Measure Your Long Tail Traffic With Google Analytics

by Hessam on June 2, 2010

If you are following the latest SEO industry news, you have probably heard about the Google “May Day” update. Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed that this Search algorithm change mainly affects long tail searches (watch the video here).  Long tail searches can be obscure and/or rare queries where the set of fitting search results is relatively small. Most commonly however they describe those searches where at least 3-4 words (and often more) are used.

After the May Day update many websites reported a significant loss of traffic, while others have seen improved traffic from search engines. After all, Google’s Search index resembles an ecosystem where one site’s loss is another one’s gain.

If you are using Google Analytics there is an easy way to check if and how this update has affected your performance in Google. In order to segment and analyze your long tail traffic you need to set up Advanced Segments using Regular Expressions. The nifty thing with Advanced Segments is that they allow you to analyze historical data, something which is not possible with filters, and to easily share them with others. Below I  have created 4 different segments which will hopefully help you get started with analyzing your long tail traffic. Simply click on any of the links to add them to your own Google Analytics profiles.

>> segment single-keyword queries

>> segment multi-keyword queries (>1)

>> segment two-keyword queries

>> segment three-keyword queries


For those of you interested, here is the basic regular expression used in the examples above. When applied with the Keyword dimension it filters in visits where exactly two keywords were used.

^(\S+)\s(\S+)$

With one of these Advanced Segments activated, you can for instance search for any patterns in your traffic from Google. You can find this report under [Traffic Sources > Search Engines > google].

I would love to hear your feedback, as well as any findings related to this Google update. Happy analyzing! :)

Photo credit: jean-fabien on Flickr

29 comments

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by MayDay-Update: Auswirkung selbst messen - SEO.at on June 3, 2010 at 16:08. Reply #

Great usage of the advanced segments , they made it very easy to visualize the longtail trends.

by Christian Bolstad on June 3, 2010 at 16:20. Reply #

Great usage of the advanced segments , they made it very easy to visualize the longtail trends.

by Christian Bolstad on June 3, 2010 at 18:20. Reply #

Brilliant post! Added you to my RSS-reader. Surprised I’ve not seen you around before..

by Markus Jalmerot on June 3, 2010 at 17:30. Reply #

Brilliant post! Added you to my RSS-reader. Surprised I've not seen you around before..

by Markus Jalmerot on June 3, 2010 at 19:30. Reply #

Christian och Markus – tack för era kommentarer.

Markus: I’ve been trying to stay undercover ;)

by Hessam on June 3, 2010 at 19:33. Reply #

Christian och Markus – tack för era kommentarer.

Markus: I've been trying to stay undercover ;)

by Hessam on June 3, 2010 at 21:33. Reply #

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by Christians dagbok – 2010-06-03 | En sur karamell on June 3, 2010 at 22:02. Reply #

Thanks. A thing to add: if you have more profiles in GA, your links will lead to the advanced segment creation with the first profile in your account. if you’d like to create the segment for a certain profile – select it in the dropdown look at the URL, copy the &id=1234566 and append it to the segment link.

cheers,

by Michael S on June 4, 2010 at 6:44. Reply #

Thanks. A thing to add: if you have more profiles in GA, your links will lead to the advanced segment creation with the first profile in your account. if you'd like to create the segment for a certain profile – select it in the dropdown look at the URL, copy the &id=1234566 and append it to the segment link.

cheers,

by Michael S on June 4, 2010 at 8:44. Reply #

@Michael: Thanks for the tips. There are however two easier ways to apply any segment you create to other profiles you have in your account.

1) In the Segment Edit/Setup page, look at the bottom where you should see “Visible in: DOMAINNAME.com and” followed by a drop down list. You can here choose which other profiles you would like to apply the segment to.

2) When in your profile, go to the Manage Advanced Segments page and again at the bottom you will see a drop down menu called “Other Custom Segments for YOUREMAIL”. Click on it and do your magic :)

I hope this helps.

by Hessam on June 4, 2010 at 9:45. Reply #

@Michael: Thanks for the tips. There are however two easier ways to apply any segment you create to other profiles you have in your account.

1) In the Segment Edit/Setup page, look at the bottom where you should see "Visible in: DOMAINNAME.com and" followed by a drop down list. You can here choose which other profiles you would like to apply the segment to.

2) When in your profile, go to the Manage Advanced Segments page and again at the bottom you will see a drop down menu called "Other Custom Segments for YOUREMAIL". Click on it and do your magic :)

I hope this helps.

by Hessam on June 4, 2010 at 11:45. Reply #

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by Webnews #12: Greek, Kiss, Tokyo & SEO | Andi Licious' Blogosphäre on June 4, 2010 at 13:18. Reply #

You mean “low cost flight” is long tail for Ryanair? :)

“Long tail” is a different thing, really very differet by key with 3-4 words.

