View Smartphone Search Metrics in Google Webmaster Tools

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Switch to the Mobile filter in the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report to view phone searches.

Following up on a previous post that recommended Google Webmaster Tools as a useful complement to Google Analytics, today we apply the Mobile filter to the GWT Search Queries report to display metrics for Google searches that originated on smartphones and feature phones.

By changing the Search Queries report from the default Web filter, you can display impressions, clicks, clickthrough rate, and average position for your keywords as they appeared in Google search engine results on phones.

Note that GWT data imported into to Google Analytics Search Engine Optimization reports is unfiltered; neither the Web nor the Mobile filter is applied.

Special thanks to Cindy Krum of MobileMoxie for her assistance with today’s post.

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Bing & Yahoo Organic Nonbranded Advanced Segment (Install Link Included)

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An advanced segment for nonbranded Yahoo and Bing traffic can help address the (not provided) issue.

Since the time we discussed the Non-Paid Search Traffic advanced segment that is built into Google Analytics – and why you should avoid it – the totality of (non provided) has eliminated our ability to directly track performance of organic nonbranded Google traffic in Google Analytics.

However, we can still take advantage of Bing and Yahoo keywords to gauge performance of our organic nonbranded traffic. Additionally, the branded vs. nonbranded breakdown that we can easily calculate for Bing and Yahoo could help us estimate the branded vs. nonbranded percentages for Google organic traffic as well.

To apply a Bing/Yahoo organic nonbranded advanced segment to your Google Analytics reports, click the link below (and just make sure to edit the advanced segment with your own domain and company name for the keyword-exclude conditions):

https://www.google.com/analytics/web/template?uid=2qDTLmGMRDKBO2WCt6Rcuw

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To Access Keyword Planner, Create AdWords Account With or Without Funding

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You don’t need to fund your AdWords account to access the Keyword Planner.

Even if you’re not directly responsible for managing search engine optimization or search engine marketing, it is invaluable to understand search volumes on Google for keyword phrases that are relevant to your organization.

In past years, Google has allowed you to perform this keyword research in the External Keyword Tool, whether or not you were logged in to an AdWords account.

The External Keyword Tool and the related Traffic Estimator Tool are now combined into the AdWords Traffic Planner, which does require an AdWords login for access. The External Keyword Tool is scheduled to be phased out in the near future.

While you have to create an AdWords account to access the Traffic Planner, you do not have to fund the account. Even if you’re not planning to run any AdWords campaigns, sign up for AdWords so you can access the Keyword Planner.

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Use Canonical or Noindex/Nofollow for Content Experiment Variations

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Use a canonical tag or apply noindex/nofollow to Content Experiment variations to prevent duplicate-content issues.

While your Content Experiment is running, you should prevent the page variations from being indexed in the search engines to avoid any duplicate-content issues that could hinder your SEO efforts. Even though the search engine spiders may not be able to execute the JavaScript that redirects from the original page to a page variation in a Content Experiment, the spiders still may find the variations (and certainly will if the variation URLs receive any external links).

You can take two approaches: canonical or noindex/nofollow.

The advantage of rel=”canonical” is that any link equity from external links to the variation URLs will be transferred to the original URL. The disadvantage is that Bing/Yahoo may not recognize the canonical tag.

Noindex/nofollow, applied either as a page tag or in robots.txt, is universally recognized, but will negate any link equity from external links to the variation pages.

You can decide which of the two approaches would work best for you. In either case, these can serve as temporary measures, since you can (and should) apply hard 301 redirects to your content experiment pages once a test concludes and you have moved the winning variation to the original URL.

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Try Different Meta Descriptions to Improve Organic Clickthrough Rates

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An increased organic clickthrough rate, without a corresponding increase in position, probably indicates a more effective meta description.

For most Web pages listed on a search engine results page (SERP), the Web page’s approximately 160-character meta description tag is what appears directly below the page title.

The meta description is less important for the actual ranking of the page and much more important as the page synopsis and call to action that trigger the clickthrough.

Although you cannot A/B test meta descriptions in real time, since the SERP is of course beyond your direct control, you can experiment with different meta descriptions in series and monitor clickthrough rate on the Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries report. (If you have not linked your SEO data from Google Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics, you can check clickthrough data directly in your Google Webmaster Tools reports.)

An increase in organic clickthrough rate (CTR) for a specific keyword, with no increase in average position, probably indicates a more compelling meta description.

As a note, since page title is much more important than meta description in search engine ranking, it’s much riskier to experiment with page title to increase clickthrough rates.

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Check SEO Keywords in Your Content Experiment Variations

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Check on-page SEO factors in your Content Experiment variations.

The good news: you’re ranking number one on Google for “oil paints”.

The bad news: your conversion rate is low. Fewer than 1% of visitors are purchasing your oil paint sets.

A potential solution: begin running Content Experiments on the home page and successively moving the higher-converting variations into position as the default home page.

A potential downside: the winning variations don’t rank as well on Google.

By verifying that the on-page factors for your page variations, such as keyword occurrences, are comparable to your current home page, you could minimize the chances of a drop in the search engines after replacing the home page with a winning variation.

