You probably think that Google Analytics has lost its value because they’ve stripped away valuable keyword data.
But Google Analytics is still one of the best SEO measurement tools out there. You can get tons of actionable data from the platform at your fingertips in just a matter of minutes.
And you can use this data to find huge insights that can help you figure out exactly how to optimize your website to boost search traffic.
But you’ve got to know where to look and which reports to run.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to find and use eight simple, yet effective SEO hacks inside Google Analytics.
1. Set up a custom alert or a custom SEO dashboard
Google’s constantly refining its algorithms, so it’s not unlikely that there will be fluctuations in your search traffic.
And that means that algorithm updates are likely to affect your site now and then.
Therefore, it’s best to get notified so that you can work on a game plan to reverse any impact from an update.
Luckily, you can set up a custom alert in Google Analytics that will allow you to take action if there are any sudden, dramatic changes in your Analytics report.
For example, if you experience a huge decrease in search traffic that has seemingly come out of left field, you can create an alert that analyzes the changes.
To create a custom alert, select “Admin” in the taskbar on the left.
From there, click “Custom Alerts.”
Once you’ve done this, configure your settings to match the image below. After that, click “Save Alert.”
You can also set up a custom SEO dashboard, which can be just as helpful as custom alerts. A custom SEO dashboard gives a brief overview of important SEO stats all in one place.
If you usually analyze several different SEO reports, a custom dashboard can save you tons of time.
You can put everything in one place and won’t have to go searching for any information.
That way, you can spend more time actually using the SEO hacks in this article instead of searching for stats and analyzing them.
You have the option to create a new custom SEO dashboard or import an existing one that you can customize.
If you want to use an SEO dashboard that’s already been configured, just import an SEO dashboard here.
Next, you need to focus on low-hanging SEO fruit.
2. Make your underperforming pages rank higher
Content is becoming harder and harder to create. It takes a long time to get a piece just right.
Orbit Media’s Blogger Survey proves that bloggers are spending more time on each of their blog posts than ever before.
Findings show that it takes some bloggers more than six hours just to write one post.
If you’re spending six hours per post, the quantity of your articles will be pretty low. But the good news is that you don’t have to spend a ton of time writing new posts to improve SEO results.
Recently, Unbounce put a pause on newly published content for a two week period.
During that time, they went back through all of their old content and improved it. The results?
“275% more conversions from their top 17 highest traffic posts.”
That’s huge. And you don’t have to spend hours on each post to get the same results.
If you want to to get the best results possible out of your older, underperforming pages, set your eyes on the low-hanging fruit.
First, log in to Google Analytics. Search for the “Search Console” button under “Acquisition.”
Note that you’ll need to have Search Console integrated before you can view any data here.
Then, search for the “Queries” button under the “Search Console” section. This will show you a Search Queries Report.
Most of your queries will say “(not provided).” But the rest of the search queries bringing in the most traffic should show up right under that.
On the far right, you can see exactly where your pages are ranking for each of those search queries.
The results on page one of any given Google search are going to get more clicks than results on page 2, 3, 4, and so on.
Searchers assume that the results on page one are usually higher quality, more informative, and more credible than the results on other pages.
That is Google’s job after all, right? Well, kind of.
The results on other pages can be just as good (if not better) than the ones that are coming up on page one.
The good news is that you can do something about that, which is promising for your pages that are ranking on page 2 or 3.
To get started, click on the “advanced” option. From there, set the “Average Position” to greater than “10.”
Save the results, and you’ll be able to see all of your low-hanging fruit in one place. On the left, clicks are low.
But to the right is the real treasure: a bunch of impressions. That’s the jackpot.
These impressions mean that a huge chunk of traffic could be yours, if your position were higher.
Now that you know exactly where to look to find underperforming pages, you can take action.
You can also monitor referral traffic.
3. Increase opportunities by monitoring referral traffic
If you’ve already got some referral traffic to your website, it’s a good idea to monitor links so that you can use them for link-building opportunities.
For example, if someone has linked to one of your blog posts, reach out to the author of the article and ask them if they can throw in an additional link to your product page, too.
You can also ask if the author can add your link to a roundup post so that you get even more referral traffic.
But the opportunities don’t stop there.
You can ask the author if you can write a guest post on their blog, or vice-versa. You could run a cross-promotion, give the author a discount for their readers on your products, and more.
Use referral traffic as an opportunity to build lasting relationships.
To find your referral traffic report, head to “Acquisition.” Then click on “Referrals” under the “All Traffic” tab.
You can also make use of annotations to find out what’s working (and what’s not working).
4. Use annotations to see what’s working (and what isn’t)
SEO management tools are great. But why spend money on them when Google Analytics gives you annotations for free?
Creating a new annotation is as simple as the click of a button.
If you use annotations, you can keep them updated so that your team always knows what’s going on.
For example, have image alt tags been added to a piece? Annotate that.
Added a new blog post? Annotate it.
Did you update keywords on a page? Annotate that.
Your clients will appreciate it because all they need to do to find updates is log into Google Analytics and check annotations.
There’s no need for them to message you with any questions, so it saves your time and theirs.
Leaving annotations also leaves you a paper trail that shows what’s working for SEO and what isn’t.
You can always look back to see the changes you made to a page and how it impacted traffic during that time period.
For example, if you place links on a page, go ahead and annotate the date.
Then, if your organic traffic increases (which it hopefully will) you can see which links you added and when you added them.
This makes it much easier to replicate your successful SEO moves for other clients or pages. Think of your annotations as an SEO journal.
