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Top 6 Free Tools Offered by Google for Website Analysis and Marketing

Published December 20, 2017
Who doesn’t love Google? Well, besides the 77 million or so results for the search “I hate Google.”

 

Page Count from Google Search

 

Maybe Google isn’t perfect, and there are always reasons to complain. But when it comes to free tools for digital marketing it’s hard to find anyone who has a better or wider variety of offerings to help businesses use data to inform their strategies.
 
In this post we’ll cover 6 of our favorite free tools from Google and how to use them to build your digital presence. 

Google Analytics/ Search Console

This one is pretty obvious. Most of our posts from Megalytic concern different ways to use Google Analytics and Search Console. But anyone who is not using these tools is essentially flying blind. There’s an overwhelming amount of data spread between these two platforms that give us insight into everything from major KPIs to detailed behaviors. In Search Console, we can also look for communication specifically from Google about our websites and find errors or issues that Google may be seeing with everything from sitemaps to crawl errors.

It’s not a panacea for all problems, and by default it’s not a complete view of every digital initiative, but the customizations and integrations allow for data from connected platforms like Facebook or MailChimp to be tracked and analyzed.

Google Analytics and Search Console are staples of many digital marketers’ day to day lives and are some of the best and most vital free tools that Google provides to facilitate business growth.

AdWords Keyword Planner

There are a lot of keyword research tools out there, both free and paid. But Keyword Planner remains a leader among them. Not only is it free, it is also connected to AdWords. Many times the keyword research we’re doing is to help determine which keywords we should be bidding on to set up a PPC campaign. This tool unites the research and the implementation of those strategies in one central location. But even if you’re not doing any paid advertising, there are great reasons to use this tool.

 

Adwords Keyword Planner

 

Keyword Planner is also extremely helpful for keyword research related to SEO and organic search. The tool produces plenty of long tail phrases and variations that can be used to inspire new pages and refine content targeting. Additionally, when a site’s AdWords account is connected to its Search Console profile, you can see organic data in Keyword Planner.

Other keyword tools can supplement Keyword Planner data and give additional ways to analyze and compare keyword opportunities. But while other tools offer information on keyword search volume in Google, Keyword Planner is the tool that is most connected to that data, and while it’s certainly fallible, it’s about as close to the source as one can get.

Google My Business Listings

We can’t understate the value of a Google My Business (GMB) Listing, especially when it comes to local search. The features contained there are the short and sweet version of everything you need to know about a local business. Sure there’s a link to the website, but depending on what a user wants to know, they might not even need to visit the site after reviewing the GMB listing. The GMB platform allows you to customize and optimize the data in that listing from choosing the images that best represent you to making posts about upcoming events, specials or changes to normal business hours.

 

Googleplex Brand Listing

 

In addition to the customizable features, you can also use GMB to respond to Google reviews and analyze insights. The data under insights provides valuable intelligence on how users are responding to and interacting with your business profile to help understand your audience, drive strategies and even make operational decisions. GMB is one of the great free tools because it helps you promote your website and also helps you understand how well your efforts are performing.

Structured Data Testing Tool

Schema and structured data are another great opportunity to help search engines understand your website, business, and elements of your content. It’s a useful open source vocabulary that is used by search and social applications like Google, Microsoft, Pinterest and Yandex.

For many businesses though, it’s still a struggle to implement schema in a granular way. Some elements of schema are widely used, like the “Organization” property that is in use on over a million sites, while more specific sub-properties like “Administrative Area” are only in use on 100 to 1,000 websites.

 

Schema and Structured Data

 

But beyond the fact that it supports structured data, how does this relate to Google?

This little tool right here.

 

Structured Data Testing

 

The Google Structured Data testing tool helps webmasters and marketers check the implementation of their schema for accuracy and completeness. The tool will locate the presence of structured data and note any warnings or errors. Again, the results aren’t always perfect, but it will help you find missing elements or syntax issues. If you’re using schema (and you should be!) this little tool is a go-to to make sure it’s done right.

Google Alerts

Professionals in marketing and public relations are probably well acquainted with the value of Google Alerts. These are opt-in notifications from Google that alert the subscribed individual of new or changed web content. We’re all busy people and don’t always have the time to scan the web for the latest and greatest on any given subject. But with an alert set up, Google will do it for you.

 

Google Alerts

 

Alerts can be used in a number of different ways. Some of the more common uses for businesses are monitoring brand mentions or references to key staff members. But they can also be used to get ideas for new content by getting subject related alerts that will return results associated with a vertical. Some ideas for alerts include:

  • News on relevant topics
  • Mentions of specific top-selling products
  • References to clients or competitors

You can choose the frequency of your alerts, if daily is overwhelming, weekly might be more manageable. But having this kind of information coming directly to your inbox can be used for content creation, event ideas and even link building opportunities.

Google Trends

Google Alerts is ideal for getting updates on the latest news, but Google Trends is the way to see how trends have evolved over time and extrapolate where trending topics are headed. This tool will give you a sense of what’s popular right now and help visualize public interest in any given topic over time. Timeframes can be as recent as within an hour or extend as far back as 2004.

 

Google Search Trends for Analytics and Search Console

 

Thematic trends can be explored as they relate to specific websites (where applicable), topics and search terms. Multiple topics, searches or sites can be compared with one another to see how they are each performing relative to one another. You can even gauge trending topics as they relate to different geographical locations and how interest in one area stacks up against another. Searches can also span search verticals like images, YouTube, news, shopping and web search.

In addition to helping us understand what’s hot right now, we can also see what subjects have waning public interest. We can also use the related topics and related queries, particularly those which are rising, to help create content that is on trend. Marketers are often looking to capitalize on the next big thing and Google Trends can help you get a sense of what that may be, or when something is “so over.” If the cutting edge is where you want to be, then Google Trends is the tool you should be using.

Conclusion

For all of its frustrations, we can’t help but love Google and its suite of tools, platforms, and applications. We didn’t even get to dig into the virtues of Google documents, spreadsheets, slides and meetings, but naturally, those can all be highly useful in their own way. For now, if you’re looking to build your business and enrich your marketing strategies, we highly recommend Google Analytics/Search Console, AdWords Keyword Planner, Google My Business Listings, the Structured Data Testing Tool, Google Alerts and Google Trends. When used together, these tools can help you gauge how your website is doing and help you make big decisions about where it can go.

ALSO IN THIS BLOG

Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?
The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.
Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.

 

 

When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:

 

 

It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
One of the most exciting and important aspects of digital marketing is the ability to understand exactly how your customers are finding you. It informs every single part of integrated campaigns and helps determine which efforts are working and which ones need to be revisited. Google Analytics allows you to zero in on the performances of different marketing channels to evaluate everything from brand awareness to social media messaging. To get the most insight from that data, it’s crucial to understand exactly how Google sorts your traffic.
Channels in Google Analytics are high-level categories indicating how people found your site. While the Source/Medium report shows you in more detail where people came from, Channels are broader, more “user-friendly” names lumping visits together in buckets useful for high-level reporting categories.
For instance, Facebook Sessions often show up in multiple ways in the Source/Medium report. They may appear as facebook.com, m.facebook.com, and l.facebook.com, all of which are variations of the same source. The Channels report will include all of these in the Social bucket, so you can see less granular, aggregate numbers on social media performance.