Uncovering the Truth of Your Site Visitors: Analytics and SEO
By: Rob McCreadyNovember 14th, 2023
Monitoring traffic to your website isn’t just about counting how many customers are coming through the door. With the right setup in Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you can learn how they got there, what actions they took, how they behaved over time, and where they dropped off. You can see which search terms are surfacing your site and which ad platforms are driving the most conversions.
We’re big proponents of GA4 and its associated tools with their neary endless customization, but it can be quite a lot to wrap your head around. Here’s a high-level view of how we use analytics to reveal insights about your customers and turn that data into an actionable plan for your brand to implement.
Search terms and ranking
If your site shows up in search results for a particular term, it “ranks” for that term. Discovering what search terms your site ranks for is important to not only learning how people are finding you, but also to how search engines view your site. Generally speaking, search engines are very adept at figuring out what your site is about, but that doesn’t mean they will always pick up on everything that’s important to you.
As critical as seeing the terms your site ranks for is looking for the terms you want to rank for. Tools such as Google Search Console can show you this information. For example, if you’re running an online shoe store and you notice you rank well for “sneakers” but not “sandals,” you can use this information to drive your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
There’s no “secret sauce” for SEO, but there are a number of things we look at to improve a page’s rank. Is it loading slower than it should? Is something causing it to display improperly on mobile? Is it failing an accessibility check? Beyond the technical aspects, a content strategy is another important component of SEO that can help your brand build authority for specific topics through things like videos and blogs.
Should you pay for SEO tools?
There’s a surprising amount of information you can collect using freely available tools (such as GA4 and Google Search Console). While these tools can’t tell you any specifics about your competitors, they can tell you where you rank in general, and will allow you to track your ranking performance over time. For many brands, that may be more than enough.
However, if you’re looking to dive deeper into trends, including how your competitors are ranking, you may want to consider paid services such as Moz, SEM Rush, and Ahrefs. These tools use a number of techniques to measure and report on specifics of how your competitors might rank, in addition to providing granular insights for your own site.
Signing up for a paid service is not something we generally recommend for a brand just getting started with an SEO strategy. Do what you can with the free tools, then make the jump to paid if you run into limitations. Remember, there’s no point collecting information just to hoard it — if it’s not going to help inform your strategy, you don’t need it.
Tracking visitor behavior
Beyond pageviews and link clicks, we can set up “events” in GA4 that will track specific behaviors that are important to you, such as when a visitor signs up for your newsletter or interacts with a pop-up window. Any action you want to individually track can be tagged as an event.
You’ll also likely want to know how people got to your site. For example, if you sent out a newsletter that linked to a blog post, you’ll want to know how many of that post’s sessions are coming from the email compared to other sources. This is where UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes come in.
You’ve probably seen a UTM code before without even realizing it. It’s the appended portion of a URL that follows a question mark and looks something like this: deviseagency.com/?utm_medium=email. By including a UTM code specific to each source, such as email, social posts, or display ads, you can track which of your marketing efforts are driving the most traffic.
The power of custom reports
GA4 comes with many useful built-in reports, but they have limitations. Firstly, the same information is not going to be equally pertinent to every brand. An e-commerce site, for example, has different analytics needs than a news publisher. Plus, brands will often want to include information from outside sources alongside their GA4 analytics, such as data from Salesforce, Shopify, Meta, or other platforms.
Luckily, you can accomplish this with another tool: Looker Studio from, you guessed it, Google. This free business intelligence program gathers up data from all of your sources and combines it into beautiful, customizable, and fully-automated reports. While it takes some time to set everything up just the way you want it, the payoff is worth it. Looker Studio provides fast access to up-to-date analytics across your entire online marketing, displayed in an easily digestible format.
Leave it to the nerds
Wow, you made it to the end? If your eyes haven’t glazed over by now, you may want to consider a career in SEO — you must love this stuff almost as much as we do!
More seriously, we understand that exploring the finer points of analytics is not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s why we’re here. Whether you’d like a hand with the initial setup of GA4 and Looker Studio or you’re looking for a team that can manage your analytics and SEO strategy for the long term, we’re more than happy to assist.
Questions? Reach out to us here.