From here, you can funnel traffic over to your top converting pages.
5. Funnel traffic over to top converting pages
The main end goal of SEO is to get people to convert.
What’s the easiest way to get people to convert? Send them to pages that are already converting.
The hardest part of this hack is to figure out which of your pages are top converting.
People are already converting on your site. You can force them to flow through it with clever links or restricted pages.
But people are already converting organically. You just need to see how.
In Google Analytics, head to the “Conversions” section. Under “Goals,” select “Reverse Goal Path.”
This tool does exactly what its name sounds like. With it, you can see the exact steps that someone took online before they visited your page.
Then, each step that they took forms a path, which Google Analytics ranks by the frequency of people who took the same path.
It should look something like this:
Thank-You confirmation pages will show up in the far left. Then, intake forms or purchase pages will show up right next to that on the right.
On the far right, landing pages and the pages that sent people to them to convert (along with their frequency) will appear.
Now that you know what these pages are, send more people to them for more conversions.
Add some CTAs and internal links to those top performing pages, too.
That’s it. Next, repair any leaking pages to better match search intent.
6. Repair leaking pages to better match search intent
Site-wide bounce rates don’t really tell you a whole lot about what’s going on.
Site-to-site comparisons are just as mysterious. Bounce rates on blogs are obviously going to be lower than sites that have found commercial success.
And data lies. A lot.
You’ve got to dig in deep to understand the exact context of all the numbers.
Getting a page to rank higher is great.
But not if those people are going to stick around. They’re only going to do that if they subscribe, opt-in, etc.
That’s why you need to know which of your high-ranking pages are great at bringing in search traffic, but bad at turning visitors into leads.
In Google Analytics, go to the “Behavior” section. Under “Site Content,” click “All Pages.”
Again, click on the “advanced” button. Then, select the “Source / Medium” and type in “Google / organic.”
The goal of this hack is to look at top performing pages exclusively from Google. That way, paid campaigns and referrals aren’t included in the results you’re analyzing.
Sort results by views. On the far right side, you’ll be able to see the true “Bounce Rate” and “% Exit.”
Blog post search traffic will probably have a high bounce rate. On these pages, you get some traffic from people who are interested in a certain topic, but not you as a brand.
That’s not unusual, and these pages aren’t a huge problem.
It’s the pages that have both a high bounce rate and a high % exit that you need to worry about.
That means that something is off with your page. The content on it doesn’t align with the search intent. It’s either outdated, irrelevant, ugly, not mobile-friendly, or too short.
There are limitless possibilities. You need to run some tests, make some changes, and work to optimize and improve these pages.
Next, create a profile filter to help you find some additional keywords.
7. Create a profile filter to find additional keywords
The Queries report in Google Analytics is the best way to find out how your site is performing for certain keywords in search.
But a ton of queries are grouped together. You won’t find a whole lot of information on additional keywords.
There isn’t a single solution to find additional keywords in Google Analytics, but you can find out some more information by creating a profile filter.
You can only use profile filters for new visits, not historical data.
To create a profile filter, click on “Admin” in the left taskbar. From there, click “Filters” in the “View” column.
Next, click “ADD FILTER.”
From there, create a filter by matching your selections to the ones in the following image:
This filter tells Google Analytics to apply a filter to a search term that matches the additional keywords.
Finally, work on increasing engagement by analyzing your landing page reports.
8. Increase engagement by analyzing landing page reports
You can analyze organic landing pages, which are the first pages where your organic visitors land from search engine results pages.
With this report, you can check to see if there are any issues with organic landing pages that keep users from navigating to other pages.
Find the organic landing pages report by heading to “Acquisition.” Under “Search Console,” locate the “Landing Pages” selection.
By analyzing your organic landing pages report, you’ll be able to see a clear map of exactly how your visitors are engaging with your website.
You can also find out how they’re navigating and flowing through it.
Engagement signals are now considered in Google’s ranking factors, so keeping a close watch on engagement can help you increase search engine rankings.
For example, if Google sends some traffic over to your web page, which has a high bounce rate and a low average time on page, then Google will think that the organic visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for on your site.
Even if they are.
To make sure that search rankings are accurate, you’ve got to keep an eye on all of these metrics and improve them so that engagement doesn’t take a dive.
Google Analytics might be ever-changing, but it isn’t going to lose its value anytime soon.
It’s one of the best SEO tools out there, because of the valuable data and insights that it provides.
With a few tricks up your sleeve, you can use data from Google Analytics to boost traffic and SEO in no time.
To start, set up a custom alert or create a custom SEO dashboard. Custom alerts will notify you if something changes to your site’s SEO as a result of changes with Google’s algorithms.
And a custom SEO dashboard keeps you from having to manually search for SEO data.
You can also make your underperforming pages rank higher by taking advantage of the low-hanging fruit.
Increase opportunities for exposure by keeping an eye on referral traffic. You can ask for more referral links, build a guest posting relationship with the author, and more.
Use the annotations feature in Google Analytics for a detailed paper trail of what actions are working for and against your SEO.
Another tactic that is often overlooked is to funnel your traffic over to top converting pages for even more conversions.
Don’t forget to repair your leaking pages to better match search intent. If something is off with your page, fix it.
Create a profile filter to find any additional keywords that Google Analytics isn’t automatically picking up.
Finally, boost engagement by analyzing your landing page reports. By taking a look at how users are interacting with your website, you can see which pages need to be optimized.
How do you use Google Analytics to boost your site’s SEO?