Best free tools for SEO – Google Analytics and more

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The best way to assess how your website is doing on Google is to use Google’s own free tools. In this blog I’m covering three of Google’s amazing tools – Google Trends, Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

This article will be updated as features change. Last updated 21 September 2020.

Google Trends

How do you know if your change in search volume is normal, or a one off freak of nature (like the Coronavirus triggered toilet paper crisis of 2020)? Is it a normal seasonal downturn or are you just down?

Google Trends allows us to see when search peaked (which records as 100 – in other words 100%). All other values shown are in relation to the peak. The toilet paper example makes the rest of the history almost zero which is relatively correct, and reflects toilet paper is a stable staple normally!

Google Correlate RIP 🙁

You may vaguely remember in school maths doing something in statistics about correlation. In mathematical terms correlation is where two search terms or two things are linked together with statistical significance. Google Correlate was unfortunately closed in December 2019 due to low use 🙁 Moral of the story, make sure you use these other great tools so they don’t befall the same fate. Some comparison can be completed in Google Trends, so it’s not completely lost.

What was cool about Google Correlate, is it could show interesting connections like a 95%+ correlation between pest control and lawn mowing. If you think about it, it makes sense. Both have a demand spike in Spring, and go into quiet time in Winter. Finding that sort of information, you could find new collaborators and referral partners. But alas no more, although we can validate our guessed correlations using Google Trends.

Google Trends features

Google Trends allows searching for a term or topic for the past hour, or all the way back to 2004! You can choose web, image, shopping or YouTube, so plenty of market research opportunity.

You can add multiple comparisons of trends, but if one dominates it will render the comparison a flat line. The search results are by region (country) or you can select Worldwide. You can then drill down in some cases to sub-region (in Australia States).

You can also check what is currently trending, and what was trending by year since 2001.

There are lessons and courses available on how to use Google Trends, particularly for journalists. Google News Initiative can be found here.

Google_Trends_for_Google_Analytics_SEO_Tools

Make sure to use Google Search Console and Google Trends so they don’t disappear like Google Correlate!

User Experience (UX) and Google Analytics

As mentioned in our blog about Ubersuggest one thing it doesn’t currently do, and I’m not sure whether it could be built-in, is User Experience (UX) and the way we need to be guided around a site. Fortunately Google Analytics does provide some insights into User Experience (UX).

For instance, a client was sending three different ads, for three different services to the same home page. This home page was not specific, made worse by an image and text at the top of the page not really conveying what the page was about. Therefore Google Analytics showed it had a high bounce rate (80% in Australia). Bounce rate means the people leaving (or bouncing out of) the webpage without moving to another page.

Therefore, her ads were leading people to her home page with an 80% bounce rate when the individual pages only had a 15% bounce rate. Imagine how much more effective her ads would be if she directed them to the correct pages instead of just the homepage (and/or changed the homepage). Don’t make customers have to work for what they expect to see! This information I could see simply from looking at the website. It was proven by Google Analytics numbers.

As an update to this example, my client followed my simple suggestions updating her home page by adding buttons to her three individual service pages right at the top of her page, below a revised narrower banner image. This allowed the buttons to be seen above the fold. [Above the fold is a term which derived from newspapers before you unfolded them. On a website it’s what you see before you scroll.] The result? Her home page bounce rate fell markedly (to under 20%). Additionally, she made some suggested edits to her service pages (further work required here) and to her blogs to increase their SEO effectiveness. Result? Her clinic was full WITHOUT the need anymore for Google Ads, saving her $600 in Ad spend per month and increasing her revenue as well.

Google Analytics and Google Search Console

Many people when I do SEO workshops say they have Google Analytics, however, almost none of them look at their Google Analytics or understand how to review the data. I especially love the visual behaviour flow tool, where you can see where pages lead and where people drop off. Additionally, even less have the connected Google Search Console. Google Search Console allows you to update your site map for quick Google re-indexing, find broken pages, check your backlinks and check what keyword terms you are currently ranking for. 

Google Analytics best features

If you’re not a data head you may think analytics = boring! No way! Google Analytics is an amazingly useful tool (as are other insight tools). You can access it via desktop (for the most complete dataset), mobile app or Chrome extension. I find the Chrome Extension not to work when you have lots of Google accounts. Regardless, I prefer to use on desktop and get the full features.

You can find data on SO many things – how they found your website, what device did they use, what time of day are they online and so much more!!

Google_Analytics_graphs

Google Analytics – bounce rate

As part of the core data Google Analytics gives your bounce rate, cut and diced how you need it. Bounce rate means the percentage of people who leave your site, before they moved to another page. Whatever they landed on is all they saw. This typically tells us the page is not working for the user. Make sure you look at valid data. For instance, if you only serve NSW, Australia, don’t look at the overall bounce rate. Rather look at the Australian and then the NSW bounce rate.

