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Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics: The Beginning Of A Useful Integration?

Google Webmaster Tools: Referring SitesIstvan Turk has tipped us off to a blog post over at SEO Sport noting that the verification page of Google Webmaster Tools now includes a Link to Google Analytics option for all verified sites. Note this this is different from site verification using Google Analytics, which was added last year.

The Google Webmaster Tools help information notes that you can link the two and in doing so, can access the Google Analytics Referring Pages report from within Google Webmaster Tools. It seems as though Google has been fully rolling it out as I’ve been typing as the user interface has changed before my very eyes. So far, it looks like that all that’s been added is a link to the Referring Sites report in Google Analytics, but I have hope that it’s a sign of things to come.

How to Link Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics

To link a Google Analytics profile to a verified site in Google Webmaster Tools:

  1. From the dashboard, click Manage next to a site, then Google Analytics profile. You’ll end on on a Google Analytics page that lists all of the Google Analytics profiles associated with the account. The table lists the analytics profile name (called the “Website Profile” in Google Analytics), the site URL, and the account (called the “name” in Google Analytics).
  2. Scroll through all of those until you find the one you want to link (which means if you have multiple profiles associated with a site, you can only choose one to link), select it, then scroll down and click Save.

Note that you can also create a Google Analytics account at this point if you don’t already have one.

How to Access The Linked Data

For the linked site, click Your site on the web > Links to your site and then See the Referring Sites data from Google Analytics. This is a handy shortcut to the Referring Sites report (under Traffic Sources) in Google Analytics.

How The Data Is Useful

So far, the data isn’t integrated into a single table, but it’s still useful to compare the reports. You can use the data to determine if the sites that link to your site the most (from the Google Webmaster Tools  “Who links the most” report) or the content that’s linked to the most on your site (from the Google Webmaster Tools “Your most linked content” report) are bringing traffic to your site. Links that don’t result in traffic likely don’t have a lot of value (for acquisition or for SEO).

Why This Feature Is Exciting

Full disclaimer and word of caution: I was heavily involved in the creation of Google Webmaster Central when I worked at Google. Therefore, I tend to have pretty strong opinions about it. That said, I have no knowledge of what the team is actually planning. So, everything I’m about to write next is based solely on speculation (and hope).

Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics (or any analytics) data are great together. I’ve built software that we use at my company to integrate this data for better insights. This integration could be built directly into Webmaster Tools. That the user interface now features a way to link the two together could mean that the way is paved for this type of integration. Some examples of what I mean:

  • The Webmaster Tools Top queries data (impressions, clicks, clickthrough rate, average position) could be linked to the Google Analytics (natural keywords from Google) visits, bounce rate, time on site, and other metrics. This would enable content owners to track these details by query (and we make this data even more useful with our internal software by grouping queries into categories)  all in one place. One could see, for instance, that a site was improving rankings from “how do I…” related queries, and was more traffic as a result, but was also seeing a higher bounce rate and a shorter time on site per visit.
  • The Webmaster Tools Top pages report could be linked to a Google Analytics Top Content report, segmented by unpaid traffic from Google to tie analytics data such as top entrances and exits, bounces, and bounce rate to Webmaster Tools data (such as impressions and clicks).

I’ve asked Google for more details on this feature and will update the story if I hear back.

Postscript: Google has now written briefly about this new feature on the Webmaster Central blog.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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