Long gone are the days when we used to have an incredible free tool to see every keyword that drove an organic search visit to our web sites. Yes, I am talking about what Google Analytics once was. You may still be cursing the day “not provided” became a dirty word, or you may have written off Google Analytics all together.
The good news is that as as we have covered before, Google Webmaster Tools contains a wealth of data to support this and many other needs we, as marketers have. And it’s just as free. And just as easy to configure.
Webmaster Tools does not live up to its namesake. While it might be a fairly utilitarian tool with a lot of technical reporting integrated, it hides a wealth of information within that we can use to make actionable marketing decisions.
So, what can you expect to see from those reports?
These aren’t your mama’s PPC impressions.
Webmaster Tools tells you how many times a landing page or query was displayed in organic search results for a set period of time or up to 90 days of historic data.
The paramount difference here is that you’re not asking to show up on these terms explicitly like you are when you bid on a paid search keyword. These are the highest performing terms customers are using to find your site – getting us a heck of a lot closer to the “old” Google Analytics data.
Not only that, but you can see how the page ranked across the sum of those impressions. Were 99% of your impressions garnered on page 2? Too bad…you should give V9 call.
Now that you’re armed with this valuable information about the way your top queries and landing pages are performing, consider the following:
Growth in impressions means brand recognition might be growing, demand for your product might be growing, or that your site is gaining strength and momentum on the web; beginning to dominate those results pages and TAKE the impression share from your competition.
The primary way to grow your impression share through digital marketing is by making sure you have optimized content to address a wide variety of queries, as well as making that content stronger through social signals and growing its authority through inbound links.
Click Through Rate
It’s not going to do you any favors to simply look at impressions in Webmaster Tools as your primary measurement of web site success.
Click through rate is a vital metric to determine how your pages’ organic search impressions turn into sales. What does it mean exactly? Your click through rate is the percentage of times that a user clicks from results pages to a page on your web site. For every 100 times your Contact Us page appears in search results, you get 2 clicks. Congratulations, you have a 2% CTR.
Remember our imaginary query/landing page combination? It’s killing it with an 11% CTR:
Click through rate has almost entirely to do with 2 things:
1. How high up on SERPs does your landing page rank? If it’s in the number one position on Google, it probably sees a CTR of about 33%.
2. Does your web site appear enticing based on the page title and meta description visible in search results?
When it comes to increasing click through rate, the focus should always be two-fold, rank the page better and make it address relevant queries in a desirable way through on-page optimization.
This is the third of 3 metrics that begin to build a comprehensive picture about what’s going on in Google when it comes to your user’s search behavior.
Average position is a cumulative metric that tells us where, over a period of time, your site ranks for a given search query.
Were you sitting at 4.3 for 6 months and now you’re at 11.1? Uh oh, trouble. Did you nudge from 3.2 to 1.7 when you got a link from the New York Times to your landing page that supports a top non-branded query? Nice work!
When we talk about ranking, it is usually how 1 page ranks on 1 term at a moment in time. Ranking can change based on who is doing the searching (their history, geography, or preferences) and it is highly reliant on the success or failure of those around you on a search engine results page – your competitors.
Average Position is SUCH a valuable offering from Google Webmaster Tools because it gives us a more universal look at how our web site is doing on a set of queries.
So What Does it All Mean?
When we begin to put together the larger picture of all three of these key metrics on any given query, Webmaster Tools becomes a tool that is about much more than just sitemaps, crawl errors and HTML. It becomes a marketing tool that can inform a wide variety of digital marketing strategies, which is precisely why V9 is integrating queries to our other big metrics; impressions, CTR and average position, into our SEO Dashboard.
The beauty of harnessing this data on our own platform is that we can manipulate it by filtering for date ranges, query themes or categories, as well as establish a historic set of data beyond the 90 days of visibility that Webmaster Tools provides. We at Volume Nine feel pretty confident in saying that if there was ever a time to get access to our Dashboard, it’s now.