Be especially aware of your page title, probably the single most important on-page ranking factor, and your meta description, which may have some bearing on ranking but is even more important as the call to action for searchers to click through to your site.

Many tools are available for on-page SEO analysis, including the free http://www.seoworkers.com/tools/analyzer.html.

As a note, thank you to Jill Whalen for her expert perspectives and down-to-earth advice for SEO. Her weekly newsletter is a must-read for SEO practitioners.

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Identify Broken Inbound Links with Google Webmaster Tools Crawl Errors

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Google Webmaster Tools lists the external pages that contain broken inbound links.

Although Google Webmaster Tools analyzes your website from the perspective of the Google search engine rather that visitor activity that occurs directly on your site, it does provide critical information that can help you drive more traffic to the correct pages on your site, thereby improving visitor experience and possibly increasing conversions.

Within the Health > Crawl Errors report, you can view broken inbound links that the Google search engine spider (“Googlebot”) has encountered, and the external pages that contain the broken links. You could further assess the impact of the broken link by drilling down in the Referral Traffic report within Google Analytics for the number of visits that the external pages are driving. (This is possible only if you have included the Google Analytics tracking code on a custom page-not-found page, which is highly recommended as part of your Google Analytics implementation.)

Fixing the broken link can benefit you in two ways. For one, it can help direct more visitors to the correct pages on your site instead of an error page. Secondly, it can potentially improve your organic rankings within Google, thereby driving more traffic.

Read more about the ways that Google Webmaster Tools complements Google Analytics.

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Bring SEO Data from Google Webmaster Tools into Google Analytics

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Associate Google Webmaster Tools with Google Analytics to view Google search engine data within your Google Analytics profiles.

Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools serve two purposes that are very distinct but also related: Google Analytics shows how human visitors interact with your site, and Google Webmaster Tools shows how the Google search engine crawler (also known as “Googlebot”) spiders your site and also how Google search engine users interact with occurrences of your site within the search results.

By associating your Google Analytics Web property (on the Property Settings tab) with your Google Webmaster Tools account, you can view Google search engine data, such as impression and clickthrough rate, directly in the Search Engine Optimization reports within Google Analytics.

How do the Search Engine Optimization reports differ from the Search > Organic report? For one, the Search Engine Optimization reports relate only to the Google search engine (and not to Bing, etc.) More importantly, Search Engine Optimization indicates how well your site and your listings are performing directly on the search engine, while the Search > Organic report indicates the keywords that are driving traffic but does not provide any context within the search engine itself.

For example, Search > Organic could indicate that your site is receiving 1000 monthly visits for each of two keywords, but a low average position or a low clickthrough rate for one of the keywords in the Search Engine Optimization > Queries report could signal an opportunity to optimize your site to achieve better search engine performance for that keyword.

For more information, see Using the SEO Reports in Google Analytics help.

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Verify 301 Redirects for Analytics and SEO

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You can verify that your redirects are returning a 301 server response code.

Most redirects from one URL to another are implemented on the server and return a 301 server response code, which signifies that the page has been moved permanently to a different URL. It is helpful, however, to be able to verify that your request for an old URL is in fact returning a 301.

The alternatives to serverside redirects are JavaScript or meta-refresh redirects that occur within the page’s source code as it’s loaded into the browser. These options return a 200 response code, which signifies a regular request and response.

301 redirects on the server are usually the advisable option both for search engine optimization and for Web analytics.

Search engine spiders correctly follow 301 redirects and index the new page, whereas they cannot dependably interpret either of the browser-based techniques. If no page exists at the old URL anymore, the 301 redirect is the only option for avoiding broken links. (This is of course as important for user experience as for SEO.)

For Web analytics, the browser-based options run the risk of executing the tracking code and registering a pageview for a page that the visitor never sees.

To check the server response code, you can refer to the Network tab of the Developer Tools panel in Chrome, or you can use a quick and easy Web utility such as Rex Swain’s HTTP Viewer.

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Consolidating URL Variations: Google Search Engine vs. Google Analytics

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Excluding URL parameters in Google Webmaster Tools does not affect Google Analytics.

In the following URL from your website, the “category” parameter serves only to display a specific banner on the page but does not otherwise dictate page content:

http://www.myhikingsite.com
/faq.aspx?category=tents

Because this URL parameter does not determine significant differences, it makes sense to exclude it from both Google search engine indexing and Google Analytics.

In Google Webmaster Tools, you can direct the Google search engine to consolidate or ignore specific URL parameters. One of the main benefits here is to consolidate inbound link value towards a specific URL, so all link equity flows to /faq.aspx (for better Google rankings) instead of being divided among /faq.aspx?category=tents, /faq.aspx?category=boots, and /faq.aspx?category=backpacks.

In Google Analytics, excluding URL query parameters in your profile settings can make your Content reports much easier to interpret.

Before you exclude or consolidate URL parameters in Google Webmaster Tools, make sure to understand each setting so do don’t inadvertently eliminate unique page content from the Google search index. In Google Analytics, make sure to designate a completely separate raw profile before you apply any profile settings or filters.

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