Google Webmaster Tools Advances Towards Analytics Savviness
Lately, Webmaster Tools has been improving its analytical capabilities significantly. This trend comes as a great benefit to webmasters and search marketers, both of whom are gaining access to important data in order to understand how their Search Engine Optimization is performing, as well as additional tools to help optimize their efforts.
Last year, Google launched a set of improvements in graphs that empower webmasters to analyze search traffic. The most significant feature (in terms of data analysis) was the possibility to segment search data by Type of Search, Location, and Traffic size. Below is a screenshot of this feature:
As Avinash Kaushik wrote in Segment or die, segmentation helps the analyst moving “away from useless glob reporting to focusing your effort in groups of visitors you can understand. And just a few more steps to take action based on your data.”
By adding the segmentation option to the search queries report, the Webmaster Tools team brought it one step closer to making their data actionable.
Last December, they added the capability to get deeper insights into the search query reports by enabling drilling down from queries to their landing pages. This is very useful since it enables the understanding of which page is ranking well for each keyword, adding insights into SEO landing page optimization. However, this feature lacks essential information that can be used to create more robust, Conversion Driven SEO campaigns.
Recently, they have gone one step further in the integration with Google Analytics. As Vanessa Fox described, now it is possible to link Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics accounts, but the integration is far from optimal.
As of now, this integration enables you to go directly from the ‘links to your site’ tab on Webmaster Tools to the Traffic Sources report to Google Analytics.
Future Integration Potential With Google Analytics
Let’s examine a few features that could be revolutionary when it comes to understanding and optimizing Search Engine Optimization efforts.
How does load time affect conversions?
Since the beginning of this year, Google Analytics has been pushing a faster load time by turning the new asynchronous tracking code as the default code. Here is a video commentary by Matt Cutts on how the new Google Analytics code is slightly better in terms of SEO.
Today, we are able to see on Webmaster Tools the Time Spent Downloading a page (see screenshot below). However, we cannot learn how this affects visitor and crawler performance.
By integrating these numbers into Google Analytics, we would be able to understand how load times affect not only search ranking (or ppc quality score) but also how it affects user experience and ultimately the conversion rates of specific pages.
This is especially important when it comes to landing page optimization, but also when optimizing pages with and without rich media, pages that query a database before loading, and others. Note: there is a hack that enables measuring page load time with Google Analytics.
SEO click-through rates
In the same way that we analyze PPC results and try to understand how the ad creative affects CTR, we should be able to analyze how search snippets affects the click through rates from organic listings.
This information is currently available on the Search Queries report on Webmaster Tools, but it is not possible to link it to conversion and engagement metrics that are seen on Google Analytics. This same integration would enable us to understand how rankings can affect our results.
Accounting for SEO developments
One of Google Analytics most useful features is the Graph Annotations. When it comes to SEO, the strongest advantage of this features is that it allows “the SEO team to annotate changes to the website so that results can be tracked over time.”
Being able to review changes over time in the same platform that you analyze results makes it easier to understand which changes had the highest influence on results. This is especially important for SEO, as changes are very challenging to measure.
In the ideal world of website owners, Google Analytics would play a role of a centralized tracking platform, providing the option to integrate into it (not out of it) all other services, such as Webmaster Tools, campaign data (other than Adwords) and Website Testing.
As I wrote on my Google Analytics Wishlist:
Google Analytics should be a place you come for customer acquisition, customer understanding, retention and website optimization. This makes sense since the analysis and insights that can be acquired through data should be as close as possible to customer acquisition and retention.
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