By Carrie-ann | Feb 20, 2014 | SEO

Are Keyword Ranking Reports Worth Doing?

Here’s my question to you. Does your internet marketing consultant supply you with keyword ranking reports? Do changes in rankings correlate with your website traffic? With conversions? With achieving your business goals?  The answer is almost certainly no.

Here’s my view. While tracking keywords has its uses, still, keywords by themselves were never designed to demonstrate your business was achieving its goals online. Keywords are one of the easiest measures to track. Clients frequently try to instruct marketeers to do what it takes to get to number one on Google for X,Y and Z keywords.

This approach to tracking the progress of your business has a number of issues. Some are new, but others we’ve always known about.

In the days when you could track keywords in Google Analytics, we’ve always known that a substantial amount of traffic was coming from other terms. These were often long tail keywords, and exactly the phrases which are likely to convert to enquiries or sales.  With keywords themselves you have no idea what traffic they are sending you since searchers rarely type in ‘head terms’ into Google.

Keywords, then, have always been something of an abstraction and not to be taken literally.  I still run keyword reports for myself, but only as a benchmark. They are less useful now than they have ever been and should not be used to gauge success.  Put another way, keyword rankings are no substitute for marketing psychology and customer research.

Google has been downgrading keywords for some time. Killing off its keyword tool was one step. Removing useful information from Google Analytics was another. Finally, Google launched Hummingbird, its new algorithm which uses semantic search.

Briefly, if you search for something on Google now you’ll find many of the page 1 results don’t contain the exact term you’re searching for.  That doesn’t mean the results aren’t accurate. Rather it means they are based on semantics rather than simply keyword matching. Google’s new algorithm can more easily return content according to the long queries, real people type into the Google search box. If you don’t believe me, just check the phrases that are currently converting for you. You’ll be surprised at the variation.

In prior years everyone (clients and consultants) believed you had to be number 1 on Google. But Google is re-working the structure of the first page. It’s now more cluttered than it’s ever been with ads, photos and links. Being number 1 for a keyword is no longer such an attractive proposition. Just as in the case of Adwords, being number 1 doesn’t automatically mean better conversions.
You should also consider any internet marketing consultant worth their salt should be encouraging you to develop non Google traffic which also needs to be quantified and linked to broader goals
All internet marketing companies now need to get to grips with marketing psychology and give clients meaningful and transparent reports. This is good for clients since, in my view, it makes SEO more relevant to your business goals.

SEO can’t be divorced from wider internet marketing.   It’s important to measure all sources of traffic (including social) to determine your business’s total footprint.  Its footprint, won’t just measure traffic but also how well the wider internet community responds to your content. Pre-Penguin this would have meant links but really means mentions on social sites and the wider internet.

I think the downgrading of keyword reporting is bringing internet marketing closer to traditional marketing where multiple channels are the norm.