How to use Google’s new Search Performance reports

If you haven’t tried the new reports in Search Console, find out how easy it is to use. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to make use of the Search Performance reports.

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Google recently released a beta version of its new Search Console tool, formerly known as Webmaster Tools. As a regular user of the platform I was pretty pumped about this update, given that the old platform was, putting it bluntly, horrible.

Not only does the new version look a lot nicer, but the quality of data has improved too, particularly within the Search Performance report, which is essentially a new and improved version of the old Search Analytics.

The most significant update in my mind is that Google has finally bowed to user demand and extended the data range of the reports from 9 months to 16 months, which allows for longer term keyword trend analysis and crucially, year-on-year comparisons. What’s more, Google has said that in the near future this data will be made available via the Search Console API, making it easier for marketers to analyse data outside of Search Console itself.

This may not seem like a big deal, but ever since Google started encrypting almost all organic keyword data in Analytics reports (thanks a lot, Google), it’s been pretty much impossible to see which keywords drive clicks to specific landing pages. While there’s still a disconnect between Search Console and Analytics, which makes tracking click through to conversion difficult, having more visibility over keyword performance certainly helps a lot.

Having now spent a couple of months using the Search Performance tool, I thought I’d share some of the ways I’ve been putting the reports to use.

Identifying new content opportunities

Keyword research is a critical component of any successful SEO campaign. However, many fall short here by focusing exclusively on a handful of high volume, high competition keywords, thus failing to acknowledge the large numbers of long-tail opportunities that also exist.

Via clicteq.com

These lower volume, less competitive terms are absolute gold for marketers looking to attract higher quality traffic to their site. Using the queries report, we can view all keywords that have resulted in clicks or impressions during the past 16 months, including all of the long-tail terms we may never have considered previously. This can also be reviewed on a page by page basis, segmented by device type, geographical location, and so on.

These long-tail terms can be great for triggering new content ideas, or simply adding weight to already well performing landing pages.

Comparing mobile vs desktop search queries

It’s no secret that users search differently on a mobile device than they do on a desktop. Using the  Search Performance report, we are able to view keyword data for both device types, either separately, or side by side. From this, we can make decisions about how best to optimise content for mobile users, for example. I’ve been playing around with this a lot recently and the results are always really interesting.

Keywords blurred for privacy, but you get the idea. Emoji represents me, interested.

Brand vs non-brand

Analysing branded keywords can reveal a lot about online brand awareness, and peaks in activity can help gauge the success of other marketing and PR activities. This is particularly useful for small businesses and startups looking to make a name for themselves, or businesses looking to expand into new territories.

By looking back at branded keyword clicks over time, it’s possible to see whether awareness is increasing or decreasing. This can be viewed in general, or segmented by country or device, for example.

Long-tail brand terms can also reveal a lot about the type of information users are searching for. For example, if lots of users are searching for the brand name plus ‘discount code’, ‘reviews’, or ‘jobs’, and clicking through to the homepage (or not clicking at all), it could be an indication that some new landing pages need to be built.

Top tip: Doing any actual analysis within Search Analytics is a bit of a nightmare. Instead, I’d advise applying the filters you need, setting the date range, then exporting the data into a spreadsheet for some proper crunching. Nom.

If you haven’t yet got a Search Console account set up for your website, go and do it now. It’s super easy to use, and you don’t have to be an SEO expert to make use of the Search Performance reports – anyone can export a top level report and benefit from the data.

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