Many website owners obsess over organic keyword rankings. Our clients often tell us, “We have to improve our rankings for “keyword X!”. However, focusing on rankings as the primarily goal of SEO will not likely deliver the results most site owners want which is to increase business from their websites.
In this example, we will use a client’s Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to choose the best keywords to focus on first, those bringing searchers to the website who are converting into leads.
Improving Rankings May Not Lead To Increased Click-Throughs
A past client, a media planning and buying firm, re-connected with us and said “we have to increase our rankings for the phrase media planning and buying”. They felt it was important to rank higher than a key competitor for this phrase.
However examining their Google’s Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics it became clear that “media planning and buying” phrase variations are not the best search queries to focus on to increase leads, the primary goal of their website.
The screenshot below from Google’s Webmaster Tools shows some of the top keywords for which files from their website were being displayed in search results over a recent 30 day period.
There were about 440 impressions for a few of the related “media planning and buying” phrase variations and very few, if any, people clicked through to the website.
In fact,according to Webmaster Tools the only keyword phrases that received a significant number of clicks over that recent 30 day period were variations on their company name.
Top Search Queries Reported in Google Webmaster Tools.
Impressions: The number of times pages from a site were viewed in search results
(Path: Dashboard / Your site on the web / Search Queries)
Web pages may be displayed in search results for significant numbers but receive a low percentage of click-throughs for a few reasons including, but not limited to:
1. The search listing / snippet is not enticing
It’s possible that the search snippet displayed (the combination of HTML Page Title and description generated by the search engine) is not well developed and not doing a good job of enticing searchers to click through to the site.
We modified the home page HTML Title (the page ranking highest for most of the “media planning and buying” phrases) as well as the text that Google was extracting to generate the search description. The result was a more enticing search listing, but this has had no positive effect on click-throughs for these phrases.
2. The search listing is not relevant to most searchers for that query
A large percentage of the people searching on the keyword phrase may not be looking for what you offer. When someone searches on “media planning & buying” for example, we don’t know their intent, but it’s likely that most are not looking for a firm to help them with media planning and buying. Rather, many may simply be looking for information on the topic.
So, if we focused on the “media planning and buying” keyword phrases we would very likely have increased rankings and impressions. I’m sure that would have made our client very happy, especially if we got their rankings up higher than their important competitor. But what help would it have been to their business? Probably not much as there would still be very few people clicking through to the website.
More importantly, it would not likely generate many new leads for them (Checking their analytics: of the people who did visit the site after searching on “media planning & buying” over a 6 month period, not one of them was interested enough to submit an inquiry or even to look at their Contact Us page.)
What Keywords Should You Focus On?
Below is a report from our client’s Google Analytics. It shows the only keywords from organic search and PPC that have resulted in the conversions that they are currently tracking (an inquiry form).
Keywords Converting Reported in Google Analytics
(Path: Traffic Sources / Keywords / Goal Set X)
Other than variations of their company name, the keywords resulting in conversions in any significant numbers are “ad agencies in [state removed]” and “media buying agencies”.
Ultimately, we recommended that we start focusing first on the “media xxx agencies” phrase variations since improving rankings for these keywords will likely result in more leads.
If you’ve had a website up for some time, you need to check deeper into your analytics. See what keywords have resulted in people actually clicking through to the website and ideally,which of those have resulted in people converting; that is, taking the actions you desire such as inquiring, signing up, buying, clicking on ads etc.
These keywords are excellent candidates to work on to improve rankings as your efforts will likely pay off in increase conversions. If needed, consider running a PPC campaign to test keywords in order to learn which phrases to focus on in your SEO efforts.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.