Matt McGee’s post on Search Engine Land last Wednesday “Google’s New Referrer String Includes Ranking Data (At Least For Now)” made me think about a lot of the SEOs I know. It’s a great post, with a lot of valuable information. Not to mention the great comment from WebShare, with detailed instructions how to set up an advanced GA (Google Analytics) filter to track the Rank Data in the referrer string. (I’m testing out the filter with a couple of heavily trafficked clients to see if it lives up to its claims.)
How many SEOs Really Check Their Web Logs?
The problem is, that most SEOs and SEMs I know:
a) have no idea how to check their web logs, and have probably never checked that raw data. Ever.
b) have installed Google Webmaster Tools, if for no other reason, to submit a complete XML sitemap to Google.
The short answer is that not many do. Perhaps Matt’s post will motivate a few more to open up that data, or at the very least find it. And if you still don’t have any desire to open up the Web Logs, then I offer another solution.
Use Google Webmaster Tools “Top Search Queries” to Get Rank Data
It’s all there, you just have to take the time to sort it out (literally) in Excel.
1) Find the “Top Search Queries” link in Webmaster Tools:
2) The Raw Webmaster Tools Data File (Un-Sorted)
Looks nearly unusable, right? And, to be truthful, it can be a bit intimidating unless you know what you’re looking for in that rat’s nest of data.
3) Get Your Sort On
4) Finding Percentage of Clicks and the Position in the SERPs
While it’s much more “manageable” now, that’s still leaves a DaVinci-esque code to be broken. What does all that data mean, and more importantly, how do I know?
Here’s a sample string from the spreadsheet above (marked to distinguish):
[water brake dyno (a), 2% (b), 6 (c)]
a ) is the keyword term search and/or clicked on by the user
b) Still on the fence for this stat. Could be the percentage the term is searched (which doesn’t seem likely). Or it is the popularity of the term in conjunction with the other keywords in the grouping. And, you’ll notice that all the percentages add up to 100%, which leads me to believe that my latter assertion is more than likely correct.
c) is the position in SERPs. Yes it’s true. Test for yourself. Open up the data in webmaster tools and, without being logged into your Google account, search for the term in question. You’ll find, 9 times out of 10, this is exactly where the term is*.
*My only caveat to “C” is that is seems to be taken at a “snapshot”. On the terms I’ve looked at, the position is up or down one. But other than that, it’s fairly accurate.
So, if you don’t feel comfortable checking web logs, or just don’t want to go through the hassle, Google Webmaster Tools will also provide the same data.