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How to Find the “Right” Keywords and Track Their Effectiveness Through Google Analytics

The following article explores two common questions we’re hearing from our Digital Marketing clients. Whilst I’d encourage you to read through the rationale for the thinking behind the commentary below, you can jump directly to the area you’re interested in using these links;

Interpretation beyond analysis

As business owners, marketers, and business analysts, we understand the vital importance of having the right data at your fingertips to make informed decisions. For as many as 50 million websites, the go to tool of choice for collecting this data online is Google Analytics.

With the ubiquitous nature of Google Analytics there are countless guides and documents informing of how to collect a certain type of data, and how to create “this” report or measure “that” metric. Whilst understanding the techniques to gather and report data is important, with any “forensic” activity, the real skill is in how you interpret those results.

With this in mind, within this article I’ll be looking to explain not only the techniques we use at Urban Element for collecting the data we use, but also examining the “why” we’re collecting and how that data might be interpreted to make bigger picture conclusions.

What do you want from Google Analytics?

As the clients we work with become increasingly more informed there has been a notable change in the drive of questions we hear, from “what can we measure?” to “what can we learn?” and “how can we find out xyz from our data?" Let’s take a look at two of the more frequently asked Google Analytics questions we’re hearing.

1) How can I use Google Analytics to find the right keywords?

Whilst I wouldn’t recommend using Google Analytics in isolation to research keywords, there are a number of useful insights that Google Analytics can give you that are more difficult to surface via other keyword tools. Keyword discovery tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Tool, and SEMRush can give data behind search demand for keywords that you’d like your website to appear for. However, that should only be your start point.

Dive deeper than just volume

A common approach to keyword optimisation is to look for keywords, or search terms, that are searched for in volume and are unambiguously associated with your service or product. Once you have a list of keywords and volumes you may well chose to optimise a page on your website for the most popular of those terms. Let’s look at an example within the budget car market.

Example: look beyond attracting just volume, optimise for the keywords that are most effective

In this example a site selling cars has created a page specifically targeting the budget end of the market, cars under £4,000. Having carried out keyword research two main keywords are found:

  • Cheap cars: has 1000 searches each month
  • Affordable cars: has 200 searches a month

Both keywords have a similar level of competition. The easy assumption would be to optimise the budget cars page for the “Cheap cars” term as it has more volume. This is where looking at our Google Analytics data can help us choose the more valuable term.


In this example the term “cheap cars” brings in 1,000 visits every month, a fair amount more than the term “affordable cars”. On face value you might surmise that efforts should be put solely into the term “cheap” cars. However, using Google Analytics you can uncover exactly how effective each of these keywords is in turning traffic into conversion.

On further inspection you can see that downstream from the original visit the “affordable cars” term is far more effective at retaining visits and creating conversions. By putting efforts into improving the ranking for “affordable cars” from an average position of no.12 in search results to a top 10 position, the company may well see a sizeable increase in business.  

How to get this data. Hook up Google Search Console to Google Analytics

If you haven’t already set up Search Console in your Google Analytics account you can do so following these steps:

  • Log into Google Analytics with an account that has admin permissions on both your Google Analytics property and your Google Search Console
  • Navigate to Acquisitions and then Search Console.
  • If you’re not hooked up yet you’ll see a button that reads “Set up Search Console data sharing”. Click that.

If you’re managing multiple websites (domains) you can select the domain you want to pull data from and if required, verify that you own that domain.

Using Search Console Data

Once linked up you can find Search Console data under “Acquisition > Search Console”. Here you can analyse the value of queries that are bringing visits to specific pages. To give you a head start I’ve created a custom report that you can import into your own Google Analytics profile.


Import custom Google Analytics report

2) How can I track all types of conversions, not just form submissions?

Google Analytics, as a repository for your data can store, or track, almost any type of interaction your visitors have with your website or app providing you can push that data from your website. So whilst I’m looking specifically into some key interactions here, the scope of what you may want to track is reasonably unlimited given your developers’ capabilities.

Core functionality in Google Analytics allows you to set up Goals (conversions) based on certain URLs being served. For example, the “Thank you” form conformation page of an event booking, or a quote request. These are set up under your Admin settings


This is great for our standard forms, but there are other interactions that you may consider qualify as goals; taps to call on your mobile number, downloads of PDFs, clicks on email (mailto:) links, time spent viewing a video. These types of interaction don’t necessarily generate separate URLs that you can track through the standard Goals and destination URLs settings in Google Analytics.

Step 1 – Create your events

Google classifies events as, “…user interactions with content that can be tracked independently from a web page or a screen load. “ Sound exactly like what we want to track?

You can view events in Google Analytics under Behavior > Events

Within events you can collect 4 items of information:

  • Category – allows you to organise events logically into broad categories
  • Action – typically, what happened (download, click, play)
  • Label – allows for sub classification within a category
  • Value – a numeric value associate with the event

If you were tracking Technical PDF downloads you may want to populate the following:

  • Category : Technical Documents
  • Action: Download
  • Label: Name of PDF downloaded
  • Value: 25 (Pages)

There are typically two methods to consider when adding events. You can either add tracking code directly to your web pages where an interaction takes place – here is Google’s guide to do this for analytics.js.

Or you can implement event tracking through Google Tag Manager. We prefer to use Google Tag Manager to track Events as it avoids the need to engage developers and can be fully tested before setting live through the Preview Mode within Google Tag Manager. Here’s the Google guide for implementation via Google Tag Manager.

Step 2 – Tracking Events as Goals

If you’ve set up everything correctly you’ll start seeing event data in Behavior > Events, such as the example below.


Now that you have event data correctly tracking you can set up any events you deem business-worthy of goal status.

  • Within Google Analytics, open the Admin area by clicking on the cog icon at the bottom left of the interface.
  • Select the property and view you want to track your goal in, then select “Goals”
  • Create a “+NEW GOAL”, and follow the steps through until you need to specify a goal type. At this point you’ll want to select “Event”
  • Google Analytics give you a great deal of control of the exact events you want to track as Goals by allowing you to specify which events qualify based on any combination of its category, action, label, or value
  • Verify your goal and you’re good to go.

In summary

If you’ve carried out the above correctly you should hopefully now have a better understanding of the keywords and search terms that are leading traffic to your site, and that are most effective in supporting your goals. You’ll also be able to expand the level of goal tracking available to you to better support attribution to both page view goals and event based goals.


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