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5 Ways Local Marketers Can Leverage Google Analytics & Search Console

With all the paid SEO tools out there, it can be difficult to get good SEO data without paying for it. While paid SEO platforms are super useful for creating reports and mining your data more easily (and less manually), you can still get good information from the free tools that Google provides: Google Analytics and Search Console.

Here are the best ways local marketers and SMBs can get the most from free Google data sources.

1. Focus on Metrics that Matter to You

Google Analytics and Search Console contain a LOT of information, which can be daunting to analyze for SMBs and marketers alike. That doesn’t mean we should scrap the data sources altogether. The key to navigating the seemingly infinite numbers and charts is to focus only on the metrics that matter to a particular business.

The first step is setting up goals for Google Analytics to track on your website. Check out Google’s how-to article on setting up goals for your Analytics account.

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Certain metrics matter more to different businesses and industries. Companies that sell products or take orders online will want to focus on those e-commerce metrics. Meanwhile, businesses that want people to sign up for a newsletter or complete a form should track those as their goal conversions in Google Analytics.

Using goal conversion data that’s tailored to your business model, you can then work up the user funnel to determine how your site fares when potential clients land on important pages. Traffic is a great top of funnel metric, but all the visits to your site don’t mean much if people aren’t calling your business, completing forms, or purchasing products.

Analytics has an awesome, somewhat hidden report called the Reverse Goal Path report. This report tells you what page someone was on when he or she completed a goal–as well as the 3 pages the visitor was on before that goal conversion. This report can tell you what common pages users go to before they complete the goals you’ve set up–and what pages are missing from that path.

Other interesting metrics to track include the following:

  • Total users versus new users (see who keeps coming back to your site)
  • Breakdowns by source/medium (organic vs direct vs paid vs social)
  • What days and times your site gets the most visitors

2. Connect to Channels that Matter to You

Local businesses oftentimes have the best angle on marketing channels like Facebook and Instagram. SMBs know exactly what their target audiences and local patrons are looking for, and many use that knowledge to build their brands on social media.

Maybe a business is also bidding to show up in the local pack search ads sections. Or the business is using call tracking software to see what drives people to pick up the phone to call particular locations. If there’s a channel that matters a lot to you, connect it to your Google Analytics account to get a more thorough account of where people are coming from and what marketing efforts are successful.

Check out Google’s official guide on linking to AdWords. By connecting your paid sources, you can figure out which keywords are performing the best and optimize landing pages that may not be performing to your expectations.

Connecting your social media accounts to Analytics can show you how well your posts and pictures convert based on the goals you set up earlier. Social is often a harder channel to associate metrics with, so giving yourself any advantage in attribution for social can help you see it as more than just a brand-building tool.

The user flow report for analytics can tell you what pages people land on the most from your social accounts and where they go from there. It can also tell you interesting insights by social media channel that help you tweak your strategy. Maybe visitors from Facebook mostly land on your homepage while people who come from Instagram land on product pages. What can you do with that information to improve your business?

You can also create call tracking dashboards in Google Analytics to figure out how to attribute phone calls to you local business. Calls are notoriously hard to track, and (along with remembering to ask every caller) trying to get 100% accurate from, “How did you hear about us?” won’t happen.

3. Use Reports that Reflect Your Business

Along with finding the metrics that make the most sense for your situation, it’s important to determine which reports best serve specific business needs. A report on international traffic to your site is useless if a business doesn’t serve clients outside a local area. And information about e-commerce sales mean nothing to businesses who don’t sell online.

There are tons of useful Google Analytics Custom Reports and Dashboard templates that give you a glimpse into what matters for your business. Here are some that could be beneficial for local businesses based on industry or business type.

The mobile performance report from Kissmetrics (#4 on their list) can tell you how well your local site is optimized for mobile devices. Since mobile-first indexing is coming our way quickly, it’s important that your website is responsive and that the pages load quickly on all non-desktop devices. If a user clicks your Google My Business listing to get information from your site, and your business website is too slow to load or isn’t compatible with the device, there’s a good chance your prospect will click the back button and choose someone else.

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The top keywords and content report from econsultancy (a little over halfway down) can help local businesses figure out which landing pages produce the most goal completions, the long-tail keywords that drive users to your site, and the bounce rates that indicate whether your content is serving user needs.

See what custom reports or dashboards are out there in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery, and let that be your one-stop shop for the at-a-glance info you need.

4. Mark Up Your Site the Easy Way

One of the cool features in Search Console is the Data Highlighter. The Data Highlighter through Search Console can be a great tool to help you mark up your site for specific indicators.  

Elements that would be useful for local businesses to highlight include Events, Local Businesses, Restaurants, and Products. By highlighting this data in the Data Highlighter, you’re giving your business the advantage for rich snippets in search engine results pages.

Check out Google’s how to video to highlight your data in Search Console. It’s much easier than you think.

5. Search Analytics Data for Local Businesses

Also in Search Console, the Search Analytics section is a minefield of data for digital marketers. In this section, you can look at impression, click, and ranking (position) data. You can use this data to see where the holes in your online strategy are. If you filter by page, you can see what queries it’s ranking for.

If you filter by device, you can see what people search on their mobile phones versus on a desktop. If someone is out shopping and needs what your local business offers ASAP, they’ll probably search it on their phones. This device data can tell you what’s important to people who are interested in buying soon, for example.

Just remember that Search Console data only lasts 90 days, so it’s important to go in and look at it regularly.

It can seem like the only good data you can get for local SEO, digital marketing, and keyword research is from paid sources. However, the free sources have almost all the data you could need to show you how your current efforts are faring and how you can plan your next quarter of local marketing strategy–it just takes a little digging!

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