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How To Blend Data In Looker Studio With Practical Examples

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How To Blend Data In Looker Studio With Practical Examples

Data blending in Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) is a powerful technique that allows you to combine data from multiple sources in a single report or visualization.

You can create custom charts and reports that provide a comprehensive view of your data, bringing together insights from multiple data sources.

This technique can be particularly useful for SEO pros and digital marketers when you need to compare data from different sources.

How SEO Experts Can Use Data Blending

Since Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA) are different data platforms, you can’t see the social media traffic to articles and average position at the same time.

It can be particularly important to analyze if there is a correlation between social popularity and ranking position in search. With Looker Studio building, you can now build such correlation reports.

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Blending data on website traffic, bounce rate, and time on site with keyword ranking data can help SEO pros gain a better understanding of how website performance affects search engine rankings.

How PPC Marketers Can Use Data Blending

PPC marketers can compare data across multiple ad platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads.

By blending data from these platforms, marketers can compare metrics such as cost per click (CPC), conversion rates, and ROI to identify which platform is performing best.

Also, they can combine data from multiple campaigns, allowing them to gain a more holistic view of their overall campaign performance and identify patterns or trends that may not be visible in individual campaigns.

Now let’s dive and learn with use case examples.

How To Blend Google Analytics 4 And Google Search Console Data

We will build a blended data source to find out if social media traffic and Google Discover visibility are correlating.

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This will be an interesting experiment, especially given Gary Illyes recently said that social media may play an important role in improving indexability.

To blend data from two sources in Looker Studio, we’ll need to add both sources to our project.

If you haven’t already added the sources, let’s learn how to do that step-by-step. If you already know how to do this, you can skip and continue below.

How To Add Google Analytics 4 Into Looker Studio

Go to Resources > Manage added data sources.

Screenshot from GA4, May 2023

In the popup dialog, click the Add data source hyperlink and choose your Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property.

How To Add Search Console Data Into Looker Studio

Go to Resources > Manage added data sources as in the previous step and search for “search console” in the popup dialog to find a connector.

Select Google DiscoverScreenshot from Looker Studio, May 2023

Select URL impressions > Discover to add Google Discover data into Looker Studio.

Select Google Discover

Now, let’s add data tables to our dashboard from each source.

After all these steps, you will see data from each source, but you will notice that GSC has a full URL, whereas the GA4 table has only the path.

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We should bring both data into the same format and set the same ID for the dimension field to be able to blend them.

It’s important to ensure that the IDs (or Names) and types of the fields you want to blend are consistent across all data sources.

(Looker Studio does also match by field name, but I highly recommend using the same Fields IDs, too.)

Overall, the fastest way to blend data is to select both tables, right-click on them, and choose “Blend data” from the menu.

Blend dataBlend data.

But if you try it with different sources, you will notice that the blended data doesn’t make sense, as shown below.

Wrong dataWrong data.

In some cases, this may work, for example, when you blend data from the same source – but when blending data from different sources, we need to create a new field adjusted “Page path,” which will have the same format and ID.

Let’s create a “Page path” in the GSC source as a new field that will use the REGEXP_REPLACE formula to remove the host from the URL.

The key point here is to set the field ID “path,” which will be the same when we create it in GA4.

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Thus, Looker Studio is able to match dimensions and merge them.

Do the same with the GA4 source and create a “Page path” field with the ID “path.”

Page path new field in GA4 sourcePage path new field in GA4 source.

Now in the tables, we’ve added replace dimension with the newly created field “Page path” (you can name it anything to easily differentiate them, the key is to have the “Field ID” be the same).

Tables that use page path new field.Tables that use page path new field.

Now you have your data ready to be blended by using “Blend data” from the right click dialog shown above. But before that, we want to make sure we have only social traffic from GA4. For that, we need to apply a filter to the GA4 table by following these steps:

Add a Filter > Create a Filter, and in the popup dialog, set the filter name and condition Medium contains “social.”

Now you can blend data and have social traffic and Google Discover impressions side-by-side.

Impressions and sessions from social in one tableImpressions and sessions from social in one table.

If you come across “null” values in the impressions column for older URLs, it’s because GSC only has data available for newly published URLs.

As a result, data for older URLs may not show up in GSC, which can result in “null” values.

This is a common occurrence and not necessarily indicative of any issues with your data or tracking.

Below is a simplified diagram that shows what blending means.

Diagram which shows how data blending worksImage created by author, May 2023

But what if we want to see also how impressions and social traffic evolve over time?

For that, we need to edit the blended data source and drag it into a dimensions list and also a Date field.

(In other cases, you may need to replicate the step for converting dimensions into the same format and ID with the Date field, too. But in this case, since they are in the same format already and have the same name, it will work, as Looker Studio also matches using field name.)

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Add a date fieldAdd a date field.

Now you can choose the Time Series chart type to see how Google Discover impressions and social traffic align with each other.

Since impressions are much higher than social media traffic, it helps to choose a logarithmic scale for better visualization.

After analyzing the data, it’s clear that there is a strong correlation between impressions in Google Discover and social traffic. The ups and downs of impressions align very closely with social traffic patterns, indicating that increased social media traffic leads to increase visibility in Google Discover.

(Please always remember correlation is not causation.)

Google Discover’s ranking algorithm is very different from Google Search.

Now, you may ask if there is a correlation between ranking and social traffic. Let’s explore that, too.

All the steps are the same with the difference being that you should add GSC’s web data table and include average position as a metric.

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GSC web search data table GSC web search data table.

After creating a new field, “Page path,” with the same Field ID “path” and blending, we see that there is no correlation between social traffic and ranking position in the search engine results page (SERP).

You can see that the ranking position isn’t changing while social traffic goes up and down. Thus, we can conclude that ranking position doesn’t correlate with social media traffic.

Social traffic and ranking positionSocial traffic and ranking position. (Log scale)

Conclusion

With these examples, you can see how many useful data insights you can get by combining data from different data sources.

Many of you have access to Ahrefs, Semrush, on any other SEO tool, and you can try to blend backlink data with Google Analytics referral traffic data to understand the impact of your backlinks on your website traffic.

The key principle here is to create dimensions in two data sets with the same Field IDs, which will be used in blending.

More resources:


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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

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Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

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You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

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  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

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Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

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“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

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“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

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“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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