Isolating Organic Traffic
The sheer amount of data (to say nothing of the endless array of customizable views available to present that data in) within Google Analytics can be a bit intimidating at first. However, using this powerful tool to help you make sense of your organic search performance isn’t as daunting or complex as it may seem. The first step to doing so is by identifying which portion of your traffic is coming through the organic channel. Open your Google Analytics and use the left hand navigation to access Acquisition; from there click into All Traffic and then into Channels, where you’ll see a breakdown of all your traffic by source over whatever period is displayed in the time filter at the top right of the page. From there you can parse the data in any number of ways, comparing against similar periods in YOY, MOM or WOW views, attempting to isolate the effects of paid campaigns on organic performance; the possibilities are nearly endless.
Understanding Long Term Organic Traffic Patterns
Deciphering the signal through an ocean of noise is always the primary challenge when trying to make sense of and draw actionable conclusions from your SEO data. This effect is amplified when you expand your outlook beyond individual events and single campaigns to try to get a handle on why your traffic behaves as it does over longer periods of time. In order to do so you need to understand all of the different factors in play that can have an effect on your organic search performance. These include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Paid search campaigns
- General seasonality (such as hot weather affecting the demand for outdoor goods, or increased interest in children’s toys during the holiday season)
- Changes to your site that may have impacted your rankings either positively or negatively
- Changes to search engine algorithms that affect how your site is consumed and ranked by them
- Changes in product assortment
- Presence of a new competitor in your space
Being aware of these potential influences allows you to adjust your perspective so that you aren’t mistaking an outlying spike or dip as an indicator of a need to alter your long term SEO growth strategy.
Now that you’ve taken into account the events and general seasonality that can impact your organic search traffic performance, you can begin to analyze results over a long period of time and learn what is and isn’t working towards driving success for your site. Take, for example, a scenario where one set of your pages suffered a severe dropoff immediately after a search engine algorithm update while a different set either held their ranking or enjoyed a slight uptick. Once you’ve determined that the change in performance for both sets is a lasting one (in the immediate wake of major core algorithm updates there is often a high degree of SERP volatility that in some cases reverts back to previous levels, we recommend keeping an eye out for official announcements from search engine companies that an update has completed rolling out and then waiting an additional couple of weeks to see if the effect on your site either stabilizes or indicates that some aspect of the algorithm update had an impact on your rankings), you can then begin to draw some conclusions, such as whether there are any best practices that can be gleaned from the positively impacted set of pages and applied elsewhere on your site. Conversely, you may be able to identify an element of the negatively impacted page set that you should remove and seek to avoid going forward. Another example would be an uptick in traffic for a set of pages that consistently occurs at a specific time of year; this could indicate that your customers are finding a need being met by a piece of content or product that you offer and that you should build off that interest by targeting your SEO efforts accordingly in the lead up to that time (for example, if you sell outdoor furniture then you’d be well served to target related keywords so that your content is optimized in anticipation of the spikes you see as summer approaches).