If SEO is a Game, Are Rankings the Best Way to Keep Score?

Rankings seem to be a common issue that most clients bring up when they find their website has decreased in search for a keyword term they want to be on page one for. What ThoughtShift digital marketers have been noticing for some time now is the way in which people search and how behaviours have changed. People search and browse for longer, they use more generic searches to begin with, what we like to call “research terms” and narrow down their results by adding more specific keywords to their search query “long-tail terms”. Customers like to go back to brands they trust, they look for reviews and voucher codes before filling out forms or making purchases. Products are left in baskets for longer periods of time and some users tend to come back through other channels after a month of their first search to make a purchase.

Here are some ways to look at your campaign to determine if your SEO efforts are paying off despite the loss of rankings.

Why Measuring the Goals of a Campaign is Important

As digital marketers, our campaign results and successes are often measured by various different KPIs (key performance indicators). KPIs include; revenue, transactions, contact or lead form completions, sign-ups, sessions, time on site, page views and more.

Goals help to determine if the work you have been doing has helped other conversion points across the site and if the work carried out has helped the website’s overall authority by comparing figures against a previous, relevant time period.

What to look for:

Take a look at the goals on your site. Have you seen an increase in leads, sales or newsletter sign-ups compared against a similar time period? Can you determine what keywords are sending you conversions in Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools?

Need to get goals set up? Read more in our free onsite guide: Google Analytics Guide To Help Track Goals

Rankings as a KPI

We’re often asked: “Why have my rankings gone down?” and to be honest, it is never the same reason for every website. Investigation and analysis is usually required to discover the true reason for spiralling decreases or even the smallest of fluctuations in rankings.

Below are some causes of ranking fluctuations:

Panda 4.1

What to look for:

Take a look at your website, have all your keywords gone down or has your website gone down for one or two keywords?

Before you take drastic action, monitor your websites rankings for a couple of days and determine what should be done to re-gain the rankings you had previously or higher rankings than before.

Tip: Screenshot the search results for your target keywords so you can see competitors you are up against now and who’s still around in 6 months’ time.

Should I Worry About #1 Rankings?

The job of a digital marketer is not just to achieve number #1 rankings, but to open your site up to the amount of opportunities available online. There are hundreds of thousands of keywords in hundreds of different variations you can optimise your website for.

With bigger brands being more favoured by Google and achieving page one rankings for the hot generic terms, it is likely that you will not achieve the desired number one rank for your target keyword without investing a big budget and lots of time.

Instead look for longer-tail opportunities and aim to be the most relevant to the searches made. Long-tail keywords are more specific and often users searching with these terms will be past the research stage and have a greater intent to purchase and convert on your website. Additionally, in some circumstances showing for ten different keyword variations on page one of Google will be better converting than one number #1 ranking as users are likely to search a few times using a few different variations before making a choice to buy or convert on a website.

Optimising your site for relevant long-tail keywords will help to increase traffic to your site as your website will be open to more keyword variations.

What to look for:

Take a look at the traffic to your site, has it increased over time? Has your bounce rate decreased for organic search traffic to your site? Are people spending longer on your site? This tends to mean that the right type of traffic is landing on your site and is interested in what you have to offer and the quality of traffic is better.

Traffic Graph

So, Are Rankings a True Representation of Your SEO Campaign’s Success?

In our view, there is SO much more a digital marketer does to impact a website business when running a SEO campaign which can be lost by the preoccupation of “my rankings have gone down”. We increase the quality of the traffic, reduce organic traffic bounce rate, increase conversions, increase user engagement and overall Brand awareness online. Therefore, looking at a specific keyword ranking as a KPI will not fully show the impact of a SEO campaign on your business. So to answer the question, keyword rankings are a good indicator of a SEO campaign’s impact over the long term and can be used as one of many KPIs, not THE ONE & ONLY KPI.

If you’re worried about your SEO campaign, take a look at the points above and review your campaign with your SEO manager. This way you can get up to speed on the strategy and what has been working well and what needs more work.

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