Every campaign must begin with comprehensive research.
From making sure that your initial benchmarks are correct to performing an in-depth competitor analysis, you must make sure that your data is accurate and complete from the start.
- How is your site currently doing?
- What keywords are you ranking for?
- What keywords are your competitors ranking for?
- How many links does your site currently have?
- What backlinks do your competitors have?
- What errors does your site have from a technical standpoint?
Launching an SEO campaign without gathering this data is like scuba diving at night without a headlamp. You will have no direction and can end up anywhere, possibly inside a shark’s mouth, instead of at the top of Google results.
This next section will go over various data points and where to get this information. For all of these data points, we use Semrush or Google products.
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Benchmarking using Google Analytics and Google Search Console
If you already have Google Analytics installed and acquire data, you can get various data points by clicking on Audience Overview, Acquisition Overview and Audience Benchmarking.
There are numerous tutorials on understanding Google Analytics, and most of the data is simple to understand.
If you are a Google Data Studio user, you can create a report to track and benchmark your data using one of the available templates.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
All-in-one Search Console template
Google Analytics Acquisition overview
Once you have explored Google Analytics and Google Search Console and have created your benchmarking reports, we can start analyzing data from Semrush.
Bird’s-eye view of your site’s benchmark report
We’ll start by getting an overview of how the website is currently performing. The following screenshot shows the Domain overview report in Semrush:
This report provides a variety of data points about the site’s current health, including:
- Organic search traffic
- Paid search traffic
- Top organic keywords
- Top paid keywords
- Total number of keywords that are ranking
- Indexed pages
- Keywords by Intent
You can click through this report to get more detailed information or export this report to get an overview of all of your initial baseline data.
Next, we’ll create an actual report to download with custom data.
Create a baseline report
For this report, we’ll use the Semrush reporting feature.
In Semrush, create a project for your site. Start by running a site audit. Once the audit data is complete, create a new report. Here’s an example of a baseline report template:
You can use this template to create your own and use the Quick Modify to switch out the URL.
Go to Organic Research and type in your website domain. The following organic research report will be generated:
Pay close attention to the numbers under Keywords, Traffic, Traffic Cost and Branded/Non-Branded Traffic. These are great metrics to track as your campaign progresses.
Here’s what they mean:
- Keywords: The number of keywords your site is ranking for in the top 100.
- Traffic: Estimated traffic based on the number of keywords ranking, their position, and the estimated volume.
- Traffic cost: This is what you would have to pay Google Ads to gain the visibility that you have organically. This number increases as you rank for keywords that are more transactional and lower in the buying funnel. The higher people are willing to bid for those keywords, the higher the value. This is a great metric to ensure the site is not just targeting keywords with no transactional value and is a great way to anchor a “value” to your organic SEO campaign.
- Branded Traffic: Keywords that include your brand name. This is influenced by brand awareness, social media campaigns, and traditional advertising methods.
- Non-Branded Traffic: Keywords that do not include your brand name.
Next, you can look at the specific graphs, toggling between keywords and traffic. Here’s the graph for the Organic Keywords Trend box:
This example shows all the potential keywords from the top three on down, but you can select using the checkboxes which ones you want to display:
Are your organic traffic and keywords trending up or down? Are they changing over time?
You can also click on Traffic to see the estimated traffic graph:
Notice that you can change the date range of the time to see All time or two years, one year, six months or one month.
When you click on the positions tab, you will see the following screen:
This section lets you dive deeper into your keyword rankings to determine how many of them rank for specific positions.
You can also export your keyword ranking report into a spreadsheet that will tell you metrics like the following:
- Intent – is the keyword at the top, middle, or bottom of the buying funnel?
- Position – the position of the ranking of your particular keyword.
- SF – search features, such as knowledge graph, maps, or People Also Ask boxes.
- Diff. – this tells you about any changes in the position of your particular keyword.
- Traffic – estimated traffic based on the current position and the estimated volume.
- Traffic % – the percentage of traffic driven to the website with the given keyword for the specified period.
- Volume – the keyword’s overall search volume over the past month averaged out over 12 months over the past month.
- KD (Keyword Difficulty) – this is an estimate of how hard it would be to rank for that keyword in the search results. When the percentage is high, this increases the difficulty.
- CPC (USD) – the cost-per-click of a given keyword in USD.
- URL – this column is the URL ranking in Google’s search results for that given keyword.
- Last update – this is when a given keyword was last updated in Semrush
Export this table and save using the date first run to use this table for your benchmarking reports.
When you click on the Position Changes tab, you should see the following:
If you briefly scan the overview of the keyword changes report, you will see the following headings:
- All position changes – this shows the total number of keyword changes for the analyzed domain.
- New – this is the total number of new keywords actually ranking.
- Improved – this shows the number of keywords for which an analyzed domain has improved its ranking in the SERPS.
- Declined – this shows the number of keywords that have declined in performance.
- Lost – this one shows the number of keywords for which an analyzed domain has entirely lost its position in the SERPs.
This data can help you figure out where to place your SEO priorities as part of benchmarking. You can use these keyword/page combinations to focus your SEO efforts and create SEO experiments as your campaign progresses.
Next, let’s look at what pages are performing well on your site and how many keywords each page ranks for.
This section gives you specific metrics such as:
- URL – the page the metrics are being compiled for.
- Traffic – the amount of estimated organic traffic driven to an analyzed domain.
- Traffic % – the percentage of traffic driven to the site.
- Keywords – this is the number of keywords that a given URL is ranking for in the top 100 Google search results.
- Ads keywords – this shows the number of keywords bringing users in via the paid ads being published in the Google SERPs.
- Backlinks – the number of total backlinks being pointed to a particular URL.
If you click on one of the pages, you’ll get more details for each specific page.
The subdomains tab of Semrush’s organic research can uncover critical subdomain information, such as making determinations in strategy based on subdomain removal (if desired), 301 redirect removal (if needed) and elements that are weighing down the domain or may need to be removed.
Now that you have a strong understanding of your site’s current status, the next step is to investigate your competitors and the competitive landscape.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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