Web Marketing Wednesday – Search Engine Rankings Are Just a Key Performance Indicator
March 17th, 2010
A lot of web marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) firms try to sell rankings as an end, a goal to be obtained. In my view, rankings are just a means to an end. Rankings, good or bad, mean nothing if you are not getting traffic and the right kind of traffic in order to meet your website goals and objectives. There is a common misconception out there that having good rankings for a particular keyword will mean a windfall of traffic and costumers. While this may be true for some terms most business owners focus on the wrong terms and obsess over where they rank for these terms.
How to Choose Keywords
A lot of business owners do not know how to define their products or services with the correct keywords potential customers might be using to describe their business. Often times the way an organization or business owner discusses their industry is vastly different than how their customers talk about their industry. It is a classic case where the owner is too close to the product to make informed decisions regarding what words they should target with their website. That is not to say they shouldn’t be involved in the process, but they also need to listen to outside influences.
There are many ways to go about developing content and keywords to use as a basis for our rankings tests. Some of the techniques I recommend to clients are listed below.
- Poll Current Customers – Pick your top five customers and ask them what words or phrases they would use to describe your business. If you have to, bribe them with a Starbucks gift card or a small discount on their next order for their valuable time.
- Ask New Customers – Ask new customers that call or come in how they heard about your business. Get the method they used to find you. If they used a search engine ask them kindly, what phrase they used to get to your website.
- Study Analytics – Study your Analytics to see what words people are using to find your website. You can find this information underneath Traffic Sources.
- Use Keyword Tools – Use FREE keyword tools like the Google Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, and the SEOBook Keyword Tool. I could go through a whole post on choosing keywords, but you want to use words that have more traffic than others. Use the phrases you gathered from the techniques above to expand your search options.
- Look at Competitors’ Sites – Look at the competition’s website(s) and content, especially those that rank well already.
- Take Input From Other Sources – Talk to your employees, get input from friends and family. Even consider hiring an SEO specialist to help you with your keyword research.
Study Your Rankings
Once you have defined your keywords start tracking your current rankings. This will give you a baseline for your improvement and web marketing. Over the course of time if you make improvements to your website and they result in higher rankings that drive more traffic to your website then you know you are on the right path to reaching your goals. If better rankings do not result in an increase in traffic from search engines, you know you have not chosen very good keywords and you’ll need to start over. Use the tools below to study your rankings.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Google will give you some information in their Webmaster Tools. Take this information with a grain of salt. It may not be complete and it may not always be as accurate as other tools.
- Use ExactFactor’s Free Report – ExactFactor offers a free weekly report you can set up that shows you where you rank for keywords. Don’t obsess if your rankings fluctuate from week to week, this is common. However if you see a huge drop in rankings one week and it stays that way for a few more weeks then you should be concerned, a little.
- If you can afford it, get a subscription to Raven SEO Tools. It may be overkill for the general business owner, but their reporting is fantastic. You can even compare rankings with your competitors. If you don’t want to buy a subscription, try to find an SEO specialist that uses it and see if they can charge you a small fee to get the reports – I happen to know a guy.
The main thing to remember is not to obsess over the rankings. Use them to understand how they can impact your end goal. We will revisit this subject in the future because there is a whole lot more to talk about, but this will get you started. Join me next week for another Web Marketing Wednesday where I discuss using Google Adwords or Pay-Per-Click Marketing as a test environment for keywords and marketing campaigns.