Using Search Queries to improve your site
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Using Search Queries to improve your site


[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi. I’m Maile Ohye. I’d like to share some of the
ways I use Search Queries information from Google
Webmaster Tools to improve my site. To give some background, the
first step of the search engine pipeline is crawling,
then indexing, and last is search results, which includes
ranking and display of results to users. Search Queries data sheds light
on this third step in the search engine pipeline. If a user clicks and comes to
your site, that’s where traditional Google Analytics
comes in. Search Queries, however, also
displays impression data, meaning you’ll also have
information about searchers when they see your site but
might not click through. A couple of years ago, Webmaster
Tools data was integrated as SEO Reports
in Google Analytics. Often, we see people who want
to bring more visitors to their site over-focus their
attention on Search Queries and ranking, when there are even
bigger gains in search friendliness if they
investigated how their site is crawled, or if they reduced
duplicates so that their site was more optimally indexed. Additionally, while Search
Queries feature provides lots of actual information, the
ranking of your pages and search results is only one part
of the process to the ultimate goal of having users
convert on your site. Whether conversion is buying
a product or becoming a subscriber, you still need to
provide a great result and a good user experience
on your site. With this covered, let’s take
a look at Search Queries in Webmaster Tools. Search Queries is tabbed with
Top Searches and Top Pages. There’s also a Filter button,
the ability to set a date range going back several months,
download information, or even to see the change rate
during the prior but equal time interval. Some of the words on this page
might be new to you, so let’s review definitions. Query is a user’s search
term or terms. This is the query for Google
Webmaster Tools. Impression means that when a
user performed a query, a page from your site could
be visible in their search results. For example, if a searcher
queried “Google blog for site owners,” if our site,
googlewebmasterc entral.blogspot.com was ranked
number five, and one through 10 of the search results were
shown to the user, then this would count as an impression. However, if my page ranked
number 11, and only one through 10 of the results were
displayed to the user, this would not count as an impression
for the query unless the user clicked to see
the next page of results, 11 through 20. The next term is average
position. To calculate average position,
we take into account the top ranking URL from your site for
a particular query, but often across different users. In the example of the query
“Google blog for site owners,” we’d use the position of number
five for the Webmaster Central blog and disregard the
later positions for the query for this search. If another user made the same
query, but our top result was in the number three position,
the average top position would be four, since it’s the average
of five and three. Click means that the user
selected the result. They must have found the
display enticing. CTR stands for clickthrough
rate. It’s the percentage that
the site’s page was selected in results. This provides some insight to
how well the results display matched the query and
the user’s intent. One other term that’s good to
know, although it’s not mentioned in this feature, is
qualified query, or even qualified traffic. Qualified means that if a user
arrives at your site, or sees your site in search results,
there’s a realistic chance that they would like your
content and convert. It’s more efficient to focus
on your site receiving qualified traffic, rather than
trying to rank for terms where users will be unsatisfied
with the result. For example, while the Google
Webmaster Central blog has impressions for the standalone
query “Google,” that query won’t bring us qualified
traffic. Those searchers likely want
the Google homepage. Therefore, we can de-emphasize
unqualified queries like “Google” during our site’s
improvements. Now, let’s get into an approach
that I use when investigating the Search
Queries feature. Before I even look at a
business’s Search Queries data, I start by asking
the questions to understand the audience. Some questions to keep in mind
as you improve your site are– what are the goals of your
website and your business? What groups are you targeting? Where are they located? What devices are they using? What are their objectives? Can or do their objectives
align with your company’s business goals? Do their query terms
match your content? On the Search Queries
page, the default filter is set to Web. When it comes to better
understanding the audience who sees your site in search
results, select Filter, and you’ll notice the breakdown of
the searchers given their countries and search types,
like Web and Image search. If your visitors often come from
several countries, you can begin evaluating whether
your site properly meets their needs and if it’s worth
investing more time to do so. For example, given that much
of the audience comes from Canada in addition to the United
States, if we were a business looking to develop, we
could try writing content tailored to issues in Canada. As you investigate individual
queries, it’s often helpful to use an incognito window, or
a browser without stored cookies, or you’re not logged
into Google so that personalization doesn’t
affect your results. Going back to the main Search
Queries page, one of the first things I do is sort by clicks
rather than by the default sorting of impressions. This is because impressions,
while extremely valuable, can initially blur the real picture
of my site since they can refer to both qualified
and unqualified queries. Once queries are sorted by
clicks for this date range, you’ll have on display the
Google searches that bring your site the most traffic. Just to repeat, once you’ve
