Analytics

eCommerce Launch: SEO Analysis via Search Console

See how to compare your pre & post launch Search Console data to find problematic trends.

eCommerce Launch: SEO Analysis via Search Console

Launching a fresh new eCommerce site is an exciting and stressful time – especially if you are replatforming.

In most cases it’s not just a new site you’re launching, but it’s also the beginning of a slew new tools and partnerships that need management. New email service provider, fraud tool, payment providers, shipping integrations, CMS features, ERPs, OMS, etc.

You get the picture.

In the majority of site launches I’ve been part of in my career, more than half have listed “improve my SEO” as a primary or secondary KPI of the project.

In many cases during the rush to Magento starting ~ 2010 that I was heavily involved in (and more recently Shopify), SEO improvement during a launch was almost a guarantee. Many clients were moving from homegrown or poorly managed platforms that had terrible technical SEO.

The ability to customize URLs to be .com/product-name or .com/category-name along with setting canonical links, H tags, and meta data was a huge selling point.

But now – it’s not a slam dunk that moving from Magento to Shopify or vice versa (and throw in any other platform like BigCommerce, Lemonstand etc) will instantly improve SEO.

If you’re switching from one well known platform to another, or even launching a new site on your existing platform, it’s likely a smaller margin of error.

Even a small decrease in organic traffic can have a significant negative impact on revenue.  It’s extremely important to monitor and analyze your performance so you can fix issues before they become significant traffic and revenue killers.

In this post I demonstrate how to use Google Search Console to improve your post launch SEO by:

  1. Ensuring you have the basics in place within Search Console
  2. Performing a pre/post launch analysis of organic search queries to help you find anomalies in your data (with a fancy vLookup!)
  3. Putting this data to use

You do know what Search Console is, correct? Good!

Search Console Basics

Google Search Console, aka Webmaster Tools, doesn’t take much to get configured. If you don’t have access then either request access from the account owner or follow these steps to get yourself verified.

Once you’re verified on at least one property then follow these steps:

  1. Add properties for all variations of your domain (ex. http://www.getelevar.com & https://www.getelevar.com & http://getelevar.com & https://getelevar.com)
  2. Create a new “set” if you have not done this already (this combines all variations into one reporting view)
  3. Configure site settings for your preferred URL display in search results
  4. Upload your sitemap.xml
  5. Request a crawl of your homepage and all direct links via Fetch as Google to help encourage quicker indexing updates
  6. Verify your robots.txt is not blocking traffic to pages you need indexed
  7. If you don’t have structured data in place then follow this Data Highlighter how-to guide to manage your search appearance
  8. Connect Search Console to your Google Analytics (here’s how)
  9. Configure URL Parameters (or at least be aware of them); I addressed this feature in a duplicate content post but if you go to URL Parameters and click “Configure URL Parameters” then you should get a screen that looks like this:

URL parameters in search console

If you’re curious on how apply this to your own SEO strategy then read my post on trailing slashes and duplicate content for eCommerce.

Alrighty – now for some screenshots on the steps from above:

Here’s what # 1 and 2 look like when completed:

add property and set to search console

Here’s where to configure your site settings (you should select the option for whatever your default domain URL is. e.g. do you have www or not?):

search console site settings

Here’s where to add your sitemap.xml from # 4:

add sitemap to search console

Here’s where to request a crawl in # 5:

fetch as google in search console

Here’s where to fetch your robots.txt in # 6 and test URLs to verify they are crawlable:

robots.txt tester for search console

Search Query Analysis

Now that you’ve got the basics covered, here is how to analyze your own pre/post launch search query data!

This example is assuming the same site property is used pre/post launch (e.g. https://www.yoursite.com) however it will still work if you went from http to https or www to a non-www version of your site.

We’ll assume the site launched on November 1st and it’s currently December 1st for a clean 30 day pre/post launch date range. But you can change this date range to fit your own scenario.

Step 1: Pre Launch Search Analytics

Within Search Console, go to Search Traffic => Search Analytics:

  • Select Clicks, Impressions, Position
  • Set date range of Oct 1 – Oct 30th
  • Set the radio button back on Queries

So it should look like this:

search analytics pre launch

Then at the bottom of this page set the rows to 500 and then click the download button (I usually export to Google Drive).

Step 2: Post Launch Search Analytics

Perform the same exact steps as Step 1, except change your date range to Nov 1 – 30, and download a 2nd file of 500 rows.

Step 3: Combine Reports into One File

In this step, I’ll have two tabs:

  1. Pre launch data
  2. Post launch data

In the pre launch data tab I copy two fields from my post launch tab – queries and clicks – so it ultimately looks like this (columns G & H).

copy search files

Step 4: vLookup Data

Since I’m within a 60 day period between the two query reports, they both have very similar search query terms..albeit with different click, impression, and position values.

Now, I want to see how search queries perform pre and post launch.

In an additional column (column I) I’m going to perform a vlookup matching search queries from post launch (column G) to my pre launch queries (column A) and display the clicks that my pre launch queries resulted in (from column C to column I).

My formula in I4 is this: =VLOOKUP(G:G,A:C,3,FALSE)

pre-post-launch-vlookup

Now in columns G => I, I have my search queries with post and pre launch click data :).

Step 5: Repeat vLookup for Position and Impressions

In this same tab, you can add onto this data analysis by doing the same in columns J & K (not pictured) for position and your columns would be:

  • Column J: your post launch position data copied from your post launch data tab (make sure you do not sort any of your data right now when copying between tabs)
  • Column K: your vLookup formula would be: =VLOOKUP(G:G,A:C,2,FALSE)

The same can be repeated for Impressions as well, except your formula would be: =VLOOKUP(G:G,A:D,4,FALSE)

Put Your Data to Use

Now we have to put this before/after data to use:

  • Are my branded queries performing better or worse?
  • How about my category pages: did they keep the same position (at minimum) or deviate from pre launch?
  • Am I performing better for long tail search queries?

I’ve taken the spreadsheet from above and added in a “Diff” column for the position and clicks columns:

pre post launch analysis

From here I focus on queries in my top 100+ where I’ve dropped in both clicks and position and/or significant drops (like 10% in position!).

  • Is my onpage data accurately reflecting the search query?
  • Are my title tags, H1s, metadata, URL, and other onpage product data the best it can be?
  • Do I have 301 redirects setup for my old URLs for these queries?
  • Any trends in the queries that are down – e.g. all are category page-ish queries?
  • Does my organic traffic and/or revenue (per visitor) performance in GA match overall downtrends in search console data?

I’ll look at queries where I’m performing better and see if anything stands out from those as well.

It’s not likely you’re going to be in the green across the board within 30 days so the biggest thing is to look for problematic trends and queries to your top landing pages that are negatively impacting performance.

Conclusion

Launching a new site can create tunnel vision with so much going on!

Be sure you have a plan in place prior to launching (like a good seo-ready go live checklist) and more importantly monitor your post launch organic traffic and the rich data that Google Search Console affords.

Do you have any tips and tricks that you follow in analyzing post launch traffic? Share below!

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Brad Redding

Brad, co-founder of Elevar, has lived in eCommerce for over 12 years. He's helped design, build, and optimize over 100 websites in his career. From new retail startups to well-known brands like Le Creuset, Signature Hardware, Rebecca Minkoff, Char-Broil and more, he specializes in data analytics and conversion optimization to help achieve business goals.

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