Turning Google Search Queries Data into Actionable Insights

Anyone that has ever done SEO work can attest to the fact that it's usually very complex, multi-layered and never as easy as just tweaking one thing here or there to top the SERPs. That is why successful Web workers turn to multiple datasets to try to detect everything they need to change to improve their search results.

Google recognizes the importance of providing users with this information. One of the ways it helps is through the Search Queries feature in its Webmaster Tools. This feature offers data about Google Search queries that returned pages from a user's website. It even allows users to see information about their "top pages," which were seen most often in search results. Webmasters can also specify the period they would like to see data for by using a set of calendar drop-downs (the default is the last 30 days of data).

Often, Web pros can focus too much on search queries and rankings, but there are sometimes bigger gains to make in cleaning up the way a site is crawled or reducing duplicate content. For instance, Google Search Queries can provide a plethora of highly actionable information that can quickly improve a website's SEO performance; one just has to know what they're looking for.

Know Goals
To begin, webmasters should make sure to shift their focus from simply getting as much traffic as they can to seeking out "qualified" traffic, which are the result of qualified queries. These are those searches conducted by users that have a realistic chance of actually liking a user's website and, thus, eventually converting. Seeking out this type of qualified traffic is the best way to keep from wasting time or resources on SEO, while still being able to improve conversion rates. However, in order to attract qualified queries, webmasters must know what they want.

As with any sort of business marketing campaign, Web professionals must be aware of their website's goals (e.g. define their conversions), as well as the specific groups they're targeting, where they're located, what devices they're using and what THEIR objectives are and how those align with business goals.

Search Queries helps webmasters better match their site's content to the queries of their target audience. By selecting "Filter," users can get a breakdown of all of the countries that visitors to their site are located. If good amount of visitors are coming from a specific country, webmasters should evaluate if their site is currently meeting the needs of these users or if it would be worth the investment to make sure that they do. The Filter also shows the search types (e.g. Web or image) that most frequently include their site in the results, which again enables them to alter their sites' content to appeal to those searchers.

(Note: For those who are going to do research on individual queries, make sure to do it in a browser that doesn't store cookies and not when logged into a Google account, so that personalization doesn't affect the results.)

Click on This
A great way to pull out qualified traffic data is to change one's Google Webmaster Tools homepage to sort by clicks, rather than the default sorting by impressions, which can refer to both qualified and unqualified queries. Clicks, on the other hand, will display those searches that bring one's site the most traffic, in essence telling them what they're already doing well before they go back to make any changes.

Modifying the date range when looking at clicks may also bring up different results and once a webmaster has started using Search Queries, it would be a good idea to keep track of their data going forward, as Webmaster Tools only stores information for up to three months.

However, if the goal is to see years of search history to track various trend periods (e.g. holidays), the webmasters have to download the information. They should then look at their top query results to see if they're the queries they would expect, if they come from qualified traffic and how they can improve the display of their page (or pages) in the SERPs to drive even more traffic.

This can be easily done by clicking on the query in Search Queries, which will then show the pages that appear in the results for that query. For example, if they see different URLs with duplicate content, they can improve their rankings by removing that from their sites. When looking at this information, it is important to see where one's site ranks, how it is displayed and how its competitors rank and look.

Another way to check a site's performance with qualified queries is to sort by click-through rate (CTR), where a high number shows that a page has a compelling search result appearance, while a low figure says the opposite. Important queries to monitor with CTRs are branded terms and categories that reflect a site's goals and user intent.

Page Numbers
Finally, when a user sorts his or her Top Pages by clicks, Search Queries will show which pages were most visited by searchers during the filtered period of time, and clicking on that page's URL will show all of the queries that the page ranks for. It makes sense, then, that users would want to go back and optimize these pages to make sure the content on it is optimized and the page as a whole makes it easier for visitors to convert.

Webmaster can also sort their Top Pages by impressions, which shows the pages on a website that Google considers the most valuable. With this information, users can link to these Top Pages to some of their lower-ranking pages of high quality to try to help improve their search rankings, as well.

Site Improvement is a Step Away
Search Queries in Google Webmaster Tools provides a lot of useful information that can help improve a site's rankings for qualified queries and eventually increase conversions, as a result. The real secret to making the most of this particular tool is for webmasters to accept that some of the results may not be what they expected (e.g. some of their favorite Web pages may not be the best performing or the even most likely to bring in quality traffic). Those willing to go with the data they're given and make the necessary adjustments, will enjoy a noticeable boost in their SEO efforts.