Combining Google Analytics and Ranking Data for SEO Audits

I first came across Sean and his collection of awesome SEO tools a few weeks back. I was doing an audit on a site that had been hit by Panda, which had thousands of thin content pages.

I’d been using our tool, URL Profiler, to pull together linking data and Google Analytics data so I could identify high performing pages. As an additional metric, I wanted to know how many of these page were ranking well for their chosen keyword, and what the estimated traffic stacked up to be.

I had no historical ranking data to work with, so I needed a bulk, on demand checker…

That’s when I stumbled across Sean’s tools – first the Bulk Search Volume Checker and then his Rank Checker tool.

I took to the Twitterwaves to give his tools a shoutout.

The serendipitous nature of social media spurned a few email conversations, and Sean invited me to guest post on this very blog, to describe the process I’d been following. He had a client website in mind for me to use as a case study, so he gave me GA access and left me to it.

Last Tango In…

…Buenos Aires, as it turns out.

This is the site in question: LandingPadBA (as in, ‘Landing Pad Buenos Aires’), and they call themselves the ‘alternative guide to Buenos Aires.’ They have a load of great content on the site about Buenos Aires – things to do, places to go, where to eat – but ultimately they are on online reservation agency for tickets and tours in the area.

They had engaged with Sean in the first place to help increase traffic to the “tango” section of the website. I hail from Blighty, where we call this type of Tango an ‘Argentine Tango’ ( as opposed to the European ‘ballroom’ Tango, which is less leg-flicky and lift-uppy – these are the technical terms of course).

To get you in the mood, this is what we’re talking about:

Context established, let’s move on to what data we are going to collect:

  1. Which pages are currently ranking for their target keywords, and what position they rank
  2. The monthly search volume for each keyword
  3. Number of visits for each page, and engagement data from Google Analytics
  4. Link metrics and social shares for each page

Keywords & Ranking

If you’ve not been paying attention, you can go grab yourself a copy of the Free Keyword Position Tool which is what we’ll use for the ranking data.

The client supplied us with a list of 80 tango-related keywords which are on their SEO hitlist. All we need to do is paste them in the relevant area on the spreadsheet, and…

Voilà! We get ranking URLs and ranking positions for every keyword we input. Notice also the second column, MSV (Monthly Search Volume), which is extracted via the SEMrush API, using a paid API key that you need to enter on a settings tab in the spreadsheet.

So, now we know how the site ranks for its target tango keywords, what the search volume is for each keyword, and which URL is actually ranking.

GA Data, Link Metrics & Social Shares

We need to get this data into CSV format so we can import into URL Profiler – which we can either do by a simple copy/paste or by selecting CSV from the ‘Download as’ options in Google Drive.

This is the kind of thing we are looking for:

We can then import this straight into URL Profiler, using the new Import & Merge feature, which will allow us to append all the new data to the existing data in the CSV. We select the options we are interested in, then run the profiler and wait around 30 seconds or so.

 Merged Data

This will merge the data together, appending the GA, Majestic and social share data to the original ranking data we have.

The results will look something like this:

You can see the original data on the left, with the new GA, Majestic and social share data as we scroll right. Any gaps are simply where there is no ranking URL for the given keyword on that row.

Interpreting the Results

There is less data here than I’d have liked to see, mainly because the site does not currently rank at all for most of the keywords they are interested in. In fact there are only 9 unique URLs as a lot of the rankings stem from a couple of specific pages.

But we can start to look for patterns within the data and start to pull it apart a bit.

  • The page which ranks for most terms (this one) has the second most links and social shares (after the homepage), and the third highest average time on page.
  • This page has had twice as many unique visitors from search than the homepage, despite only ranking position 60 for the given keyword. It would be worth investigating what other keywords this page ranks for, and giving it a further push with some inbound links (it has none, currently).
  • The site doesn’t rank for any of the terms with highest monthly search volume (which all happen to centre around the term ‘argentine tango’).

And so and and so forth. Digging right into it you can start to glean insights about which pages are doing well, which pages are ranking well but not attracting links, which pages are ranking well but performing badly in terms of engagement. Ultimately you can use this data to figure out which pages you need to double down on from a linkbuilding or content perspective.

Opportunities are Everywhere

The main thing a document like this should uncover is opportunities. Where can we improve content to take advantage of strong rankings? Or where are we completely missing a trick in terms of our targeting?

And this brings me back to where we started. Us Brits call the Argentine version of the Tango… the Argentine Tango. I’d pretty sure other Europeans would too, and probably a decent portion of Americans.

But LandingPadBA just call it the Tango. I guess it’s a bit like going out for Chinese food. In China, they just call it food.

I tried to find a specific page on the site for it, and failed:

2 mentions out of almost 4000 URLs, and no dedicated pages. I also crawled through the site to extract title tags, descriptions and common words (using the ‘Readability’ option on URL Profiler) – again I could find no references to ‘Argentine Tango’ as a phrase.

There are 21 keywords in their original list that relate to the Argentine Tango, with a combined monthly search volume of 5500. The site currently ranks for none of them.

A really straightforward recommendation would be to go create a content hub around the Argentine Tango, creating several pieces of longform content to target several of their keywords at once (those with similar intent).

This sort of oversight is all too common with websites which have developed naturally – as opposed to those that have deliberate keyword targeting built into the content strategy from the outset. Since this site is specifically aimed at travellers, it is even more important to focus on the language that overseas searchers might use, rather than the language locals might use.

We’ve only looked at a really small subsection of what this site could target, but hopefully it demonstrates the value in auditing with lots of datapoints alongside one another (and who ever said ‘don’t report on rankings’? Gimme a break).

I’d hazard a guess that there are plenty of other opportunities like this which can be acted upon with a more comprehensive audit.

Over to you Sean!

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3 thoughts on “Combining Google Analytics and Ranking Data for SEO Audits

  1. I guess it’s a bit like going out for Chinese food. In China, they just call it food. LOL Great post man. It’s like places just get obsessed with really tough competition words and does not correlate directly with that they are trying to sell. But then there’s this tool! Great Case Study, Thanks!

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