website search engine ranking: what else is there?

In Website Search Engine Ranking Got You Down? Stop the Insanity!, I highlighted all of the reasons why you should not focus on keyword search engine ranking.  In this post, I outline what you should be looking at to ensure success.

what should I be obsessing over?

Of course, the answer depends on your marketing campaign goals, objectives and the action plan you have in place to fulfill those goals.  However, if you need something to fill the void, here are some things that are going to give you a much better idea of what your website search engine ranking means and could be for you:

page performance + keyword conversions

Which pages and keywords on your site already convert?  Those pages and keywords are the ones we want to swaddle and treat with extra special care.  Those are the keywords that we want to target on our site.  And then, we want to find similar keywords that will have the same effect these have had and target those as well.  But hold on don’t think, well then can’t I get obsessed with checking the website ranking for these keywords?  No because remember all the things I told you above – those still apply.

organic keyword traffic

We want to make sure that we are increasing organic search traffic and that the number of keywords driving traffic is increasing as well.  If you are focusing on a set of keywords and no one is coming to your site with those keywords as entrance sources, there is a serious problem.

click-through rates & bounces

You have your keywords and you have targeted them on your site and now you want to just watch the money roll in.  Not if your click through rate and bounce rate sucks.  If you rank number one for chewing gum and no one clicks on your link because your title and description doesn’t contain your unique value proposition and marketing message, i.e. my product does a better job of curing bad breath, no one will click through and all that time you spent on improving your website ranking just went out the window. Similarly, if searchers do click through but find that your content does not convey the message effectively, they will bounce. Looking at the keywords and the associated click-through and bounce rates is a fantastic tool for marketers.

keyword competition

How competitive are the keywords you are trying to rank for?  If you are a new soda company, I don’t care how much money you throw at it, it is going to take you a very, very long time to rank for “soda,” you know why – ‘cause it is super competitive.  So instead of obsessing over one keyword, think of all the other terms you could be going for like “classic soda pop” or “bottled soda pop,” or try looking at related keywords like “refreshing beverage.”  Unfortunately SEO is a bit of a popularity contest – so don’t try dating the prom queen before you hang out with her pals.

branded vs non-branded keywords

This one depends on your goals.  If you are trying to build brand awareness, then improving keyword rankings for branded terms is going to be important.  If you are trying to rank for more terms across the industry, then non-branded terms are going to be key.  Either way, it is still all about how these keywords convert that determines how they are really affecting your websites search engine ranking.

play around in google analytics

GA is like Photoshop, there are multiple ways to slice data.  You can spend hours and hours digging in, looking at how people got to your site, where they went, when they left.  Time on site, page views, bounce rate, visitor loyalty, in-page analytics, and page depth are all great indicators of how your keywords are working for you.

one keyword at a time

If you are relaxing on a lake and someone throws a giant boulder in the water, you are going to be startled.  The same thing goes for a website.  Do create a list of keywords that you would like to rank for, but do not assume that you can attempt to rank for these keywords all at once or you will startle the search engines.  You want to skip rocks across the surface so as not to disturb anything.  You do this by taking a set of keywords and working towards your goal of improving the keyword ranking for these terms one at a time.   So start prioritizing those terms and decide where you want to start.

make sure your site is working

Review your site’s crawl errors, robots.txt, and redirects and make sure the search engines are indexing your pages.  I cannot tell you how many times these things get overlooked and they can have a huge impact on a website’s search engine ranking.

don’t overlook the looks: architecture + messaging

Make sure your site is visually appealing.  Clean up your content, keep call-outs focused and targeted, and make sure your information architecture is well-structured for both users and search engines.  And never, ever use Flash.

get in the social game

Whether you want to admit it or not, social signals are affecting website search engine rankings.  Get your business on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (which will be available soon for businesses) or whatever social network YOUR customers are on.  Start blogging and become a thought leader in your industry.  What’s that you say?  You don’t have time? Well stop spending time looking at those meaningless keyword ranking reports and start: writing blog posts that target keywords, retweeting industry related Tweets to build relationships with people, or posting info about events to your Facebook page.  Not only does social engagement convert, but it also has the added benefit of helping improve your website ranking and make your site perform better.

ready for your new, keyword ranking report free life?

So what are you waiting for?  Pull out your to-do list and get started on a list of things to look at that will actually help grow your business.

And to all the marketers out there, tell us about your experiences fighting the good fight of measuring success with keyword rankings and what you like to tell clients to focus on.

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