sorted by clicks, these are the actual Google queries
that bring your site the most traffic. I often start here, because
after knowing what audiences I want to attract, it’s good to
know what I’m already doing well before I start
making changes. Be aware that changing the
date range can change the results, so you may want to
look at also a three month time range, and then even keep
track of your queries over time by downloading the data. Webmaster Tools provides up to
three months of history. Often, businesses want to see
yearly trends for searcher behavior that changes with the
holiday shopping season, Valentine’s Day, or
back to school. To see yearly trends requires
downloading the information. Questions to ask yourself
as you investigate are– are these the queries
I would expect? Does it seem like these clicks
would bring qualified traffic? Can the display of my page in
search results be better optimized for this query? As you investigate the queries
that bring your site the most traffic, simulate the entire
searcher experience, from their possible location and
motivation, to performing the query, to viewing the search
results display, to clicking on your site, and then
the user experience. More advanced analytics users
can also tie in their knowledge here. If you click the query, you’ll
see the pages that appear in results for the query. Hovering on the arrow provides
a preview of the page. If there are different URLs
with duplicate content, improve your site by
consolidating the information, perhaps with a 301 redirect
or rel=canonical. If there are pages that you
wouldn’t expect to rank for the query, check how many
clicks they have. If you feel it’s significant,
then check out the page. Take notes, because after
reviewing more of your queries and more result pages, you’ll
need to determine which pages, and for which user experiences,
you’d like to prioritize improvements. If, when you sorted by clicks,
you were surprised that certain queries were missing
from the list, you might begin investigating why. How does your site rank and
appear for the query? Is a search results display
compelling? How do your competitors look? Information about improving the
title and snippet display in search results can
be found here. After we’ve investigated by
sorting by clicks, let’s now sort by CTR, clickthrough
rate. High CTR means that your page
probably has a good search result display for the query. Low CTR for a relevant or
qualified query likely means that you’ll want to improve your
search results display. Take note of which queries
aren’t performing as expected, and as before, investigate how
your site appears in search results for the query. Is the title and snippet
compelling to click on? Does it show a unique value
ad to the searcher? With an understanding of
impressions, clicks, and CTR, you’ll likely want to start
organizing your queries into categories that will simplify
tracking them and making improvements. For example, for the Webmaster
Central blog, I might want to break down our queries into
branded terms that we definitely should rank for. These are often navigational
queries of users looking for our site. Now, I’ll check my CTR for these
queries to make sure users are able to
reach my site. Another category of queries that
might be useful are those strongly correlated
with conversion. If the goal of our Webmaster
Central blog was to provide readers the latest in Google
News for site owners, we might start categorizing queries that
match this goal, like “Google SEO tips 2012” and
“Google SEO secrets 2012.” I might also notice that
searchers use technical terms to find our site. So I might have another category
on how our site performs for technical
instruction. For each of these categories,
I’ll make sure to understand the user’s mindset as they
perform the query, where they’re located, and even
whether their device might change their behavior. Then, whether my page’s search
result display is compelling. Furthermore, if they click on
my site, does the content match their expectations, and
are we providing a great user experience? Back at the main Search Queries
page, let’s now check out the Top Pages tab. If you sort your top pages by
clicks, you can see that, for a given date range, these
are the pages most visited by searchers. Whereas before we saw the
queries that brought our site the most traffic, now we’re
seeing the pages most visited by searchers. It’s probably pretty obvious
that you’ll want to investigate these pages to make
sure that they’re clear, well written, and provide an
easy way for a visitor to further navigate your site,
buy your product, or otherwise convert. You can gain a better sense of
what users are doing on these pages through Google
Analytics. Next, you can sort top
pages by impressions. Because these pages are often
shown to users in search results, it’s likely that
Google considers them relevant pages. Given that these top pages are
valuable from a search engine perspective, you can use them
to link to your high quality but lower ranking or less
featured pages for more visibility for users
and search engines. To optimize top pages, first,
accept that top pages for your users and Google might not be
what you originally imagined. Second, check that all top pages
are user friendly and perhaps even conversion
friendly. Third, consider utilizing your
top pages to internally link to your high quality but
lower ranking pages. Search queries and ranking are
an important step in bringing qualified visitors to your
site and meeting your business goals. But remember, they’re
not the only step. For example, better marketing
can lead to more searchers looking for your product
or service. Good content can up-sell
to your visitors. And then, providing a great
user experience can bring direct referrals and
repeat customers. Our team hopes you can make
use of the search queries feature to improve your site. Thanks for your time. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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