search analytics with pages

Data Driven On-Page SEO: Be a Hero to Your Underperforming Webpages 3


Using Search Analytics to Re-optimize (and Rescue) Your Pages

Rocketeer in flight seatOn-page SEO is truly both an art and a science.

On one hand, you need to use words that entice people to click on your search results as well as lead them to take the appropriate action once they get to your page.

And on the other hand, you need to know what terms people are actually using to find your pages and how and where to incorporate them on your pages.

In this post, Rocketeer would like to show you how you can use the data from Search Analytics and become an SEO Hero to your flailing webpages.

What follows is a step-by-step process to performing DATA DRIVEN ON-PAGE SEO on an existing site. (And without data, you are just guessing).

NOTE: Following these steps is a series of Strategies & Opportunities that will give you plenty of food for thought in terms of using this data to your advantage and how to tackle your site. In addition, there is a BONUS section at the end for all you excel lovers out there. Search Analytics in Google’s Search Console is great but this tool will give you all of that power, but in a format you can manipulate to your heart’s content.

But, for now, let’s get back to the basic step-by-step on-page SEO process. Here are the basic steps and we’ll go into detail next.

    1. Know what pages you want to rank for.
    2. Find out which of those pages are underperforming (in terms of position and/or CTR).
      • Low position + low CTR
      • High position + low CTR
    3. For each of these pages, determine which terms Google thinks they are the most relevant for.
    4. Optimize the page titles, meta descriptions, headings and copy for these terms.
      • Low position + low CTR (title, meta description, headings, content, alt tags)
      • High position + low CTR (focus on title tag and meta description)
    5. Use Fetch as Google and resubmit the modified page. This is a faster way to get the page re-indexed.

 

1 – Know what pages you want to rank for.

For this, you need to have a grasp of what people are searching for and what solutions you need to provide with your site. That might be a service (or services) or a product (products). These are typically the highest order pages and are usually in your main navigation. These are also the pages that you want to link to internally but that’s another blog topic.

It’s great to have high ranking blogs as well but since they typically are more focused and will rank more easily for their long tail keyword phrases. And your homepage will probably only need to be optimized for your brand name and what type of business you are. And your contact page probably doesn’t require a whole lot of optimization either. These and other generic pages are good ones to put your Business name in the title and discuss things like professionalism, experience and trust in the meta description.

 

2 – Find out which of those pages are underperforming (in terms of position and/or CTR).

Your underperforming pages will fall under 2 general categories:

  1. Low position + low CTR
  2. High position + low CTR

One of the best, if not the best, tools for this job is Search Console’s (formerly Webmaster Tools) “Search Analytics”.

To find out which pages are underperforming you are going to want to select “Pages” as well as all the checkboxes above (clicks, impressions, CTR, position). You’ll probably also want to change the date range to 90 days.

(Note that if you want to zone in on in a particular country as well you can, as well as device (mobile,  desktop, tablet) and search type (web, image, video). These will change based on the type of site you have and visitor behaviours.)

search analytics with pages

Since we are more interested in our main pages ranking for key terms I’m also going add a filter to hide the blog pages using the “Filter Pages > URLs not containing” drop down under Pages.

Filter pages in Search Analytics

 

From the resulting list, I’m going to select a page that has a 3rd-page ranking and poor CTR.

The page I’m choosing is our /branding-print-design page.

page analytics in search console

 

3 – For each of these pages, determine which terms Google thinks they are the most relevant for.

Google thinks this page is fairly relevant for something, as it is ranking, on average, in the 25th position of Google search results and it has appeared in 461 searches over the last 90 days.

BUT, it has only received 8 clicks resulting in a pretty horrible 1.74% CTR.

Before we optimize this page we need to have a pretty good idea of WHAT GOOGLE THINKS IT’S RELEVANT FOR and we’ll try our best to optimize it for THAT!

That’s our Rocketeer The SEO Hero trick!

If this was a brand new site, you would be trying to force Google’s decision as to what the page was about. But, as in this case, if you are optimizing after the fact, then it’s best to use the data we are provided.

So, to see what queries are leading to this page we need to select the page and then choose “Queries” at the top.

selecting queries in search analytics

Below you will see the search queries.

search analytic queries for a specific page

This list can get very long sometimes so you may want to do a FIND for each term and try to determine which ones Google is associating your page with.

For this page, we can see that people are typing in the following words (look at impressions as well to gauge the frequency):

Branding – 5 (also appears in URL)
Hamilton – 8
Print – 4 (also appears in URL)
Design – 7 (also appears in URL)
Logo – 3
Company – 3

The numbers I’ve put beside these terms are the number of times I see them appear in the search queries.

And I’ve bolded the top terms. These are the terms that Google thinks your page is most relevant to.

 

4 – Optimize the page titles, meta descriptions, headings and copy for these terms.

Depending what category your page falls under will determine where you need to focus your efforts.

  1. Low position + low CTR (title, meta description, headings, content, alt tags)
  2. High position + low CTR (focus on title tag and meta description)

This page probably needs work in all areas (title, meta description, headings, content, alt tags), but for now, let’s focus on the title tag and meta description.

For that purpose, we have created a Google Title and Meta Description Tool, that will bring in your current meta data for a page and then allow you to work on it.

The left-hand column of our spreadsheet shows you a quick overview of how your page looks in a Google Search as well as easy to spot indicators of if your page titles and meta descriptions are too long or short.

