Up until now, Google’s Webmaster Tools was merely a handy site that helped you determine whether Google was having difficulty crawling your sites. It was really good for discovering 404 errors, broken links and such, so that you could recover lost link juice by setting up 301 redirects. To me, that has always been the most useful feature. Webmaster Tools is also the place to tell Google your preferred domain for canonical purposes. That is, you can tell them whether you prefer the www.example.com version or the example.com version of your URLs. That’s a good thing to do if you are fighting a duplicate content issue, but not something you are going to use every day.
Google Analytics, on the other hand, IS something that we use every day. I’m an Analytics fiend. I’ve even got an iPhone app so I can check my clients’ web statistics while I’m stuck in LA traffic. I geek out about Analytics. Not so much for Webmaster Tools. Traditionally I will check them about twice a month. Think of Webmaster Tools as the little brother, or the sidekick of Analytics…
But NOW Google has upgraded Webmaster Tools in a big way, and I can’t tell you how psyched I am. I am officially geeking out! Here is the original post from the Google Webmaster Blog.
Basically, they have improved the Top Search Queries report by providing you with the number of impressions and the click-throughs you site had for a given search query. Previously, all they showed you was a list of queries and the average position where your site appeared. That was cool, but not nearly as useful as the new data. For the first time ever, now we can see the same type of data that we get with pay-per-click campaigns. We have an organic CTR! The implications for SEO are astounding.
Mow we can know the real value of a top ranking. The new report also allows you to drill down on each keyword to see the click through rate at every position! You can see the actual numbers. So position 1 = this much traffic, while position 2 = that much traffic. Of course you have to achieve each of these positions to have access to this data. You’ll never know your potential CTR for a top position until you get there, but just think of what this tells you! Check out this image from one of my client’s sites. 81% of visitors clicked through when the client’s site was in position 1 and none clicked through when it was in position 2.
Up until now, if your site was anywhere in the top 5 results you would have to ask yourself, “Is it my position or is it the title and description that’s responsible for my traffic?” Of course the real answer would usually be a bit of both. But how much? Now that question can be answered. If you see a similar organic CTR at position 3 as you do for position 4, then your title tag and description are to be thanked. But if the CTR at position 3 is much higher, then you know that people searching for that particular keyword are scrutinizing the listings less and just making their selection according to rank.
On the other hand, if you are sitting in second place and you change your title tag or change your description and your ranking stays the same, but your CTR increases or decreases, then you will know the impact of that change. Finally, you can test your title tags and descriptions the same way you can A/B split test Ad Words ads! Obviously don’t go crazy with the title of a page that ranks for a bunch of different terms, but for specific landing pages this should be fun, and descriptions are wide open to your experimentation. You can test all you want without fear of your rank changing.
Not to mention the fact that we can use this report to measure exact search volume for a particular keyword! If your site appears anywhere in the top 10 positions you can just look at the number of impressions and have a pretty exact number for the search volume of that particular keyword. This number could be slightly higher if some users have their search setting set to show more than just the standard 10 results.
I hope you guys understand just how profound this upgrade is. Its really going to impact the way I approach SEO. But what about you? Please leave your comments. Am I crazy or is this really really cool?