Using Page Level Google Analytics Custom Variables to report on SEO traffic by page type

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  • January 25, 2011
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

One of the most important reports an SEO agency gives for a large site is the one that breaks down the traffic to the different sections of that site. This allows you to analyse whether traffic rises came from product pages, product types, category pages, sub-category pages, blog posts etc.

For most sites you can produce this report by looking at the top Google Organic landing pages and filtering by an appropriate folder or file name from the URL.

The problem is that a lot of sites don’t have a difference URL structure for each section so the above method of gathering data won’t work. Certainly if you have an ecommerce site you can’t separate products by category unless you have the category in your URL and that’s usually a bad idea for SEO.

What we’ve been doing is to use Google Analytics Custom Variables, applied at the page level, to tell Google what type of page the user has landed on.

1, // This custom var is set to slot #1. Required parameter.
'Section', // The top-level name for your online content categories. Required parameter.
'Life & Style', // Sets the value of "Section" to "Life & Style" for this particular aricle. Required parameter.
3 // Sets the scope to page-level. Optional parameter.

This sounds quite simple to set up and it’s actually the main example Google gives about using the page level variables but the real problem is getting the data for your Custom Variables out of Google Analytics. It took a lot of work to figure out how to do this because every report we tried was just returning the overall visits to a page during the session rather than specifically for landing pages.

After much testing the report below is what we came up with. You need to set up a new Custom Report with the following metrics & dimensions. The addition of Entrances & Visits together is just a check – they should return the same number. Hope this is of use to anybody else trying to do this.

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