Keyword Reporting Not Dead Yet?


Yes, I still keep track of keywords. I know what you’re thinking, with all the changes at Google to thwart rank manipulation, why would you want to still report on unreliable metrics. The keyword discussion with clients can only lead to the question of “why does keyword X not rank”? Let’s go back a few years and look at the keyword report from a more holistic point of view.

The Good Old Days

In 2008, keyword ranking reports were the primary way SEO was measured. You created a few article directory posts, built several keyword rich directory links and BOOM keyword X went from Google result #38 to page 1 in just a few months. Clients who paid SEOs to do this back then noticed great short term results. Page results that were nowhere in the top 100 were now bringing in lots of valuable traffic. Some sites even ranked much higher than well known brands. None of this made any sense to the end user of course, but thats another blog post.

If you were doing SEO in the late 2000s, you will remember that once you got to page 1, the job was not over. You must get to the top (sometimes at all costs)! To get higher up on Google’s results page, this meant more directory links and more article directory submissions. By setting the bar higher, it resulted in a lot of low quality links and articles to reach the top.

Much of what was done to rank well in those days is now coming back to haunt website owners. I find that almost every website I work on today that was doing SEO in the 2000s has some sort of shady link building practice that needs to be cleaned up. All of the SEO work done, must now be undone. Its very frustrating for business owners to pay someone again to undo what they already paid someone to do just a few years ago.

Ask yourself the question “is what I’m doing now to get results from search engines going to be valuable two years from now”? The sooner you make that question part of your strategy, the better off you will be in the future.

The Good New Days

I can honestly say that what is being done today by most reputable SEO professionals to improve search performance is going to have a sustainable impact. Creating great content and getting real links from real people should have been the strategy all along. Sponsoring events, improving the copy on your website, etc. are all great ways to create a more sustainable presence.

BEWARE! There are still agencies that claim to know SEO that start a conversation to the tune of “we can get your website to the top of Google”. Beware these shops who advertise or make “snake oil” like claims of #1 rankings. Your goals should be greater than a few vanity rankings.

Any SEO firm or digital agency worth their salt should start the conversation with “what are the goals for your website?” or “what part does search play in your current overall digital program?”. Without clear goals and a way to track those goals, you are doing SEO in the dark.

Keywords: Great for Trend Spotting and PPC

The way keyword reports should be used today is mainly to spot trends and monitor the overall health of a website. If something goes wrong on the site, a dip in a few core keywords may be a sign that something is up. Having a core group of keywords is also a great way to spot trends in your content. Is there are specific group of content that is performing well vs. the rest of your site? Are there gaps in content that can help you improve overall? Are there topics people are searching for that keyword tools can help uncover? See, keywords are not dead, they have just changed.

Ok, Keywords Are Mostly Out. What Should I Track?

Have goals in place for the business and key performance indicators that track these goals. Realize that things like seasonality and other campaigns can have an impact on your results. A few things I like to track include;

  • Cost per action/acquisition
  • Goal conversions
  • Click events
  • E-commerce conversions
  • Social shares

Mobile Friendly Yet?

The dynamic of a search ranking has changed so much depending on the device, location and type of search. It makes no sense to base the success of your campaign on a desktop search keyword ranking. The biggest challenge I see currently for most businesses is how to adapt to how people use the web. A lot of what I see in the marketplace is sites that are not mobile ready yet or struggle with the mobile experience. Nobody is perfect.

Just from glancing at mobile usage reports, I find that most websites have 20% or more of their visitors using a tablet or smart phone. When almost 1/4 of your audience is on a mobile device, there is absolutely a need to make changes. Test your site on this responsive tool to see what the mobile experience looks like on different devices.

Still Tracking Keywords?

Are you still using keywords as a reporting metric? What part do they play in your content marketing campaigns? Feel free to comment through a Twitter, Linkedin or Google+ share.