Google Analytics is an SEO’s bread and butter. I’m currently working my way through their awesome qualification program.
Aimed toward marketers, Google Analytics provides detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources. In the Dashboard, you can view these statistics for any period of time of your choosing.
The menu on the left gives you access to even more detailed reports about your audience, traffic sources, content, and conversions.
The Audience report provides demographic information about your audience, including which country they visited from and which language they speak. It also reveals what platform and/or browser they used to access your site, and their behaviour on your website (how long they stayed for on average, how many pages they visited on average, etc.).
The Traffic Sources overview will tell you how many visitors to your website came from search engines, direct visits, social networks, or referring sites. Using this information, you can determine where you need to focus your efforts (e.g. if most of your visits are coming from social networks but very few are coming from search engines, that means your social media strategy is good but your SEO could use work).
The Content report shows you which pages of your website are attracting the most traffic; you can see metrics such as the number of visits, average visit duration, bounce rate, and % new visits for each and every page on your website.
The Conversions report shows you how many of your goals (e.g. form submission, sales) have been completed and the conversion rate for each one. This is particularly useful if you’re running an e-commerce site.
All this information is very helpful for planning and tracking your Web marketing strategy.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is a free service for webmasters that allows you to check and monitor the indexing status of your website. The many tools it offers allow you to:
- Submit and check a sitemap
- Check the crawl rate of your site
- Get a list of internal, external, and broken links to your site
- See what keywords people are using to find your site, and their click-through rates.
Perhaps the most useful of these tools for SEO purposes is the keywords tool. Whereas Google Analytics shows you total traffic to your website from search engines, Google Webmasters Tool shows clicks and impressions for each keyword separately. With this information, you can determine what keywords you want to target in your SEO or SEM campaigns.
For troubleshooting, Google Webmaster Tools provides a list of crawl errors and even allows you to Fetch as Google to see a page as Google sees it. This can be invaluable for figuring out why a page is performing poorly in search results.
Google AdWords Keywords Tool
Google Adwords is primarily used for creating paid search advertising campaigns, but its Keywords Tool has great applications for SEO. Similar to Google Trends, you can punch in a keyword and the tool will provide you with a list of 100 related terms. You can even filter your results by category, country, language, and devices.
These are the keyword results for the term climbing gear. For SEO, we’re not as interested in the CPC rates, but the global and monthly search numbers tell us a lot about what terms people are searching for.
If you ran a website that sold different kinds of climbing gear, you would want to make sure to target these high-volume keywords in your content. You could use this information to create separate, keyword-rich webpages focused on each kind of climbing gear (rock climbing gear, tree climbing gear, ice climbing gear, etc.). This would increase the chances of your website being found by users searching for each of these terms.
SEOQuake is an SEO plug-in extension that is available for Google Chrome and Firefox. It displays a ton of different SEO parameters for any webpage, including Google PageRank, Google Index, Bing index, Alexa Rank, and a whole bunch more. The parameters can also be made visible on search engine results pages or SERPs.
Here we see SEO parameters displayed for the Apple iPad webpage. This information could be very useful when trying to determine the authority of a webpage for link-building purposes.
Under the SEOQuake preferences, you can determine which parameters you want to display and even specify a list of domain names for which the toolbar will be turned off.
The SEOMoz mozBar is another plug-in extension available for Chrome and Firefox, with some more advanced features. A paid version is available that gives you access to additional metrics (such as the number of linking root domains) and links to SEOMoz’s suite of tools. However, the free version is still quite valuable for SEO purposes.
The mozBar provides all the standard metrics such as PageRank and Domain Authority, and like SEOQuake, it can be accessed as either a toolbar or as an overlay in SERPs.
Another useful feature is the Highlight Links tool. This is particularly useful for distinguishing “dofollow” links (highlighted in green) from “nofollow” links (highlighted in pink). Since only dofollow links pass authority to the destination page, this is a crucial distinction for SEO.
Open Site Explorer
There are a number of free online tools that allow you to check a website’s backlinks, but I like SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer because it has a nice, clean appearance and there are no annoying pop-ups. Simply enter in a URL and the tool will provide you with a list of webpages linking to your domain. You can filter the information by Top Pages, Linking Domains, and Anchor Text.
Another great feature of Open Site Explorer is that it allows you to compare the backlinks and link metrics for up to 5 websites. This can be very useful for determining the quality of your client’s website against some of its competitors.
It’s worth pointing out that unless you sign up for a paid SEOMoz PRO membership, you will be limited in the amount of information you can view. As a guest user, you will only be able to see full information (including Link Anchor Text, Page Authority, and Domain Authority) for 5 of your backlinks. You will also be limited to running 3 reports a day.
We asked SEOMoz founder Rand Fishkin to tell us about Open Site Explorer and here’s what he had to say:
“OSE was built to make exploring the web’s link graph useful, usable, and enjoyable. We do a ton of behind-the-scenes work to make the application fast, including sorting and filtering on metrics we know marketers need. There’s CSV export so you can play around even more in Excel, but we wanted to create an experience that would let anyone, even those who aren’t Excel jockies, get the data they need, fast.
If you haven’t checked out OpenSiteExplorer in a while, you should! There’s a new tab called “just discovered” that shows links we’ve found extremely recently – as fast as 4 minutes old. We heard from users that speed of discovery was a big need, and put together this feature in just a few months.”