You need to use advanced segments to find keyphrase with 5 or less visits per month.

by alessio on June 17, 2010 at 7:41. Reply #

You mean "low cost flight" is long tail for Ryanair? :)

"Long tail" is a different thing, really very differet by key with 3-4 words.

You need to use advanced segments to find keyphrase with 5 or less visits per month.

by alessio on June 17, 2010 at 9:41. Reply #

@Alessio: You are totally right, 3-4 keywords is probably too few in most cases. But I see long tail keywords and long tail landing pages (e.g. pages with less then 5 visits) as two different metrics. For instance, you can have pages which generate a large amount of traffic from long keyword phrases and vice versa, so I’m not sure combining the two would be useful. But I could be totally wrong :) so it would be great if you could share some examples!

What I mean is that “long tail” as a concept applies to a variety of metrics, e.g. visitors’ location, landing pages, or length of search referral keywords which I wrote about here. In general the more users learn about the Advanced Segments, the better they can use to it to extract more useful info from their traffic data.

by Hessam on June 17, 2010 at 16:08. Reply #

@Alessio: You are totally right, 3-4 keywords is probably too few in most cases. But I see long tail keywords and long tail landing pages (e.g. pages with less then 5 visits) as two different metrics. For instance, you can have pages which generate a large amount of traffic from long keyword phrases and vice versa, so I'm not sure combining the two would be useful. But I could be totally wrong :) so it would be great if you could share some examples!

What I mean is that "long tail" as a concept applies to a variety of metrics, e.g. visitors' location, landing pages, or length of search referral keywords which I wrote about here. In general the more users learn about the Advanced Segments, the better they can use to it to extract more useful info from their traffic data.

by Hessam on June 17, 2010 at 18:08. Reply #

@Hessam
Thank you for your reply.

I don’t mean “3-4 keywords is too few”.

I mean the definition “Long Tail” isn’t associated to the number of words.
In your long tail maybe you could find keywords composed by 1 or 2 words also.

The advanced segments you suggest, however interesting, are useful to segment single or more keyword queries, but i think is incorrect use these segments to find the long tail keywords, in my personal way to see the web analysis. :)

by alessio on June 18, 2010 at 8:34. Reply #

@Alessio: I understand what you are saying now. Do you feel something like this is more useful? http://bit.ly/9TPRIr

by Hessam on June 18, 2010 at 9:11. Reply #

@Hessam

Thank you for your reply.

I don't mean "3-4 keywords is too few".

I mean the definition "Long Tail" isn't associated to the number of words.

In your long tail maybe you could find keywords composed by 1 or 2 words also.

The advanced segments you suggest, however interesting, are useful to segment single or more keyword queries, but i think is incorrect use these segments to find the long tail keywords, in my personal way to see the web analysis. :)

by alessio on June 18, 2010 at 10:34. Reply #

Yep! :)

Maybe you shold avoid branded keywords also: every user can add one (or more) dimensions to his advanced segment:

Keyword –> CONDITION: “does not contain” –> VALUE: “$put here your brand$”

Example:

Keyword –> CONDITION: “does not contain” –> VALUE: “Ryanair”

What do you think about it? :)

by alessio on June 18, 2010 at 9:46. Reply #

@Alessio: I understand what you are saying now. Do you feel something like this is more useful? http://bit.ly/9TPRIr

by Hessam on June 18, 2010 at 11:11. Reply #

Yes sure, but I guess brand keywords would generate more than 5 visits (hopefully :)) and would hence get excluded automatically.

by Hessam on June 18, 2010 at 10:28. Reply #

Yep! :)

Maybe you shold avoid branded keywords also: every user can add one (or more) dimensions to his advanced segment:

Keyword –> CONDITION: "does not contain" –> VALUE: "$put here your brand$"

Example:

Keyword –> CONDITION: "does not contain" –> VALUE: "Ryanair"

What do you think about it? :)

by alessio on June 18, 2010 at 11:46. Reply #

Yes sure, but I guess brand keywords would generate more than 5 visits (hopefully :)) and would hence get excluded automatically.

by Hessam on June 18, 2010 at 12:28. Reply #

@Hessam
I’m testing your last advanced segment: seems like it doesn’t works correctly; probably the metric is not correct.
I’m going to think it’s a bit more tricky to measure the keywords that generated less than “X” access in a month to a website.

by alessio on June 20, 2010 at 9:54. Reply #

@Hessam

I'm testing your last advanced segment: seems like it doesn't works correctly; probably the metric is not correct.

I'm going to think it's a bit more tricky to measure the keywords that generated less than "X" access in a month to a website.

by alessio on June 20, 2010 at 11:54. Reply #

Hi Hessam,

Thanks for this. I may be a bit late to get involved now, but how would you refine it to look at keywords which are made of more than 3 words?

Thanks

Jimmy

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