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4 SEO Data Reports You Haven’t Looked at In a While (and Should)

We marketers are drowning in a sea of metrics. We have more numbers, statistics, analytics, percentages, pie charts, line graphs, and data crunching than we know what to do with.

Why in the world am I going to tell you to look at four more?

Here’s why. Often, we look at the same metrics over and over again. We develop a myopic focus on traffic or conversion rates, or whatever it is that we consider to be a KPI.

I don’t have a problem with traffic numbers, conversion rates, or KPIs. What I do want to caution against is neglecting some of the other not-so-obvious data points.

1. Site speed.

Site speed is one of the most fundamental of all website metrics. Unfortunately, it’s not often looked at. Once the site is built, only the lone developer takes time to check site speed metrics.

I think that site speed is one of the most important indicators of a site’s health and performance. What’s more, I think that every CRO and SEO should pay close attention. Here’s why.

By noticing and then improving your site speed, you can gain a major advantage both with your search optimization and more conversions.

The Challenge of Calculating Site Speed

Site speed is a slippery metric. Why? Because you’ll get a variation of speeds, depending on which site speed analysis tool you use, when you test it, and the server you test it on.

Google PageSpeed Insights, for example, may deliver a different page speed score from Pingdom, which is different from GTMetrix.

Here’s the report from GTMetrix — 1.94s.

latest performance report for

And here’s the report from Pingdom — 1.38s.

pingdom screenshot

I analyzed Quicksprout.com on two platforms and not surprisingly got two different results. Further, I analyzed at two different times and got varying results.

Does this mean we shouldn’t trust site speed reports? No. It simply means that we should be aware of the differences, and respond accordingly.

How to get this report

Since site speed reports vary, I recommend that you run several of them. Here are the ones that I recommend:

  • Pingdom.com/fpt. This free website speed test is one of the world’s most popular site speed analyzers.
  • GTMetrix.com. This platform gives you a full PDF report and recommendations.
  • WebPageTest.org. If you want lots of data, including full waterfall charts, WebPageTest is a great tool.
  • Google PageSpeed Insights. Unlike other page speed testers, Google gives a numerical score rather than the time that a website loads.

What to do with the report.

Nearly every website speed report will give a set of recommendations on what to do to improve your page speed.

I recommend that you do everything possible to improve the speed of your website. Faster websites are better both for higher SEO performance and higher conversion rates. Talk to your developer, follow instructions, and put on some speed. Some fixes are very easy, such as optimizing caching times and reducing image size.

Keep in mind, however, that page speed recommendations are impersonal tools. They don’t know your websites, nor what you are trying to achieve with the site.

For example, GTMetrix recommends that I remove query strings from static resources. Heck, I got a failing grade for this!

page speed breakdown

Thankfully, I happen to know that I want those query strings in place. The page speed analyzer is identifying things that it thinks I want to adjust, but I need to understand what’s necessary and what’s not for my particular site goals.

The bottom line is this: Look at your site speed. Analyze your site speed. But take recommendations with a grain of salt.

2. Number of indexed pages.

Search engines crawl your site and add pages to their index of the web. If you have a great site with strong structure, crawlability, and openness, then you should have plenty of indexed pages. If, on the other hand, you have robots.txt issues, canonical complications, duplicate content, and noindex errors, then this number will be skewed.

A low number of indexed pages can signal a serious website problem. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to find out how many pages of your site are indexed in Google

How to get this report.

Go to Google and type in site: [yoursitename]

If your site is indexed (let’s hope it is) you may see a SERP like this one:

google serp quicksprout

My site, Quicksprout.com, has 47,900 indexed pages. That’s the right number of pages, based on my knowledge of how many pages I have (including those that are noindexed.)

You can also check your number of indexed pages in Google Webmaster Tools. Go to Google Index → Index Status.

google webmaster tools march 2015

If your number of indexed pages seems unusually low or you see odd spikes or falloffs, you should check for crawling issues, blocking issues, or even a major penalty such as an unnatural link penalty from Google.

Depending on the nature of your site, you may have a lot of content that is intentionally non-indexable. Keep this in mind when you look at your number of indexed page.

3. Algorithm overlay.

If you’ve never run an algorithm overlay, I highly recommend it. An algorithm overlay essentially pulls your Google Analytics traffic report, and overlays it with the dates and types of various Google algorithm updates.

You’ll see exactly how and why your site traffic may have been impacted. It’s a quick and easy way to understand the effect of an algorithm on your particular site.

When you see a clear correlation between an “algo update” and a traffic loss, you’ve gained some powerful information.

How to get this report.

Visit the Barracuda Panguin Tool (Not sure why they call it panguin.) Log in using your Google Analytics credentials.

This is the report that I pulled up for a client’s site:

panguin 2 point 1

What to do with the report.

Taking action on an algo overlay report is pretty straightforward. Find out if your traffic dropped. Then, figure out what algorithm update was responsible for the drop.

You can check out Moz’s Algorithm Change History page to drill down on the exact update that prompted the loss. There are a spate of articles dealing with both Penguin and Panda recovery that should help you figure out the next steps.

4. Number of 404s.

The 404 is a common fixture of the web age. The 404 is essentially an error that tells you that a page you’re looking for doesn’t exist. I’m sure you’ve seen it before.

kissmetrics-404-page-updated-branding

The Google Webmaster Blog says quite plainly that “404s are a perfectly normal part of the web.” But 404s do inform about something.

For some reason, a visitor is trying to access a page on your site that is not there. Why? If there are lots of such visitors, then it could indicate a potential traffic source.

How to get this report.

The best way to get your number of 404s is by going to Google Webmaster Tools → Crawl → Crawl Errors. Here’s an example of what you might see:

google webmaster tools site errors

Other applications such as Screaming Frog also display your site’s 404s.

What to do with the report.

It seems counterintuitive, but 404s are a great source of link potential. One quick fix you can do is customizing your existing 404 pages to create links to a bunch of random internal pages on the site. When you do this, more pages get indexed, and the site gains more traffic.

You may also find that a lot of your 404s come from old broken links. If you notice a lot of 404 traffic coming from a single site, reach out to the webmaster of that site and ask him or her to fix the broken link.

Conclusion

Data is important. But data is only helpful if it gives us actionable information. These four reports that you can generate for free are a great way to get started uncovering some not-so-obvious features of your web performance.

About the Author: is a lifelong evangelist of Kissmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

  1. Great article! These reports are often overlooked so this is definitely useful to keep in mind.

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