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7 SEO Insights Search Analysts Need To Succeed & How To Find Them



7 SEO Insights Search Analysts Need To Succeed & How To Find Them

To succeed as an SEO analyst, you must be able to utilize data in a way that gives you a clear direction on where to focus your efforts for maximum impact.

You have access to a ton of data – but how to best make use of it all to drive measurable results that directly impact revenue?

In this article, you’ll find seven essential areas of focus you’ll need to succeed as an SEO analyst, with step-by-step instruction on the reports you need to produce these insights.

Beginners will find this particularly useful, although even a seasoned vet may learn a new thing or two!

1. Focus On Striking Distance Keywords

Within Google Search Console, you can access your striking distance keywords.

What Are Striking Distance Keywords?

Striking distance keywords are those near page one results (top ten) or currently ranking on the first page but are still not within the top five positions.

So why are they important?

The value of striking distance keywords is that you are already ranking in search results and will little effort, could achieve a top ranking.

If you update content that is currently ranking and build more high-quality DA backlinks, for example, you could push your keywords to the top of the SERPs.

How To Find Striking Distance Keywords

First, log in to Google Search Console.

Once logged in, select performance on the left-hand side, then select impressions and average position.

Deselect every other option. You want to focus on impressions and average position.

Screenshot from Google Search Console, January 2022

Once you select these two options, scroll down and click impressions to adjust the data to show the highest impression count for search queries listed to the right.

ADU google search console dataScreenshot from Google Search Console, January 2022

The goal of this data analysis is twofold.

First, you are trying to uncover what keywords have the highest visibility count (impressions) within Google search results.

Secondly, find the keywords you are currently ranking for in search results that are not in the desired positions you would like.

The keyword “ADU plans” would be ideal since thousands of impressions have occurred and currently, it is only in the seventh position.

The average monthly search volume for this specific keyword is nineteen hundred per month.

Suppose the keyword was to achieve position one?

Ahref keyword competition Screenshot from Ahrefs, January 2022

What To Expect From Focusing On Striking Distance Keywords

Once you achieve position one ranking, you’re in the territory of an average 28.5% CTR (click-through rate), which means for the example keyword “ADU plans” you could potentially produce 542 clicks per month.

The potential number of clicks for your striking distance keyword target will vary, of course.

But this is a good way to evaluate where you should focus your efforts and which striking distance keywords are highest priority.

The Profitability Of Focusing On Striking Distance Keywords

The cost to build an ADU ranges from two hundred to two hundred and fifty dollars per square foot.

ADU sizes range from six hundred square feet to twelve hundred square feet, which would equate to one hundred and twenty thousand dollars to three hundred thousand dollars.

It is safe to assume the selected striking distance keyword could potentially yield great profits.

As an SEO analyst, you must always consider the profitability of your keyword targets.

Ranking for keywords is great but ranking for profitable keywords is better.

What To Do Next

Dive into your striking distance data and prioritize identifying the high-value, low competition, and high impression keywords in the SERPs to drive results from your data.

You will be surprised what gold awaits you in Google Search Console.

2. Harvest User Interaction Data

One of the most important skills an SEO analyst can develop is your ability to think outside the box.

And you need data to drive those creative insights.

It’s important that you implement tracking that can harvest data to inform your SEO efforts – don’t just rely on the data given to you by default within Google Analytics or Google Search Console.

The Problem With Google Analytics

Google Analytics does not present, by default, many keywords you can use to help your SEO efforts. Instead, you are not provided with keywords for a large percentage of your data.

What’s an SEO analyst to do? Think outside the box and leverage the user engagement on your site to harvest your own keyword data.

Navigate to Google Tag Manager and set up internal and external click events. The goal of setting up click events is yet again twofold:

  • First, compile keyword data that you can create content to drive more traffic.
  • Second, and more importantly, convert visitors to sales from analyzing keywords that have proven to drive conversions.

Once you have configured GTM to trigger click events, you will have invaluable data.

You will be able to see which internal keywords mentioned within your posts produced a conversion action that you can add to your list of keywords to expand on.

External click events won’t be able to show you conversion data, but you will be able to see trending topics users have clicked on that you can utilize to build out keywords you should target.

3. Segment Conversions By Hour Of The Day

On Wall Street, the old saying is “the trend is your friend.”

By utilizing the conversions and traffic by hour report, you can easily spot trends when you export data from Google Analytics into Excel.

Heatmap Analysis Screenshot from Microsoft Excel, January 2022

When using this report, you can filter out data that will lead to a false positive.

