Leveraging Search Queries via Google Webmaster Tools

Let's take a look...

It’s fascinating to me how many people have Google Webmaster Tools installed but they don’t do anything with it! The reason you have the darn thing installed and pulling information is so that you can actually do something with it!

One of the biggest areas of use for me is the “Search Queries” section under the Your Site on the Web – I jump in here at least twice a month to review, optimize, and strategically leverage the queries that are being searched that return the results that matter: My blog!

What is a “Search Query?” Glad you asked! It’s simply the keywords and phrases that users around the world are using to search for information and that end up linking directly to your blog. Naturally this is a good thing and the more results that you can provide for more users the more traffic that you’ll get.

But that’s just passively looking at the data, giving it a decent “head nod” and a hearty “Thanks Google!” – most people stop here and don’t do anything with this data. That’s too bad since you have all the opportunity in the world in being more strategic and even more competitive if you decide to leverage this data usefully. Here’s how:

One Simple Example:

In the first image in this post you’ll see that “bye bye 2011” search query is at the top of the list for the last 30 days or so. This makes sense because it’s the beginning of the new year and people are still reflecting about 2011 and how it’s now gone “bye bye,” so to speak.

As I dive into the data I see the proof:

Up and up!

Obviously it’s picked up as the year ended and is continuing to provide traffic to my site – I easily see it dropping out in the next month or two but not after giving me some generous traffic.

The originating post is here: Don’t Forget 2011 as You March Toward 2012. The thing is that this post wasn’t anything special; in fact, it was just a recap of what happened over the course of the previous year. So what exactly gave it so much traction?

Very quickly I walk through the Filters available to me and find out the cold hard facts:

Images!

Apparently the high-return and traffic is because of a specific image on the page and since there’s only one that’s got to be it:

There she is.

Apparently that one image is getting a lot of “juice” and search traffic. Apparently it’s in the top 3 pages in search results! I quickly do a search myself to prove this – there she is, on Page 2 of Google Image Search:

Sweet!

Not too bad, right?

The point of this very quick cursory look (that can be done in a matter of minutes) is to prove this point: Before diving into Search Queries I would never have known that this image is bringing in significant traffic to my blog.

Now, what do I do with this information?

Ok, Now What?

Now that I’m armed with this awesome information I can do a number of things:

  • Optimize that post for even more content related to those search terms to “solidify” the returns even further.
  • Add strategic advertising and contextual marketing for that single blog post to optimize click-thrus and returns. Heck, this could be a big money-maker!
  • Add more secondary/corollary links to help searchers dive in deeper.
  • Create “next step” content to get them to subscribe.
  • Create new content. See below for more information.

These are just a few of many ideas that can be easily implemented once you become aware of the search queries that are performing really well.

One way that I do this very quickly is downloading the entire table and using Google Docs or Microsoft Excel to quickly parse through the data:

Yikes!

I pay particularly close attention to the Top 20 or so and then sort through them by clicks and potentially CTR. I look comprehensively at all the factors and then either optimize those particular posts or I create new ones.

Creating New Content to Exploit Search Queries

One of the strategic ways that I leverage Search Queries is it helps give me an idea of what content is performing really well and clues me into content areas that I may want to invest in even more deeply.

For example, “best twitter app for iphone” is a mega-strategic keyword phrase that I’m doing quite well on. It’s increased over the last few months even though the originating post is a few months old. The CTR is a decent 9% and I get in the Top 5 results on average which is huge.

Why wouldn’t I want to do a follow-up post (or more) to help cement Google’s search results even further and driving even more strategic traffic with those keywords? Makes sense, right?

In this way Search Queries can guide and even provide a content farm for you for future content development and blog posts. This is honestly like peering into the future of your own blog’s growth that it’s almost impossible to ignore the potential!

Filters are powerful!

Going the Distance

This very quick example shows you the simple awesomeness, power, and potential of leverage Search Queries for your blog strategy. Here are some things to continue to do and explore in this one area of Google Webmaster Tools:

  • Filters – Filters are your friend and the more you can deep-dive into each bucket the better. Become comfortable with understanding how to leverage them well per search.
  • Dates – Taking a look at the whole picture (entire existence of blog) besides just the last 30 days is healthy thing to do to get an idea of how Google really sees your blog. You may be surprised at what Google thinks your blog is all about. If it’s not where you want to head then you need to strategize and execute on “teaching” Google what you’re really about.
  • Top Pages – There’s a tab at the top that shares information on your Top Pages – use this in the same way to maximize and optimize those pages that are performing the best. Use them as landing pages for other content or strategic placements for advertisements. Heck, I’ve seen some people build entire businesses off these results.
  • Create a Schedule – Schedule time to dive into these results and make it consistent. That’s the only way that you’ll be able to leverage them effectively. Once a month is good enough to start.

I hope this lesson provides some incredible insight for you today! Let me know if you have any questions and I’d love to hear some of your findings!

[This is part of the Bloggers Guide to Google Webmaster Tools.]