SEO has become synonymous with keywords. Businesses want to know which keywords to use in their content marketing, which to bid on with paid search, and which to consider most valuable through organic search.

In reality, though, keyword ranking isn’t the only — or even, in some cases, the most important — measurement of your marketing and advertising campaigns’ success.

A Changing Landscape

Keyword decisions that make sense in the current climate might no longer matter six months down the road. There are certain variables that your company can’t control, such as the following:

  • Google Algorithm Changes – Google is constantly refining their search algorithms to ensure the best possible experience/results for users. A single algorithm change can cause drastic movement across the board as well as in specific industries, causing unavoidable keyword fluctuations. Additionally, keyword popularity changes based on consumer interest, search volume, and numerous other factors.
  • Personalized Search – Google and other search engines have created ways to personalize search results for each user. A consumer’s browser history, chosen device, and physical location can all impact what comes up in the SERPs for a given keyword.

    The same holds true for paid search. If you make decisions based solely on tracking tools, you might find yourself left with inaccurate reporting and poor marketing decisions, especially as consumers search on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops, all while logged into their Google accounts.

  • Focus Breadth – This is something your company can have control over if you pay attention to more than just rankings. You can easily rank first in the SERPs for a phrase like “purple duck meeting.” It doesn’t make sense, and nobody will search for it, but you’ll get a top-ranking position.

    There’s a bit of a see-saw when it comes to keywords. If you narrow your keywords too much, you’ll get low-quality and low-volume searches that don’t produce clicks and conversions. Keywords that are too broad and common won’t give you a high enough position in the SERPs to matter.

What To Do About It

When you create an SEO campaign, your KPIs and measurements should correspond with the goals you’ve laid out for your business and website. Otherwise, you can’t depend on accurate and actionable reporting.

Try incorporating other metrics into the SEO decision-making process.

Organic Traffic

Pay careful attention to the sessions resulting from organic traffic. You can easily discern from these measurements your SEO campaign’s overall performance, and if you dig far enough into your analytics, you can make more granular assessments about your performance.

Use organic traffic to understand how much of your visitors are new or returning, which landing pages get the most clicks, whether your clicks come from branded or non-branded searches, and other factors. Additionally, pay close attention to impressions and click-through rates.

You can analyze the information received directly from GSC, but use the data as a guideline instead of a rule. The more data you collect, the more patterns will emerge, and you can make decisions based on specific percentages, especially if they’re dramatic.

Website Goals

After you start collecting traffic metrics, pay attention to how well you’re meeting your website goals. For instance, how often do you get new user sign ups? How much revenue is generated per visit? How many transactions do you record from a single user? Other metrics to track include email opt-ins and contact form completions.

We don’t deny that keywords still play a valuable role in SEO. However, we prefer to take a more hollistic approach to SEO for our clients. You can learn more about our strategies by downloading our free case study: SEO helps financial advisory site boost organic traffic 19% amid migration to new CMS.

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