The Google Whisperer’s Guide to Measuring the Impact of SEO

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Google Whisperer’s Guide to “Not Set” in Google Analytics banner

The Google Whisperer’s Guide to Measuring the Impact of SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is one of those marketing tactics that dealers recognize as a wise investment. However, understanding the impact of SEO is not like paid search. With paid search, you set budgets and bids and success is measured by the cost per click or cost per conversion. SEO, on the other hand, is equal parts science and magic. There is no budget you can set to guarantee a certain number of visitors to your site. So how do you start measuring the ROI of your SEO? Since data and SEO are two of my favorite things, this month’s Google Whisperer Guide is all about how to start measuring the impact of your SEO with Google’s tools.

Before we start looking at the numbers, it is essential to level set about the limitations of tracking in SEO. Many people refer to SEO as earned media, which means it cannot be purchased. With over 200 different factors that can make a site rank in the search results, it’s next to impossible to show a direct cause and effect from SEO work to traffic. You can do all the things right and not see benefits from that work. Google does not directly tell you what these ranking factors are. The goal of search engines is to provide the most accurate search results for an individual searcher. This means that two people doing the same search can get very different search results. You have no control over when your site will see the benefits of your SEO strategy. Search engines such as Google and Bing are crawling at their own pace. SEO is about being visible when the search happens. All that lack of control is frustrating, but this shouldn’t scare you away from SEO. It is important to be honest and level set about the limitations of reporting on SEO. However, the good news is that Google gives every dealer a few tools, for free, to help calculate that ROI. Let us now talk about Google My Business, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics and how those three come together to help you calculate the impact of SEO.

Google Search Console: Google Search Console, or Webmaster Tools, is Google’s organic equivalent to Google Ads and is free for all users. Once you verify your website, you can access the data for all the organic impressions, clicks, pages, organic click-through rate, and organic average position.  

So, how do you use all this good data? After you have implemented an SEO strategy, Search Console will help you to see the impact of that work. For example, if your SEO focuses on trucks, Search Console will let you track the different keywords you are showing up for, the clicks your site is getting, plus the pages that Google is indexing. An increase of truck-related impressions means the SEO is working and Google is showing your site more for truck-related terms. Search console will give you specific queries shoppers use. In the example here, you see a range of truck-related keywords, impressions, and clicks. Do not be alarmed if you log into Search Console and don’t see the impact of your strategy right away. SEO is a marathon and not a sprint, so you won’t see the instant impact like you do with paid search.

google search console dealer example
search console dealer keywords

Part of SEO means growing your unbranded visibility or searches that do not include your dealership name. The great thing with Search Console is that the built-in filters will allow you to exclude any query that includes your dealership name. To do that, you click on the “new filter” button under the performance report. Change the filter setting to “queries not containing” and then type in your dealership name. The reports will update to show only those unbranded impressions and clicks.  

search query filter for unbranded dealer

Google My Business: Your GMB listing is the business card or first impression for most dealers. It is the source of almost half of all your organic website traffic. Since all the traffic from GMB is organic, the optimization of your GMB listing should be part of your SEO strategy. You are not left in the dark with the impact GMB can have. GMB provides an insights section in their dashboard. It will tell you how people are searching for your dealership, what devices are being used, and what actions people took. You should be using a local call tracking number on that GMB listing, so you can ensure you give SEO credit even if the shopper doesn’t visit the website. Tag every link on your GMB with the proper UTM, including any post and product. Those tags will allow you to associate GMB traffic with specific actions on your website, such as click-to-call, inventory searches, and emails submitted.  

GMB insights for dealer

Google Analytics: Once you have looked at impressions in Search Console and your Google My Business activity, the last stop is website activity in Google Analytics. This is where you will be able to “see” the benefits of that organic strategy. There are a few different ways to look at your organic traffic in GMB. The first is by creating segments to identify all the traffic coming from Google My Business. Since you have all the URLs tagged up properly, a simple segment that looks for the campaign of “gmb” will show you what the visitors from GMB did on your site. From the example below, we can directly attribute chats, phone calls, and vehicle activity to Google My Business.  

GA data

For every piece of new content you create, Google Analytics will also give you the breakdown engagement of that page. Taking the truck example, we can examine the traffic that comes into your new SEO content by navigating to Behavior>Landing Page. From here, you can check out the bounce rate and average session duration for your new content. With SEO, you want to see a lower bounce rate and a higher avg. session duration than other channels. Those are two key signs that people are reading and connecting with the new content. By adding in the “source/medium” secondary dimension, you can start to see a breakdown of the organic channels. While this is Google’s world, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo drive traffic, and it’s good to be aware of that bigger picture.    

landing pages in Google Analytics

Evaluating the ROI of SEO isn’t a skill that can happen overnight. It takes some practice to understand the numbers and patience to wait for the search engines to catch up with the work you have done. If this all seems like a lot, do not worry. View my webinar – “The A-Z of Google Updates” to get caught up on all things Google.  


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