords campaigns targeted at those keywords.
  2. If you’re ranking lower (anything below 5) for a query, look for ways you could improve your results. Generally, this means writing high quality content that match those keywords, and improving the number of inbound links you have to that content.

How to figure out which pages to improve

In this post I’ve mentioned the importance of improving the content you have that’s already ranking well. How do you do that? You analyze Pages in Search Analytics. Click on the radio button right beside Queries to see those:

Analyze your best Pages in Google Webmaster Tools

This set of data will show us which landing pages are getting the most Clicks and Impressions, as well as their CTR and search Position.

I mentioned that “how to manage workload” was a popular query for Sprintly. We can see that reflected here: the most popular page (besides the homepage) is the blog post titled How to manage team workload, track progress, and please your boss.

Again, this data will help you identify areas where you can:

  1. Improve your existing content.
  2. Create new content

Furthermore, you’ll be able to identify what your potential customers are most interested in when they visit your site. For example, you’ll notice that Sprintly’s Integrations page ranks highly. 

Which countries are people visiting from?

Filtering by Country can show you what type of regional interest your site is attracting. From this data set, we can see that Australians are the most likely to click-through to our site:

Which countries are visiting your site?

This data relates to how geographic search results affect your website. For example, google.com.au likely has less search competition for Sprintly related keywords than the USA’s google.com.

This can be a good thing, as targeting countries with relatively low competition could create a profitable niche for your company.

Which devices do people use?

Finally, let’s look at Devices. Here Google will give you totals for people using their desktop, mobile, or tablet to access your site. What’s helpful here is to look at trends. For example, look at this graph for CTR when we filter by Mobile:

What devices are people using to access your site?

There was a big spike on July 23rd! What caused that? Turns out, that’s the day we sent our email newsletter. Where do people read their email? On their phone!

How can we respond to this data?

  1. Try to improve your CTR on mobile. Over time, more and more of your visitors will be using phones.
  2. If the number of Impressions for mobile is going down, make sure that all of your pages are responsive (or mobile friendly).

Forgotten no more

As you can see, Google Webmaster Tools is a hidden trove of marketing data (and we’ve just scratched the surface).

Have more questions? Ask me on Twitter!