Measuring & Improving Quality of SEO Traffic through Google Analytics

 

You may say ‘quality’ is subjective and hence can’t be measured. Well not really. In the next few minutes I will show you a way to effectively measure the quality of your SEO traffic in Google Analytics.  You in fact can measure the quality of any type of traffic (PPC, Affiliate, Display, Email, Social traffic etc). But just to keep this post short and simple, I selected SEO traffic.

 

Quality is what that drives the Business Bottomline and not what that stick people to your site

It is quite common for content rich websites (like blogs, news site, publishing sites etc) to have high bounce rate, low average time spent on a page and low pages/visit.  People generally visit such websites to consume the latest contents and then they leave the websites from the landing page without browsing any further. This results in a high bounce rate.

Since Google analytics by default can report time spent on a webpage only when a visitor navigates to other web page on your site, you may never know how much time is actually spent esp. on the top landing pages and whether the high bounce rate, low time spent and low pages/visit is good or bad for the business bottomline. So

A weak user engagement does not always mean poor traffic quality. 

 

If you consider strong user engagement as an indicator of traffic quality then here is the bummer:

A strong user engagement is no guarantee of getting high conversions, sales and leads

This is because people may be engaging with your website for all the wrong reasons.  Let us suppose you sell link building services and in order to improve user engagement on your website you created a tool which can analyze the back links of any website for free.  Let us suppose your tool became popular and as a result lot of link builders from all over the world started spending huge amount of time on your website to analyze back links all day long.

Google Analytics will now report strong user engagement and high traffic on your website. But since the people who are mainly visiting your website are other link builders and not really your customers, your tool won’t help you much in getting desired sales.

That is why I always focus on profitable user engagement. It is an engagement which leads to conversions and/or transactions.  An engagement is profitable if it positively correlates with conversions i.e. as the user engagement increases there is a corresponding increase in conversions and/or transactions.

“When a user engagement negatively correlates with conversion then the engagement becomes distraction.

Following is an example of real life distraction:

real-life-distraction

From the chart above you can see that the average visit duration is increasing over time but goal conversion rate is going down. We need to stay away from such ‘distractions’.  So through traditional user engagement metrics (like bounce rate, average time on page or pages/visit) you can never effectively measure profitable engagement and you need such engagement to considerably impact your business bottomline.

Related Post: How to Separate User Engagement from Distraction

 

Measuring Traffic Quality in Multi-Channel Marketing World

Organic traffic not only helps in directly completing conversions but also help in assisting conversions which are later completed by other marketing channels like direct traffic, social media, PPC, email, display etc. Therefore it is imperative that we take multi-channel attribution into account while measuring the quality of organic traffic.

Follow the steps below to measure the quality of organic traffic on your website:

Step-1: Go to Assisted Conversions report (under Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels) in your Google Analytics account.

Step-2: Set the ‘date range’ of your report to ‘last month’  and then compare it to the previous period:

compare-last-month

Step-3: Note the changes in the ‘Assited Conversion Value’ and ‘Last Click or Direct Conversion Value’ of organic search in the last one month:

Organic-Traffic-Quality

From the report we can see that both the assisted conversion value and last click conversion value went down in the last one month.  This means the quality of organic traffic to the website has declined.  Fewer people are converting. This quality has declined in two ways:

1. Organic search is assisting fewer high value conversions which are later completed by other marketing channels like ‘direct’, ‘referral’, ‘PPC’, ‘email’, ‘Display’ etc. That has resulted decline in the Assisted Conversion Value for Organic Search.

2. Organic search is directly completing fewer high value conversions. That has resulted decline in the Last Click Conversion Value for Organic Search.

Note: If you don’t fully understand what I just said then I strongly suggest you to read this post first: Attribution Modeling in Google Analytics – Ultimate Guide. This post explains attribution modelling from A to Z in plain English.

 

Decline in Assisted Conversion Value for Organic Search

When there is a decline in ‘assisted conversion value’ for ‘organic search’ then it means that ‘Organic search’ is assisting fewer high value conversions which are later completed by other marketing channels like ‘direct’, ‘referral’, ‘PPC’, ‘email’, ‘Display’ etc . In other words, other marketing channels are completing fewer high value conversions in which organic search has assisted.

To simplify my statement further, you need to determine how other marketing channels have peformed in the last one month. This is because their performance effect the performance of your SEO campaigns.

So for example if someone in your company drastically reduced the PPC budget in the last one month then both your assisted conversion value and last click conversion value for organic search will most probably go down and consequently organic traffic quality will suffer.

