SEO Part 5: Monitoring Results
For any SEO effort to be successful, you must monitor the results and experiment with different tactics to understand what works best for your pages.
Monitoring the rankings of your target keywords can help you understand if the changes you’ve made are impacting your search engine visibility. But there are several caveats with respect to rankings.
- Search engines will use your search history to influence the rankings you see. They will favor the pages and sites you visit.
- Your location and device type will also influence the search results.
Most browsers have a private or incognito feature, which starts a separate window that does not track or use browsing history, cookies, or information entered in forms. But your location and device type are still factored into search results from a private browsing window.
Alternatively, you can subscribe to commercial tools like Moz.com, which will automatically track keyword rankings in a completely anonymous mode. But rankings are not a complete measure of performance. You really want to understand what traffic you’re generating because of your SEO efforts. You need to monitor the traffic to your target pages.
URMC uses Google Analytics to track our Web site activity. It is a powerful Web analytics tool, and access is available by submitting a request with the URMC Web Services team. Google Analytics training is also available from Web Services.
Within Google Analytics, the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report is a starting point for seeing organic search data. This report shows traffic segmented by channel (Figure 1). Click on the Organic Search link to see data for this segment.
Figure 1: Google Analytics Channels Report
By default, after you click into the Organic Search report, Analytics displays the Keyword view (Figure 2). Prior to 2011, Google Search passed user query data to Google Analytics, and this report included a lot of useful keyword data. But Google Search changed, and it now blocks that data, resulting in "(not provided)" being displayed instead of the actual user queries. The keywords that do display in this report are from other search engines such as Bing.
Figure 2: Organic Keyword Report
Due to the lack of significant keyword information, use the more helpful view of organic search data by Landing Page. Click on the primary dimension "Landing Page" link to switch the data view (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Organic Search Landing Page Report
This view shows you the number of Web site sessions that came from search engines to land on each URMC Web page. Landing pages are also called entry pages. This report, like most in Analytics, has a very useful search filter that can be used to isolate your page or pages of interest. For example, if you wanted to see how many organic search sessions landed on the Orthopaedics home page (https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/orthopaedics/index.cfm), you would copy "/orthopaedics/index.cfm" into the search box (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Google Analytics Search Filter
In Google Analytics, the filter box applies to whatever values are in the first column of data ("Landing Page" in this case). Note that the values in the landing page column do not include the "https://www.urmc.rochester.edu" portion of the page address.
Periodic monitoring of the number of organic search sessions landing on your target pages tells you if you're making improvements that bring incremental traffic. Combined with rankings, this traffic data will help guide your SEO efforts.