Forget Keyword Ranking Reports

Forget Keyword Ranking Reports

As an Online Marketing Agency, we no longer provide individual keyword ranking reports and here’s why:

I hate keyword ranking reports, they don’t tell us a great deal and usually contribute to keyword obsession: a very unhealthy disorder.



There are many reasons why I don’t like Keyword ranking reports including the fact that they don’t really paint a true picture. In this age of personalised search results we don’t all get the same results for a start: what might be number 1 for a query I search for may be number 3 for you. In addition, positions change daily for many reasons and as a result a keyword ranking report only contains correct information at the time the report was created and we don’t actually know which keywords resulted in conversions (thanks to “Not Provided”) anyway.



But my main reason for hating keyword rankings reports is that it encourages both SEO Management Companies and clients to focus on a tiny fraction of the picture. As an example, one of my clients is a well know UK firm and at the beginning of the relationship I could sense their skepticism when I refused to “concentrate on 10 “main” terms”



The reason I refused is simple, with potentially tens of thousands of searches for their products, we won’t all be searching with those 10 “main” Terms. Instead, users will be searching in a variety of ways such as; individual products by name, brand, price point, colour preference and a slew of terms that result in what we call long tail searches. This blog covers this in further detail.



Fast forward a few months and this client has traffic coming from over 6000 keywords and is visible for over 16,000 keywords. The result of this is phenomenal growth which started of slow and gently built momentum. I guarantee the client in question will be relieved I didn’t just tell them what they wanted to hear.



Here’s some examples from 3 different websites. What do these graphs have in common?



keywords2 keywords1keywords3





As we can see, the blue line is website traffic, the bar graph is number of keywords ranked (both branded and unbranded) There is a direct correlation between number of keywords ranked and amount of traffic.



Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and you are always going to see occasions where this isn’t the case but generally it’s likely you’ll see more traffic if you rank for more keywords.



Long Tail Keywords:


Now an important point to remember, most searches are what we call Long Tail Keywords and usually look something like these:



  • Buy red widgets online
  • widgets for sale different colours
  • cheapest pink widgets for men
  • show me red widgets
  • red widgets for sale near my location


Rather than these:


  • Widgets
  • pink widgets
  • red widgets
  • mens widgets



Many long tail key terms may only be searched for once, with voice search, location based search and of course personalised search you will likely show up for terms that are incredibly unique and specific. This is the point. If you are only visible for a handful of search terms, you’re missing out on the majority of the traffic, it is literally as simple as that.



Performance Indicators:


It is of course important for a webmaster to understand the effect of SEO but rather than concentrate on specific keyword positions which only gives you a snapshot in time, look at the bigger picture:



How many keywords are we visible for?


I’ve covered this above, but generally, more relevant keywords = more traffic. You can view some of the keywords you are visible for in Google Webmaster Tools.



How many keywords sent traffic?


Again, you can view this in Webmaster Tools and also Google Analytics. Again this is a handy metric to understand if your visibility is increasing / decreasing.



How many of our URLs received organic search



You are regularly publishing content right? If you are (You should be!), you’re creating new pages that will attract organic traffic and as these rank they’ll act as landing pages for new relevant traffic. If you see the number of URLs receiving search traffic increase, you’re probably ranking for more terms too.


How has general visibility of specific pages increasing / decreased?


Take a look at the “Top Pages” section of Google Webmaster Tools, you’ll see the overall impressions, clicks and rough number of keywords (and what they are) sending traffic to selected pages.


Whilst we no longer provide keyword ranking reports we do still track keywords internally. Obviously, it’s not possible to track every conceivable term (which again is a reason why ranking reports can be misleading) but we can track “buckets of keywords”. I’ll explain:


When we optimise a clients website we ask the question: What KIND of keywords could rank for this content based on a broad keyword: So for example, if it’s a page about iPhones for sale then the following terms are probably relevant as they are long tail variations of the broad and obvious term “iPhone”:


  • White iPhone for sale
  • Black iPhone for sale
  • iPhone 4s offers
  • Apple iPhone 5 deals
  • Cheapest iPhone 5
  • iPhone 5 reviews
  • Upgrade to iPhone 5 from iPhone 4s
  • +100 – 200 more



So we consider this when preparing copy and write it in a such a manner we’ll attract a wide range of terms that are relevant. We won’t just optimise a page for “iPhones” (that would be pointless!), but we may track that term as well as a few others. If we start seeing movement on that term it could indicate we’re ranking higher and for more less competitive terms that in aggregate send much more traffic. We’ll also take a look at some of the metrics above such as if this page is becoming more visible and for what terms (and how many). We’d then take this data and look at optimising the page again.


In other words we’d judge progress on how each page and its “bucket of keywords” are affecting its overall visibility: if that improves overall then we’re heading in the right direction. Also, it’s worth pointing out that we might not worry too much about individual keywords moving in the wrong direction if the general movement of the page is up.



Creating A Sustainable SEO Campaign:


By taking this approach, you are creating a sustainable SEO campaign that focuses on moving the business forward rather than looking at specific keyword positions. I’ve seen many sites that rank number 1 for a perceived main term that overall, attracts much less traffic than a competitor site that ranks top 10 for 100’s or even 1000’s of terms.


We’re going to see many more agencies opt out of providing keyword ranking reports in favour of more indicative reporting that paints a more accurate and realistic picture and whilst some clients may be skeptical, the results should do the talking.