SEO sometimes sounds like a scary thing, because it’s not something with an immediate and satisfying result. I can’t perform SEO one day and expect to see miracles the next day. But don’t let that think that you can’t measure SEO. You can, but you have to choose measurable goals.
We recently started working on SEO for a client who had previously had search engine optimization done for their site. They received a report each month that boasted that their site had successfully managed to get ranked on page one in Google for 30 different keyword terms. Wow, you may think, that sounds super impressive! It does sound impressive.
However, the report didn’t show any other data for those keywords. No search volume or traffic or conversions. So I did a little research and exported all the search data for the site for 2018 from Google Search Console. What I discovered was that the report was not wrong that they were landing page one for all thirty search terms. However, for all of 2018, they had only 22 total clicks for those keywords. And those 22 clicks came from just three keyword phrases. For the other 27 page one keywords, there were zero clicks.
Why were there no clicks? Because there’s no search volume for those keywords. Nobody is searching for those words. I’ve said before that it’s easy to rank for a keyword that nobody is using. That’s why keyword research is so important and choosing a measurable metric is so important. Yes, we could measure the rank of those terms, but if those terms aren’t bringing any traffic, then what’s the point? Then you’ve optimized your site for nothing.
How to pick good metrics
When we do SEO, we consider many different options for measurable goals and these goals can vary by industry. Not every website will have the same goals. But we want to be able to measure that the changes we’ve made and the optimizations we’ve done have made a direct impact on the success of the website. For that reason, I rarely choose keyword rank as a metric by itself.
Metrics to Measure
- Traffic: You can easily measure traffic from month to month, and when you see an increase in traffic to the site, that’s a very good indication that something is going right.
- Conversions: You can’t do SEO without tracking conversions. Choose a measurable goal, such as a button click, form submission, or product purchase, and set up goals in Google analytics.
- Rank: You can track rank as a goal, but only if you know that keyword phrase has search volume and it should never be the only metric.
How to pick keywords like a pro
STEP ONE: If you don’t have Google Search Console set up for your site, do it and do it now. There’s a wealth of information within that tool for you to use in your SEO but it takes some time to start collecting data. My best tip for keyword research starts with search console. You can literally export the data and see exactly which keywords are getting the most impressions. Those keywords with high impressions are your starting list.
STEP TWO: Do your own Google search for each of these keywords. Why? Because the results may be different than you expect. I was recently working on some keyword research for plumbing company and one of the pages on their site talks about sump pumps. The obvious keyword is sump pump but when I Googled it, the results I got were for sump pump products such as Home Depot and Amazon. The plumbing company offers sump pump installation, not stand alone sales. Google thinks people searching for sump pumps are looking for pricing and purchasing information, not installation information. So that keyword, while obvious, wasn’t a winner. Instead, we needed sump pump installation.
STEP THREE: Now that you’ve exported your list of keywords, tested them to see if Google thinks they relevant, the next step is to plug those keywords into your keyword research tool, like KWFinder, Moz, or SEM Rush. Yes, these are all paid SEO tools, but if you want to do SEO and do it well, you’ll need to a research tool and these three are my favorites.
Why do you need to research if you can see that they are relevant and usable? Because they might not be attainable. Some keyword phrases are much more difficult than others and without researching, you might not realize that the keyword you picked is super competitive. The more people who are vying for that keyword, the harder it is to break into those ranks.
The Keyword Choice Trifecta: Relevance, Volume, Attainability
Only after you’ve cleared those three metrics is it time to start optimizing your site for those keywords. Then you can start watching for changes, but don’t expect overnight changes. It can take time, months even, to see a significant change.
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