Let’s be real, standard ranking reports for targeted keywords are dead. With the latest changes in local search, personalization, etc. simply tracking search engine rankings do not tell the whole story. In addition to the challenges of tracking rankings for a set of targeted keywords, what SEO’s often miss out on is the ability to take credit for increasing traffic of OTHER keywords that weren’t targeted – often the long tail – that improved as a result of website optimization efforts.
Although I haven’t completely ditched running those ranking reports, I’ve come up with more of a hybrid approach to tracking SEO improvements. Here is the process:
- Identify your keyword categories. For example if you sell cell phones they might be: phones, accessories, data plans, etc.
- Within each category, identify what types of “base” keywords represent that category. For example within the phones category they might be: phones, blackberry, iphone, etc.
- In Google Analytics, create a custom segment for each category. This segment will be for organic traffic that includes all the base keywords you’ve identified for that category.
- Track and trend keyword category traffic fluctuations so you can see a more holistic view of what type of organic of traffic is increasing or decreasing.
- Within each category, identify the best “exact match” keywords that represent that category. For example, “iphone 4g” and “blackberry storm”.
- Run rankings reports on these keywords and plop them into their appropriate buckets.
- Cross reference average ranking changes in each category to organic traffic from exact match keywords using the vlookup function in Excel.
By looking at traffic from keyword categories as a whole, in addition to rankings and their corresponding visits you can get a better idea in terms of how search position is impacting traffic.
Other metrics to trend that will provide insight into page indexation, long tail traffic and organic health in general are:
- Number of non branded organic visits
- % of non branded organic visits
- Number of non branded keywords
- Number of organic landing pages
I would love to throw this out to the readers to get feedback on how others are dealing with this. What is your solution for a better tracking system?