For instance, if you are an ecommerce store that sends an automated email campaign at 5 p.m. on Fridays, it will be no surprise when you see a spike in transactions during this time and day of the week.

The goal is to identify data that is not common knowledge to your organization. To create the conversion heatmap report, follow the directions below.

Step 1

Create a Flat Table custom report in Google Analytics. Select Day of Week Name, Hour, and select default channel grouping to your dimensions so you can filter by traffic sources, choose sessions and transactions for your metrics.


Google analytics flat table analysisScreenshot from Google Analytics, January 2022

 Step 2

Increase the data rows within Google Analytics before exporting to Excel.

Google data rowsScreenshot from Google Analytics, January 2022

 Step 3

Export data into Excel, set up a pivot table to display rows and columns for the day of week and hour.

Excel data analysis Screenshot from Microsoft Excel, January 2022

Step 4

Apply conditional formatting to create a heatmap.

Excel conditional formatting Screenshot from Microsoft Excel, January 2022

While creating a heatmap from Google Analytics data is valuable, Google Analytics will not display a fully interactive heatmap.

Therefore, I recommend using third-party heatmap software to gather browser-based user interactions.

4. Analyze Branded vs. Non-branded Traffic

One of the most underestimated ways to create less work for yourself as an SEO analyst is to utilize Google Data Studio.

Google Data Studio can automate your reporting so you can spot trends quickly and efficiently.

In addition, Google Data Studio has several templates that you can plug and play.

One of the most valuable reports you can download as a template to configure to your UA property is the branded vs. non-branded report.

Google data studio brand vs non brandedScreenshot from Google Sheets, January 2022

Google Search Console does not allow you to quickly break down branded vs. non-branded traffic, which makes this report useful to spot trends.

Non-branded keywords may drive volume, but branded keywords provide search algorithms insight into what your brand stands for which increases your brand visibility and builds authority.

Google loves branded keywords. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated,

“Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”

As this statement comes from the former head of Google, you can rest assured it is a smart move to integrate non-branded vs. branded traffic into your SEO analysis.

5. Conduct A Content Gap Analysis

There are some genuinely great tools out there to reduce your workload as an SEO analyst significantly.

One of those magnificent tools is the content gap analysis tool by Ahrefs. This tool enables you to break down keyword opportunities that your competitors are not currently leveraging.

To conduct a top-level content gap analysis, enter a few competitors within Ahrefs.

Ahref Gap analysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, January 2022

Once you have entered competitors within the tool, click “show keywords.”

Once clicked, the report will generate keywords you are not ranking for that your competitors are ranking for currently.

Content gap analysis keywords Screenshot from Ahrefs, January 2022

Once you have that list of keywords your competitors are ranking for, you can quickly fill the gaps.

6. Use Behavioral Sequencing

Have you ever wondered how impactful a particular page was on your site at assisting a transaction?

Perhaps a blog post? Maybe a whitepaper?

By using the behavioral sequence report, you can better understand what can convert visitors to sales.

As an SEO analyst, you can expand your keyword focus for content that has assisted conversion.

To create this report, follow the steps below:

  • Copy the folder path of a page you would like to analyze
  • Click + Add Segment.
  •  Click New Segment.
  • Navigate to Sequences.
  • Under step one, select Landing page and paste the folder path you copied into the blank box to the right-hand side.
  • Click Add Step.
  • Under step two, select Transactions.
  • Select per session or per hit (your choice)
  • Select the greater than symbol “>”
  • Enter zero into the blank box to the right-hand side.
sequence report Screenshot from Google Analytics, January 2022 

By looking at this report, you can drill down into any specific page to understand what drove direct transactions – no more guessing about the impact of your content creation efforts.

7. Leverage Predictive Search

One of the most helpful SEO tools is the predictive keywords generated from a Google search.

google predictive text Screenshot from search for [how to con], Google, January 2022

When conducting keyword research, leverage the predictive text suggestions. Google presents predictive responses based on the volume of searches that takes place.

By leveraging predictive keywords within your content, you are taking advantage of topics that will garner clicks.

Pro-tip: Use several Q&A predictive long-tail keywords within your content to increase your odds of appearing in PAA (people also ask) and FAQ search results.


There are a lot of different ways to analyze data as an SEO analyst and no one-size-fits-all approach.

Think creatively!

Leverage tools, get to know the different types of reports that can enrich your understanding of the possibilities, and automate wherever possible so you can spend more of your time analyzing and planning rather than wading through the weeds of too much data.

I hope the above reports help you do just that.

Cheers to your success!

More resources:

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results




Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary




Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.

Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve



How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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