Learning How to Use Google Webmaster Tools for Content Strategy

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Everyone knows that great content is critical to a website’s success.  If you know a thing or two about SEO, you track which content people link to and which pages rank for which keywords. Moreover, if you are an expert, you also track your page value, which reflects the page’s participation in conversions.

In this post, I am going to show you how to use Google Webmaster Tools to scale your content strategy and focus on the most profitable methods.

First Stop: Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)

1. In GWT, go to Traffic.  Traffic -> Search Queries.  Select Top Pages tab and With Change.

2. Click the “Download this table” button.

picture23. Go to Links to Your Site. Find Your Most Linked Content and click “More”.

4. Download this table.

Next Stop: Data Modification

1. Add a sheet to your Excel. Copy all pages from Top Pages and from Links.  Remove duplicates (Data -> Remove Duplicates).

2. Add a column labeled Category.  You will need to go through the pages and categorize them. The easiest way is to follow your site structure. You can also create fewer categories and group them by concept.  For example, if you group them by sales funnel steps, you will have informational pages, conversion pages, educational pages (blog), etc. – whatever works for your analysis.

In my example, I have five categories: brand, geo-centered pages, specials, information, and other (Brand is Home Page of the site.) but you might have a couple more. The rest is based on the content I want to evaluate.  This is a local business, so I want my content to cover all geographical inquiries.  I want to showcase my specials and provide enough information about the services and the areas to attract potential customers.  Everything else goes into other.

lyena33. Turn the data into a table: click on one of the cells with text and click Insert -> Table. Convert all sheets into tables.  The data will be easier to work with.

4. Go to links tab, add a column Links.  You will be adding information on how many links the pages have.  Use VLOOKUP to pull the number of links from Links tab (Table2).  Some of the pages will not have links.  I use IFERROR function to put zero into the cell.  Your function will look like this: =IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A2,Table2[#All],2,0),0)

5. Next, add a column Categories and use VLOOKUP function to populate your pages categories.  The formula will look something like this: =VLOOKUP(Table3[[#This Row],[Page]],Table6[#All],2,0)

6. And finally, add another column: Up.  This one needs a little explanation.  I want to compare the change in click-through rate (Change3) and clicks (Change2).  I want to see a trend when my content is not only getting more impressions and, therefore, clicks, but also when it is getting more relevant to the query (CTR going up). So, if the CTR change is larger than change in clicks, I put 1 in the cell; if not – the value is zero.  Here is the formula. =IF(Table3[[#This Row],[Change3]]>Table3[[#This Row],[Change2]],1,0)

Look at columns J,K, and L below.

lyena4Now you are ready for the charts.

Stop Three: Charts

Start by creating Pivot Tables. Create a table from your landing pages sheet showing impressions, clicks and links by category. Add “Going up?” column to see which ranking is improving.

lyena5 lyena6Now use average position as the main factor, add categories. Group average position into top 3, 4-10, etc.  The combination should work with your website.

lyena7 lyena8Let’s look at the carts. Here are some insights from the data.

lyena9Brand pages are strong. Clicks are adequate and links seem to support the brand pages.  Change in clicks does not exceed change in impressions.
Action: there is not much to do here except continue to build links to the brand pages.

Geo pages receive a lot of impressions, but few clicks. The clicks are growing faster than the impressions.  That indicates that the pages are increasingly more relevant to the query.
Action: continue working on promoting the geo pages. Build links to the best performing ones. Zoom in on specific pages that demonstrate a significant increase in click-throughs.

Specials pages are quite visible in SERPs, but the click-through rate is not impressive. There are also very few links. This indicates that the pages are not relevant to the queries.
Action: look at the meta-descriptions and optimize them.  Analyze queries for specials and change page titles. Build links to specials pages.

Info Pages:Though visible, they generate very few clicks. Links are virtually non-existent. The clicks are trending up, compared to impressions.
Action: work on optimizing titles and meta -descriptions. Build links to the info pages, making them relevant to your brand and your product.

lyena10

Brand: Only 3 brand pages appear on the first page of the SERPs.
Action: create more brand pages

Geo: There are many pages in the top three as well as throughout the SERPs.
Action:
find under-performing pages in the top three positions and optimize them.

Specials are visible in SERPs. Is the click-through rate good?
Action: 
try to move important pages from average position 4-10 to the top 3.

Info pages are very visible in the top 3 positions, then the number quickly drops off.
Action: 
evaluate the sales funnel of the info pages. Is there clear call to action that moves visitors deeper into the sales funnel? What is the conversion rate of those pages?  Can you optimize them to do better?

There are more observations when we compare both charts side by side.

Brand pages generate the most impressions on the first page of SERPs.
Action: create more brand pages, build links to them.

Geo pages get a lot of impressions because many of them appear in the top 3 positions in the SERPs. It is clear that they are relevant to the query, but the click-through rate is too low. Geo pages clearly need optimization.
Action: start with modifying titles and meta-tags for these pages. Then, try to move some of the pages from second page on SERPs to first page.

Specials pages rank well, but the click-through rate is very low.
Action: Find popular queries and optimize the pages to fit the searcher’s intent better.

Info pages are well represented in the top 3 search engine results, but the clicks are very few. The reason could be either the pages are not informative enough, or there is ambiguity in the search query (Ex: searching for “apple” do you mean the fruit or the company?)
Action: analyze the pages and find out why the click through rate is so low. Start with top ranking and low performing pages and improve relevance.

Prioritize

Now that you know what content you need to focus on, prioritize your actions by the easiest and most rewarding tasks first.

In our example, I will start optimizing specials pages and geo pages. Analyze the query to determine searcher’s intent and then test better calls to action on the landing pages. Finally, I would improve the info pages with the goal to move the visitors to specials pages or other conversion pages.

Once you have the overall content performance picture, you can start drilling down and looking at specific pages. Optimize the ones that are improving in ranking for better CTR.

What are your tips for content optimization?

Lyena is Director of Search at Milestone Internet Marketing.  She leads SEO and analytics teams in an effort to improve conversions and revenue for the clients. Lyena has 18 year experience in SEO, analytics, website usability and navigation. She has diverse technical background in developing websites, applications, databases, data analysis, etc.