If you’ve been reading much of what I’ve written over the years, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of using search engine rankings as a measure of success for SEO. Thankfully, we have much better ways to measure SEO success today, thanks to tools like Google Analytics.

While presenting an all-day SEO training class at the University of San Diego last week, I realized that many people who do SEO as part of their job don’t always know what information in Google Analytics they should be looking at, nor how to find it. In that spirit, I’ve put together some of the main metrics that I like to look at when I’m evaluating the SEO progress of a website, as well as how to find or gather those metrics via reports and dashboards. (Please note that Google Analytics is constantly changing and improving; the methods and reports in this article are current as of this writing, but may change at any time in the future.)

The Bare Minimum to Measure to Check on SEO Success

If you do nothing else, you’ll want to at least measure the following:

Organic keyword traffic
* Landing pages from organic search

Thankfully, all of the above can be found via Google Analytics’ Standard Reporting.

1. Organic Keywords That Bring Traffic

To find these, simply click:

Standard Reporting >
Search > Organic >
Primary Dimension: Keyword

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You’ll end up with a nice overview of which keyword phrases are bringing direct organic search engine traffic to the website, such as this:

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2. Landing Pages That Receive Direct Organic Traffic

To see exactly which pages they landed on, you can click the “Landing Page” link as the Primary Dimension. That will show you something like this:

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From there, you can take both of these reports and add them to an SEO Dashboard so that you can quickly glance at this information when you first go into your Google Analytics.

Simply click the Add to Dashboard link near the top of the page and you’ll be presented with a box to select which dashboard you want to add it to. (You can have numerous dashboards.)

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We’ll create a new dashboard and name it “SEO Dashboard.”

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Check both the Timeline and the Table.

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Unfortunately, not quite all the data gets transferred over to your dashboard, but it’s still good for quick looks when you don’t have time to dig deeper. You’ll also want to add the previous keyword report to that dashboard so that you can look at both keyword and landing page information at the same time.

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Now our SEO Dashboard provides us with a quick view of which keywords brought organic search engine visitors as well as which pages of the site they first landed on.

But my favorite report of all merges both the keyword data with the landing page data via “Secondary Dimensions.”

If you go to your original landing page report and click:

Secondary Dimension > Traffic Sources > Keyword

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Then you’ll be able to see exactly which keywords brought organic search engine traffic to which specific pages of the site:

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Sadly, you can’t save any reports with secondary dimensions to a dashboard. However, just last week, Google Analytics introduced a new method to save this sort of report called “Shortcuts.” All you have to do is click the new Shortcut link at the top…

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Name your shortcut…

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…and you’re all set! Your saved report will now show up in the left-side bar under a new “Shortcuts” area:

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Now every time you want to see the larger report, just click that shortcut link and you’ll have the report using whatever time period your Google Analytics is set for when you’re viewing it.

Want to email this report to your client or boss? Just click on the email button at the top:

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Just fill out whom you want to send it to and choose the format (it can be various spreadsheet formats or a PDF). You can choose to send them automatically on a regular basis (such as each month) or you can just send this particular one once. Be sure to also leave a short message, or Google will provide a prompt for you to do so.

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Click Send, and whomever you sent it to will have their copy of the report delivered immediately as an attachment.

I hope this helps you get started with how to measure your SEO success. There is plenty more than what I’ve told you, but if you are new to Google Analytics and/or SEO, at least you’ll have a place to start without getting too confused!

By Jill Whalen (c) 2012