Why Keyword Rankings Are Not So Important

Conversion Rate Optimisation
Digital Marketing
Paid Media
Performance Marketing

Why Keyword Rankings Are Not So Important

A good SEO strategy for any company involves many parts all working together and a huge part of the strategy is should be measurement. So what should we be tracking and how will we know when we are succeeding?

In this post we will be looking at the role of keywords in a modern SEO strategy and when they may not be the right metric to measure at all. 

Tracking keywords is irrelevant 70% of the time

In order to understand when to pay attention to keyword rankings, we need to understand what keyword rankings are actually telling us. 

Despite what old wisdom and rank tracking sales pages tell us, keyword rankings tell us little about our SEO efforts effectiveness. In fact, as much as 50-80% of your organic search traffic will come from long-tail keywords that you probably don’t track at all. Here is a simple explainer from these guys to help illustrate the point:

Search results are no longer made up of 10 organic results

In recent years SERPs have changed from a small list of results with a few ads above, to a medium-sized list of ads, followed by a featured snippet, or local maps pack, or merchant ad carousel, before we even get to the first organic result. This means that traditional traffic models that account for a certain percentage of traffic to each organic placement are obsolete and can not account for the ever-changing search layout updates. 

Historically, ranking in top positions meant that you were highly visible and certainly above the fold, but these days you are increasingly required to pay for the privilege of above the fold placements. 

Then as a cherry on top, Google is no longer sticking to the trusted recipe of 10 organic results on a page. Recent results have had as few as 7 organic results meaning that traffic forecasting and click share models are out of kilter once again. Almost 20 % of search results now display less than 10 blue links.

SEO is no longer about keywords

It is about topics. Targeting one or two high volume keywords used to be all it took to dominate a niche, but nowadays your content needs to cover a topic in-depth, instead of targeting a couple of cherry-picked keywords.

Just going after Keywords is no longer enough, because Google does not rank keywords, Google ranks answers. Even the term ‘keyword’ is obsolete, ‘keyphrase’ should be the replacement. 

Keyword intent is king

Well actually, content is king. Tracking keywords with intent you understand helps you stay focused on targeting the right types of content. Unfortunately, it is impossible to track intent, so keywords will have to do, but it is the intent that we should be looking at rather than the keyword itself.

Monitoring your position for these keywords helps you stay in touch with market trends and can alert you to changes in the competitive landscape. So once again, simply tracking keywords is not enough, your keywords need to support your content goals.

Many businesses believe that ranking highly for target keywords means that they will get more traffic and that more traffic will mean more business. While tracking relevant keywords is good, its what happens when the visitor lands on your site that really matters. Even if you have a great ranking for an intent laden keyword, the visitor journey, once they have decided to visit your site, needs to be well optimised and the funnel well defined in order to convert the visitor into a customer.

All the good keywords are taken 

Keywords are synonymous with SEO, but search engines have evolved and paid marketing is becoming more prevalent. 

With the rise of paid advertising funding Google’s massive growth, individual keyword rankings are starting to mean less than they once did.  

The trend these days is to buy traffic for strong or highly competitive head terms because it is easier than ranking organically which means that even if you have a top spot for a great high conversion keyword, you aren’t getting the traffic that you may expect. So well done to your agency for nailing the ranking, but was the cost and effort worth it in the end? On Mobile, which makes up nearly 60% of all search, probably not. According to Sparktoro, Organic CTR on mobile is roughly 50% less than that of desktop due to the large number and ad size of paid results on mobile. On Desktop, the top 5 organic results get 67% of clicks, meaning advertising is taking a chunk, but on mobile, an even larger one. 

What we are trying to say here is that the only way to accurately measure an optimisation campaign is to look at search performance as a whole. While search rankings for specific keywords has its place, focusing too deeply on one aspect or another can lead to decisions being made in isolation of the greater good of the marketing mix.

Article Author : Peter Jooste


Categories SEO