For most people an SEO campaign has one objective and one objective only: to increase their search engine rankings. I mean that’s what SEO is for right? At the start of the campaign you pick your keywords, you measure where you’re ranking for those keywords and then you measure the success of your SEO by where your rankings for those keywords end up. Simple, right? Well, not exactly.
First let’s take this all the way back to the basics. Why do you want those rankings to improve? Sure it’s nice to be able to type in a keyword and see your website right there on page 1 but if SEO was only about ego keyword research would be a whole lot easier. At the end of the day SEO is about exactly the same thing that any other marketing effort is about, increasing your exposure to potential customers, it’s about traffic and it’s about conversions. The reason you’re spending your time or money on an SEO campaign is because you want to get more customers. So, if your rankings don’t move for your chosen keywords does that mean that SEO has been a failure?
What if your chosen keywords don’t move but you start getting traffic from new variations in those areas? What if the number of search queries generating impressions and click-through traffic grow despite static rankings on the core keywords? What if your SEO company isn’t able to get your website featured organically in a highly competitive market but creates Yelp and social media profiles that grow your audience and start driving calls and conversions? In all of these scenarios, the basic objective of your marketing efforts has been fulfilled and you’re making more money as a business than you were before.
Rankings are by no means irrelevant and any good SEO campaign will lead to an increased search engine presence but with Google’s new algorithm updates and move towards exact match search results instead of the broad matches of yester-year specific keywords are no longer as important as they once were. Keywords that previously showed search volumes in the high hundreds to low thousands are now in the high tens. Other keywords that registered several hundred searches a month have seen their volume disappear altogether. So does this mean that the online markets for those areas have plummeted? No, instead it means that we need to re-think the way we are targeting those markets.
Another thing that has devalued keywords as a key performance indicator is the increase in focus on individualized and tailored search engine results. Search engine algorithms have become increasingly complex in the factors that they consider when creating a search engine results page for a user and many of these factors are based on the user. Google’s localized search engine results have been well known for some time but they are becoming increasingly focused and tailored as Google’s focus on mobile search and ability to recognize local business relevance grows. Even your personal browsing history and social media use can influence what you see and you can bet it’s going to differ from what other searchers are seeing.
SEO is a constantly evolving industry, with the flick of a switch Google can, and has, completely changed the game more than once. That means that the way we think about success in SEO needs to change too after all, rankings are nice, traffic and conversions are better.