 

Follow the steps below in order to understand the role of SEO in impacting the ‘last click conversion value’  of  other marketing channels.

Step-1: Go to Assisted Conversions report (under Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels) in your Google Analytics account.

Step-2: Create a new Conversion Segment , name it ‘Any interaction is organic’ and apply it to your Assisted Conversions’ report which compares the last month to the second last month:

any-interaction-is-organic

Step-3: Look for biggest negative change in the ‘last click conversion value’  of a marketing channel (other than ‘organic search’). So for example if PPC has biggest negative change in the ‘last click conversion value’ in the last one month then it means you need to work on improving the performance of your PPC campaigns.

If PPC is not in your control then there is nothing much you can do here. But in any case you now know the reason of decline in the quality of organic traffic and you can always report this reason to your client. Similarly look for second, third, ……an so on biggest negative change in the ‘last click conversion value’  of marketing channels and improve their performance.

In case you are wondering, why I applied the conversion segment,the answer is bit tricky. Here I want to consider only those last click conversions in which ‘organic search has assisted’ somewhere in the conversion path .

There is always a possibility of having large number of conversion paths in which organic search has not assisted at all. So if I include such conversion paths then I won’t be able to accurately understand the role of SEO in impacting the ‘last click conversion value’  of  other marketing channels.

 

Decline in Last Click Conversion Value for Organic Search

When there is a decline in ‘last click conversion value’ for ‘organic search’ then it means that ‘Organic search’ is directly completing fewer high value conversions.  There can be lot of reasons for such behavior:

1. Decline in organic traffic – this can be due to change in search engine algorithim (panda, peguin update), manual penalty, seasonality, rise in competion on SERPs etc. So look out for these issues and fix them.

2. Decline in the performance of other marketing channels. For example decline in traffic and conversions through: direct traffic, PPC, Email, Social media and other marketing channels. You need to improve the performance of these marketing channels.

3. Decline in the size of profit index – Profit index is a database of most profitable pages on your website. To know more about profit index and how it impacts sales, check out this post: Optimizing Contents for Sales and Conversions through Profit Index

4. Decline in the page value of your top pages in profit index for organic search- If you can improve the page value of your top pages in profit index for organic search, you can dramatically improve the last click conversion value.

 

Now follow the steps below:

Step-1: Go to ‘Profit Index’ shortcut report in your Google Analytics account, compare the last month to the second last month and then apply the advanced segment ‘Non-Paid Search Traffic’:

profit-index-report

Note: If you don’t already have this report, you can create one by following the instructions in this post: Optimizing Contents for Sales and Conversions through Profit Index

 

Step-2: Look for big negative changes in the ‘page value’  of top pages in the profit index. You need to work on these pages. Improve their search engine rankings and optimize them for conversions.

 

Look at the big picture i.e. The Trend

In order to truly understand the quality of organic traffic we need to look at the big picture. That means collecting and analyzing data of (at least) last 3 to 4 months (to create a trend) and correlating it with organic traffic like this:

table

And then plotting the data points on a line chart like this:

organicVisits-TEV

From the chart above we can see that the organic traffic is increasing over time (which means traffic is not a problem here) but its total economic value (which is simply the sum of assisted conversion value and last click conversion value for organic search) is going down.

Following chart explains the calculation of the total economic value:

total-economic-value

In order to determine the reason of decline in total economic value, we need to segment the data trend like the one below:

ACV-LCV

From the chart above we can see that the decline in total economic value is mainly due to decline in assisted conversion value. In order to determine the reason of decline in assisted conversion value, you need to understand the role of SEO in impacting the ‘last click conversion value’  of  other marketing channels as described in the post above.

So next time if you can’t figure out why your SEO campaign has suddenly started performing poorly despite of increase in organic traffic and conversions, look at the performance of other marketing channels as explained in this post.

Other Posts you may find useful:

 

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  • Milita Das

    Thanks for nice sharing.

  • PaulJoe

    Thanks for sharing about Google Analytics

    PaulJoe

  • http://www.koozai.com/author/emma-north/ Emma North

    Thanks for sharing. Quality of traffic is can be measured in a number of ways but it essentially comes down to traffic that leads to “conversions”; whatever that means for your site. Whether that is sales and revenue tracked with ecommerce tracking, leads tracked as contact form completions, or awareness and engagement tracked as time on site, measuring your conversions is how you understand traffic quality for me.