The right-hand column allows you to tweak your meta data to get it looking just right.  From there, you can then copy the adjusted titles and meta descriptions to the page you were working on.

Google Title and Meta Description Previewer

First, we want to see if our main term(s) that we listed above are in our title and description. If they are not, then we’ll go ahead and do that. (If you have done previous keyword research for this page this should also be reviewed to see what keyword phrases to keep or replace.)

In addition, we also want to create some incentive to click.

This can be done by creating urgency, appealing to emotions, and offering deals.

We can also use *** and CAPITALS for emphasis.

Here’s my attempt at re-optimizing this page (so far).

google SERPS preview

Once I’m happy with the title and description, it would be a wise idea to optimize the rest of the page as well for related terms. This would be done in the headings, content, alt tags and anchor text of inbound links. (Google apparently doesn’t like to see JUST meta tag tweaking as it might see this as spammy – tweaking the whole page for related terms is a little more legit).

And once that’s done it’s time to resubmit that page to Google.

 

5 – Use Fetch as Google and resubmit the modified page. This is a faster way to get the page re-indexed.

Now we want to return to the Search Console and go to Crawl > Fetch as Google.

fetch as google

 

Use ‘Fetch and Render’ to make sure that Google is seeing your page as your visitors do (if it doesn’t that’s a problem that needs investigating).

And then click on ‘Request Indexing’ to get your page recrawled.

submit for reindexing

 

Strategies & Opportunities

It’s probably a good idea to wade into optimizing your site starting with some lower ranked pages.

Pages that rank on the second page, for instance, might make it to the first page with some re-optimization. Especially those that already have a decent CTR. These pages are an ideal starting point.

Top ranking pages might not be getting good click-through rates.

These pages will definitely need some Title and Meta Description work to make them more appealing in search results. If they don’t maintain a decent CTR, they risk losing their position.

Traffic to pages that don’t match the query at all?

Can we go with it and match the snippet and content to their intent? Meaning can we add the keyword queries they perform (title, description, headings, call to action, body text)

Some queries get high CTR rate even with poor search positions

Analyze these search query snippets and get some ideas how to improve other snippets.

Are there any traffic drops on particular pages?

Is there anything we can do to (i.e., Update) or is it just due to seasonality?

Are there position drops across the board?

Check search console for problems.

 

BONUS SECTION

Search Analytics for Sheets

For all you excel lovers out there, you’re going to love this …

There is a great add-on for Google Sheets called “Search Analytics for Sheets”.

search analytics for sheets add-on

Once installed using the same Google account that your Analytics is under, go to Add-ons > Search Analytics for Sheets > Open in Sidebar.

add-on

Pick the Account, Date Range and Group by Query and Page and then hit ‘Request Data’.

search analytics add-on settings

The result will be a spreadsheet with all of your search analytics data, INCLUDING all of your queries for every page that you can then work with as you wish.

search analytics in sheets results

One thing that I find easier is to also re-run it and group by Page only. That way you can get a grasp of what pages need to be worked on first.

Note that you can also change search type, add filters (which come in handy to filter out blog pages or branded searches) and, last but not least, run automatic backups. As Google Search Analytics only has the last 90 days of data this is an extremely valuable tool.

Set up how often you want it to run and whether or not you want the backup status emailed to you and you are all set.

backups tab

And there you go – the 5 steps to go through to optimize your pages; some strategies based on the data you receive in Google’s Search Analytics; and the great Search Analytics for Sheets Add-on.

You are now armed to increase the CTR of your pages as well as their rankings.

Let us know how you make out with these tools and if you have any further suggestions for their use. We would love to hear them.

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3 thoughts on “Data Driven On-Page SEO: Be a Hero to Your Underperforming Webpages

  • Patrick

    Excellent tutorial, thanks a ton for sharing this.

    I’ve been looking for some more actionable tips for Search Console, there is a surprisingly low amount of material on the topic. Do you have any analysis of the results post-modification? Would love to see how this played out, I will be implementing shortly and will document my own results (happy to pass those along if you like).

    One question I’ve struggled with after my own iteration is trying to understand ‘what google wants to see’ with the data I’m seeing. For the particular page I’m looking at, I’m getting LOTS of impressions for the root keyword (which is very competitive) on pages 2-4, but not many clicks. The terms I’m really after (root keyword + city modifier) get significantly fewer, but solid impressions.

    Do you think this inequity could be due to poor optimization for the modifiers I’m after?

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    • rocketeer Post author

      Thanks for the comments Patrick.

      You’re right – I was struggling as well to find information that I could act on. A colleague of mine introduced me to the ‘Search Analytics for Sheets’ tool, and since then I’ve been trying to get a handle on what to do with all of this great data and how to work it into our workflows.

      I don’t have any results to show just yet, but look forward to presenting some case studies soon.
      And I would definitely love to hear your results as well.

      Regarding your question, you’ll usually always get more searches (and competition) for just a “keyword” vs. a “keyword + city”, which might explain the difference in impressions. In addition, depending on what type of page it is, Google might not think it has as much local intent.

      Thanks again for your input.

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      • Patrick

        Thanks again for the article. I’m about to push with v2 of a page I’m working on and will be testing impact of:

        – Increased usage of location terms in H3 subheaders
        – Proper H1,H2,H3 heirarchy
        – Highlighted CTAs
        – Review rich snippets
        – A social share push

        We’ll see how it goes!

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