How B2B Marketers Can Leverage Google’s Search Performance Reports
At the beginning of the year, Google announced the beta release of a new Search Console experience. For search marketers, the most significant part of this announcement was that 16 months of data would be available in Google Search Console’s Search Performance report.
What this means for B2B marketers is that more information about how an organization’s web pages perform in Google search results can be realized and evaluated.
Now that marketers have access to an even larger set of keyword data, this post outlines four key areas of Google search performance report that B2B marketers should leverage.
About Search Console / Search Performance Reporting
Google Search Console is a free Google resource for site owners, administrators, and marketers, to get “data, tools, and diagnostics needed to create and maintain Google-friendly websites and mobile apps.”
While that might sound technical, the revamped beta interface makes things more user friendly for marketers in particular.
Google Search Console provides marketers with the following digital marketing related insights:
- Insight into how often web pages appear for various keywords (search queries), when searchers click into those web pages, a web page’s average position in search results, and the average position in search results that the site appears for a given keyword. This is Google’s search performance reporting.
- What web pages Google knows about of an organization’s website and ways to fix pages that could not be indexed.
- Notifications when Google thinks there is an issue on a website, with instructions how to fix the issue.
Of course, there are other components of Search Console that can be pretty valuable as well (albeit a bit more technical). For this post, we’re focusing on ways B2B marketers can leverage the extended data set and revamped experience of Google’s Search Performance reports.
Year-over-Year Trend Analysis
Last year I wrote a post outlining actionable insights B2B marketers can realize with Google’s search performance report, regardless of timeframe. This included the following four points of focus:
- Branded versus non-branded search query comparisons
- Visibility of priority keyword themes
- Key page performance in organic search
- New opportunity development for SEO programs
Now, with 16 months of search performance data, B2B marketers have a greater opportunity to assess trends in all four areas, evaluating year-over-year or quarter-to-quarter performance more easily.
For example: In many cases a content marketing campaign focused in a very competitive keyword space will take months, if not quarters, to show significant organic search improvements. Sixteen months of data allows B2B marketers to more easily analyze and document improvement trends directly through Search Console. In the past, this was only accomplished by downloading and maintaining data offline for comparative purposes.
While we typically encouraged our clients to maintain an archive of Search Console performance information, it’s not always clear what information should be archived. A data point that seems significant now may not have been realized a year ago.
By providing easier access to 16 months of data, B2B marketers are better equipped to uncover trends and patterns that would go lost if a complete dataset was not archived in the past.
I suspect a key reason B2B marketers have been slow to adopt Google Search Performance reports is because the existing interface was not as user friendly (for marketing).
Screenshot from the original interface:
In the screenshot above, it’s a bit unclear where to select information or what information to select. I’ve often seen marketers completely overlook the checkboxes for viewing impressions, CTR, or position.
Couple this with the fact that it’s even less intuitive that filters can be further combined to uncover specific insights, it’s not surprising B2B marketers rarely drill into this information.
For the screenshot above, I filtered the report to view performance for a specific blog post, but selected the option to view specific search queries associated to that page, rather than just looking at general page performance in organic search results.
The new search performance report feels more intuitive when filtering data. On one end, adding simple “edit” icons with each data point makes it obvious a marketer can change information.
Further filtering options within the table of results themselves not only makes it easier to compare metrics, but also can spur new insights and considerations for analysis.
In the new interface, marketers can more easily drill into specific data points, such as individual page and website section performance, and groups of related keyword themes and phrases. Marketers can also make comparisons between longer timeframes, and sort by differences within those timeframes.
Mobile versus Desktop Performance
Despite the fact that mobile devices account for over 50 percent of all device usage worldwide (via StatCounter) and Google recently announced plans to roll out mobile-first indexing for search results, B2B marketers may still be slow to adopt mobile-friendly websites, let alone emphasize mobile site optimization efforts.
The new search performance report might become the final piece of the puzzle to push these B2B organizations to action.
One of the reasons B2B companies have been slow to adopt and optimize a mobile-friendly site experience is because the percentage of mobile traffic to their websites may not be significant. Even for KoMarketing, mobile traffic accounts for less than 20 percent and the conversion percentages are drastically lower.
But what about search impressions from searches via mobile device?
The easier-to-use interface provides B2B marketers with more insight into the amount of traffic their organization may be losing by failing to adopt mobile site best practices.
To get to this report, use the “Devices” table option, which is always present when viewing a table of search performance data.
In this screenshot of analysis from the chart above, we can see that despite the fact that traffic from mobile search has only increased 6.8 percent, impressions from mobile searchers have increased 12.6 percent in the same time period.
More importantly, click through rates are 4.2 percent on mobile versus 3.8 percent on desktop. And lastly, the impressions from desktop searchers (despite still being significantly higher) actually declined 10.8 percent in the same time period.
By illustrating these types of developing trends, B2B marketers may finally have the compelling insights to confirming the need to adopt and optimize their mobile-friendly site experience.
Region Specific Growth Patterns
One final and often underutilized area of Search Console’s search performance report is region-specific analysis of organic search trends. This is because awareness in how to filter performance by country, coupled with keyword or page-specific information, was less intuitive.
Similar to the option to view “Devices”, marketers can also choose “Countries” to evaluate search performance.
More and more of the B2B organizations we work with are adopting either global marketing campaigns or focusing on key regions outside the United States.
Whether these organizations fully adopt SEO best practices for multilingual or global site architecture, or simply create pilot campaigns to test results, search performance reports provide better visibility into the impact.
Here are a few practical reasons to use this analysis:
- B2B marketers can compare timelines to assess improvements in traffic and visibility across regions and in association with architectural optimization efforts.
- Evaluate opportunities for growth by documenting organic search impressions in targeted countries and regions.
- Note the impact of country-specific content marketing efforts in association with the CTR (and ultimately conversion rates if further matched in Google Analytics).
I’ll admit to being a skeptic when KoMarketing first received access to the beta interface. As Google acknowledges in the beta rollout, they will be adding functionality over time. My first experiences with the interface were not as positive as they are today and I am excited to see how Google Search Console improves over time.
Having the larger data set for analyzing keyword performance makes it easier to assess trends in content marketing efforts, site architecture improvements (overall and region-specific), and the implementation of typical SEO recommendations.
The interface itself makes it easier to navigate, communicate, and educate clients on performance and SEO recommendations as well.
Has your organization begun adapting reporting to take advantage of Google’s new Search Console and the larger data set for search performance in particular?
I’d love to read your perspective and experiences via comments below.