Tracking Your Search Traffic – How to Quickly Spot Issues with Your Organic Traffic and Check Longtail Performance

If you are serious about SEO and increasing search traffic then it is important to track it, not just by logging into your analytics everyday but by keeping in depth records of which keywords are driving traffic and any abnormal fluctuations.

Working in an SEO agency it is important to track this for clients, you may increase a clients traffic tenfold but how are you going to prove the increase was due to your efforts?

One of the best ways to keep track of search traffic is to break it down into longtail and broad terms. At a glance you can quickly see any increases or decreases in traffic; this will help you to quickly jump on any opportunities or issues.

Using Google Analytics

In my experience there is no better traffic analysis tool than Google Analytics. It gives you so many ways to break down traffic and spot changes that it is literally a no brainer.

Using Google Analytics to track longtail traffic is fairly straight forward; however let’s just define what we mean by longtail;

Many people consider longtail traffic to be 3 words or more, however I and most experienced SEO’s I know consider longtail traffic to be any keyword that drives small amounts of traffic but has no real competition.

On that note let’s go over to analytics and break this down a little, the first thing you need to do is pull up the keywords your website was found on in the last month, then use the advanced filter at the bottom of the keywords to highlight any keywords that sent less than 5 visits.

Organic Traffic Visitors

These will all be longtail keywords, however in order to get an idea of growth and how they’re performing you need to see data from previous months;

Analytics allows you to view a direct comparison to previous months and allows you to see how your traffic is growing, or not.

traffic comparison

It will also allow you to quickly see which keywords underperformed compared to previous months;

Now because I am a little bit of a geek and an obsessive SEO I like to keep track of this on a month to month basis, this allows me to see how my site has performed over a longer period of time and I use excel to help me track monthly increases and decreases with regards to search traffic on all levels;

longtail graph

The graph works by calculating the increases and decreases in traffic based on the amount of searches a particular keyword receives on a month by month basis.

From the above graph (which is based on SEO wizz) we can see that traffic was down in December all round with every type of keyword taking a hit, we can also see an increase in traffic in March on the keywords driving 200 or more searches a month, this correlates well with my first page rankings for “SEO” and “Search engine optimisation”, I no longer rank first page for SEO but when I did it drove a lot of traffic.

More importantly and for no apparent reason I saw a massive drop off in longtail terms or terms bringing 10 or less visits per month, this is in line with the longtail drop off reported by SEOmoz a couple of weeks ago.

Breaking down your traffic month by month noticing differences in search traffic on all levels will help you understand what part of your SEO strategy is working and highlight algorithm changes, like the one reported by Richard Baxter at SEO Gadget.

If you’re serious about SEO this is a must, how you monitor it is up to you but it is vital that you break down the different keyword levels.


is the CEO of Branded3 a Search Marketing Agency in the UK. Tim has over a decade of experience in Search and regularly speaks at key events and conferences.

5 thoughts on “Tracking Your Search Traffic – How to Quickly Spot Issues with Your Organic Traffic and Check Longtail Performance

  1. Another great article from you sir Tim!

    Keeping an up-to-date and in-depth tracking system can really show how your site is performing and gives you an idea on what areas to improve when it is not living up to you or your client’s standards.

  2. What most people don’t realise is, is that the majority of a websites traffic comes from longtail traffic, therefore it is vital you keep an eye on your performance in this area and create plenty of content.

  3. Hi Tim,

    I noticed a drop on a site on visits equal or less than 1, but a big increase on visits above.
    Trying to actually pinpoint the issue and rectify is the tricky bit, takes a lot of time consuming digging and ruling out issues.

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