“It’s like free traffic.” This is how you can use Google Webmaster Tools to easily grow your traffic.
Update: Moz Analytics has incorporated a simular strategy into the “keyword opportunities” portion of their analytics suite. This is yet another reason why I love Moz, and why I recommend using them.
When I start optimizing a new site, my mind naturally starts categorizing “tasks” by their difficulty and their ROI. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of putting in “Hustle” and doing whatever it takes to produce a positive result. In fact, my high-quality approach to SEO keeps landing me in Google spreadsheets sorting through data. Sometimes I feel like SEOs are the accountants of marketing.
Despite our demand for excellence, it’s nice to find a quick-win every once in a while that will still produce excellent results.
This is one of those quick-wins. Google Webmaster Tools is literally pregnant with free traffic. This blog post will show you how to boost your rankings on long tail keywords that you should be ranking for anyway. Don’t forget, long tail keywords should make up between 60-70% of all your traffic.
Google Webmaster Tools has a “search queries” tab that will tell you how you are ranking for keywords. When your site makes an impression in the search results, it will show up in GWMT even if the searcher didn’t click on your link. I like to use the search queries list to see what keywords I’m ranking for on page 2, 3, 4…etc. To find the GWMT search queries list simply navigate to,
Webmaster Tools> Your Profile > Traffic > Search Queries.
I like to scroll down to the keywords that your ranking #5-#40 and perform on-site optimizations on those pages to boost my ranking. Here is the step by step plan.
First, you’ll want to export your search queries into Google Docs and sort them by rank. To sort your spread sheet by rank simply,
Highlight the entire spreadsheet. Click Data > Sort Range > Select the column that has rankings in it > Sort A → Z.
Delete the keywords that you don’t want to rank for, and the phrases that you are already in the top three positions for (unless you’ve never tried to optimize those pages) and keep the keywords that you want to rank for.
Now that you have keywords left that you want to rank for, dump them into Google Keyword Tool, and sort them by popularity. Here you will find a few keywords that aren’t worth targeting, put them into a new list (don’t delete them.) Instead of neglecting the low volume keywords, try to find a higher searched version of that phrase. If you can find a more popular version of your keyword, then optimize for that instead.
Now that you have the list of keywords (in order of popularity) put them back into a spreadsheet, and map them to the URL that is almost ranking. GWMT will tell you what URL made the impression in SERPS.
You are almost ready to start optimizing. Before you make changes to your posts, do one last “double check.” Make sure the pages you plan to change aren’t already getting search traffic for other keywords. You don’t need to make sure your pages aren’t getting traffic for a more popular keyword.
For this step, you’ll need an SEO crawler that can evaluate individual pages. I use SEOmoz, but if you want to use a free option, you can use the Yoast Word Press SEO plugin. If you don’t use Word Press as a CMS, then you might consider buying Screaming Frog, which is an SEO friendly web crawler and site-map generator.
Start optimizing those pages. Make sure they are über optimized, don’t start keyword stuffing them, but go above and beyond to fill out your pages. Make sure every alt tag, and meta description is filled out. Revisit your Tittles (and in rare cases, you can even 301 the page to a newer page that has an optimized URL.) Make sure every page has images with keywor-ed titles. And lastly, (for WordPress users) assign tags and a category that adds to the keyword.
Pro Tip: Google hates thin content, and for that matter, so do I. Make sure each of your tags and categories are used on more than one post. You can even write static content on each of your category pages. This will give the page more authority, and make it more likely to rank.
Internal links are an easy way to give your pages a little extra authority. Even though they don’t carry as much weight as external links, they still tell search engines what “YOU” think your page should rank for. Remember that these pages are ones that you’re almost ranking for anyway, so all you should need is a little extra push to improve your rankings.
The easiest way to find relevant pages to use during this phase is to do a “Site Search” in Google. You can click the link below to see how it works, just make sure you come back and leave a comment after you figure out your own site search 😉
This search will show you all the pages in your site that already mention your keyword. Remember that you don’t have to use your exact keyword as the anchor text, you can use slight variations of it. For example, you can say things like the fastest, or the best paintball hopper, instead of just “paintball hopper.” It’s good to vary your keywords. It looks more organic that way, and you won’t put your site at risk of a penguin penalty.
Step Six, Measure:
Now it’s time to measure. If you use SEOmoz, then use that to track your new keywords, and see how they improve. If not, then you’ll need to manually record your rankings, and come back in a few days to see if they’ve jumped to the top of the page. I wold love to hear stories of this method working, or even about other ways you use Google Webmaster Tools to help your SEO. Bookmark this page, or follow me on Facebook.