A high bounce rate indicates you have some work to do, unless there are mitigating circumstances. For instance, I was sending people to my JobKeeper page directly from socials. But if they found what they wanted, they would click out to the ATO website. This would show as a high bounce rate. To reduce the bounce rate I could inconvenience people slightly by sending them to my home page, with an extra button click to go to the JobKeeper page.

Google Analytics – user flow

This is my all time favourite Google Analytics feature! I love how you can highlight channels by country, by page and work out where issues are in your site, or are they all over? I’m coming up to the point I want to start getting my site working as a lead generator, so it’s time for me to add SEO functionality and monitor activity to see how the numbers change.

Google_Analytics_User-flow

Google Search Console – identifying errors and making updates

If your site is experiencing indexing issues, or dreaded 404 page errors, Google Search Console is pretty good at letting you know of errors. By the way, a 404 page error means a page can’t be found on your website. This often happens when links are changed but people are still linking to the old link. It could also be a typo. Some themes on WordPress let you create your own 404 page, rather than the horrid page not found standard. You could also add in a plugin. Other platforms this may not be possible.

You can request Google Search Console to update your sitemap if you’ve added a number of new pages. If you updated a blog or services page, you can request Google to re-index the URL for it. Why would you need to do these things you may ask? Because Google Search Engine Result Page (SERP) results are not live! They are cached (older) versions of websites stored when Googles bots or spiders last checked your site. For a news site, the site may be trawled intra-day. For a small business site not updated in years, the last check could be months ago. Hence why fresh content is needed on websites, so Google wants to come back.

Google_Search_Console_site_map_errors

Google Search Console – backlinks

Apart from using a tool like Ubersuggest (refer our blog) which is great to check out other business website backlinks, Google Search Console is the best for our own backlinks. Backlinks are links to our website which appear elsewhere on the web. For instance, I have given backlinks in this blog to Google Trends. Now for Google, it really doesn’t need my lowly backlinks. But, for a small business with no Domain Authority (DA or DS Domain Score), backlinks from most sites to us are great.

But, not all backlinks are good! We talk about this in the Ubersuggest blog. Google Search Console allows you to disavow bad backlinks if you’re unable to get rid of them through other means (like asking nicely).

Google_Search_console_Backlinks

Other Google Search Console features

But wait, there’s more! you can get some keyword search results, but honestly I find the data a little suss! Remember these are only for keywords which appear on your site in the first place. ALT Tags on Images, your Heading 1 (H1), URL and Heading 2’s (H2) really help to boost your search results.

Google_Search_Console_Search Keywords

SEO Audits

If you find the SEO tools a little too daunting, consider utilising our independent SEO Audit service. We use a variety of tools to analyse your website and provide feedback. We also complete some manual checks and give you a recorded video walk through of any issues. This manual check includes a user experience (UX) check. Our independence means we have no vested interest in your site having issues, so you’ll get an honest audit. We have undertaken SEO training through multiple providers.

The main reason we started FAQ Business Training was to avoid people getting ripped off. And what were the top two issues – websites and SEO! Check out our SEO audit services if interested.

SEO Training

Please make an effort to complete some SEO training, including learning how to read Google Analytics and Google Search Console. You can attend SEO training through myself, receive one on one advice, learn through Kate Toon or try the Google Digital Garage courses.

Client success story implementing SEO basics

Why should you bother? This little story may sell you! A client came to me for help, and after a mere two x 2 hour sessions she made only fairly minor changes (not all we discussed). However these changes were the right ones! Her business jumped up in the rankings for key terms, and ahead of her main competitors. I was happy for her, and that was before finding out the whole story. In the first 9 months of the 2019/2020 financial year she had spent $30,000 on Google Ads!! After learning from me, implementing just the SEO basics she is spending nothing on Google Ads AND she is now full. WOW – what a turnaround!

This blog was written by our Founder Jane Tweedy.

Jane is currently a Business Connect Advisor part-time for NSW small businesses in Western Sydney (especially Blacktown and The Hills) plus anywhere in NSW online now with Coronavirus, and Founder and Lead Trainer of FAQ Business Training. Outside NSW Jane can offer remote business advice and some business consulting through FAQ Business Consulting. Please contact Jane here.

About FAQ Business Training

If this is the first time you’ve come across us you may want to know who we are! FAQ Business Training has a mission to educate and empower small business owners to learn enough to do it yourself (DIY) or outsource with confidence. We do this via face to face training in Western Sydney (currently all training is provided online), speaking at conferences, events and networking groups and will soon be offering online courses and webinars to appeal to a global (English speaking) audience. Connect with us on Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

Found something useful in this blog? There’s plenty more to check out …

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