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Why You Might Be Using Keyword Rankings in All the Wrong Ways

Keyword rankings are not the be-all and end-all of performance indicators. In fact, rankings can paint a skewed picture of what’s really going on in your online marketing campaign.

The theory is simple – you choose a phrase that represents your product or service, and then work to start ranking for those phrases.

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Let’s say your website offers details on your Fizzbang Widget Repair Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Naturally, you want to rank high for the key phrase “fizzbang widget repair in Kalamazoo”.

You write blog posts that are carefully worded to include just the right amount of keyword density, you optimize your meta descriptions and title tags, you build links on important websites in the fizzbang widget community, get listed on widget repair directories, and begin an aggressive social media campaign, all in an effort to rank higher for that search term.

Congratulations, it worked! You now rank on page one for “fizzbang widget repair in Kalamazoo”!

Trouble is, you’re not seeing much of a gain in your organic traffic or your business’s bottom line.

What went wrong?

Your plan failed because you started with the wrong goal.

Rankings are just an indicator, not an end in and of themselves. When you make rankings your primary pursuit, you end up ignoring what your potential customers actually want.Website ideas.jpg

They don’t care what you think they want to see.

They want assistance with their own issues.

So, the question is: how are you going to help them?

Start by looking at what search terms are currently working for your website. A recent analysis of several of our clients showed that much of their existing organic traffic was grouped into three main categories:

1.  Potential customers who already knew about the business and searched for it by name

This is a wonderful thing to see. It means that you have succeeded in establishing a brand that potential customers recognize, remember, and seek out. The question now becomes: how do you get more people to search for you by name?

[Get a free website report to see how your traffic is finding you.]

2.  Potential customers with questions and requests for help

People go online to find solutions to their problems, and you will gain their loyalty and spending dollars when you help them to solve those problems.

What are the questions you most often get from your current customers? I guarantee it’s not “Do you repair fizzbang widgets?”

But, if that’s the keyword you’re completely focused on, that’s the question you are answering. 

It’s a lot more common to see long-tail search terms like: “How much does it cost to install a fizzbang widget in my home?”, or “proper care for fizzbang widgets”.

Since you can’t predict every question a customer will ask, it’s extremely difficult to build a comprehensive list of keywords to track this sort of traffic.

The solution here is to expand your online footprint. Show yourself as an industry thought leader in the places where people are talking about your industry. Engage with users on social media, participate in events and promotions that draw attention to your brand name in a general sense, not just in relation to one specific offering (or keyword).

3.  Potential customers looking for product reviews

Since we can now connect to the wealth of human knowledge and experience via a small hunk of plastic and wires in our pocket, it’s very easy to find what other people have to say about a product or service.

When was the last time you made a large purchase without looking at some sort of review? One glance at Amazon.com shows how much people love to share their opinions. You can capitalize on this trend by keeping up to date on the latest products, services, and trends in your industry, and reflecting that information on your website.

Ranking Incompatibility

As you can see, these categories are all quite broad and can’t be contained in a set of search phrases.

Rankings as an end goal will not show you how effective you are at reaching and converting these traffic sources.

So, What are Rankings Good For?

Keyword rankings serve an important purpose, and a carefully prepared and curated keyword list is essential in any marketing campaign.

Instead of focusing on them, however, use them as a gauge. Build a list of terms that represents your most profitable offerings. This list will be something that you’ll adjust as you go, and it will show you how your overall messaging is being received by the online world, both by users and search engines.What are your keywords.jpg

In addition to this list, you need to keep an eye on the changing list of top performing search terms over a given period, whether that’s a week, a month, a quarter, or a year. What surprises are there on the list? How closely does it match up with your tracked keyword list? What sections of your website are missing in these terms?

This is powerful information that can help steer your entire marketing platform. When you look at the keywords that your customers are choosing, you gain insight into what’s driving traffic RIGHT NOW. (Information that is far more interesting and profitable than just assuming you know which keywords are the most important.)

This will keep you on the forefront of the online conversation, providing your potential customers with what they are currently looking for.

The Bottom Line

DON’T get trapped in the quest to be number one for your chosen keywords.

All too often you’ll spend valuable time and resources on a pursuit that will not benefit your bottom line the way you want it to. After all, is your main goal your placement on a search engine results page or is it to make money?Keyword Researching.jpg

If increased sales are your goal, it makes no sense to focus on just a handful of specific keywords. A website-wide approach can help you dominate entire keyword-relevant topics and be far more lucrative and sustainable.

DO put keywords and ranking tools to good use by making them work for you and your business.

If this seems like a monumental undertaking, you’re not wrong. It requires time, effort, attention and expertise. Fortunately help is available. The experts at SEO.com are ready to help by providing you with a free customized website report and proposal with our ideas on how to help you reach your goals.

We look forward to working with you and your business towards a prosperous 2017!


Keywords and PPC go hand-in-hand. Are you using your keywords in effective paid online marketing strategies? Download this quick checklist and find out.

Download your free ppc checklist

Topics: SEO Keyword Research Analytics

Josh Richardson

Written by Josh Richardson

Josh is an Account Executive at SEO.com, and loves what he does and who he works with. He's made a career out of taking care of customers and clients, and enjoys finding new ways to work smarter, not harder. When he's not at work, he's either with his two boys, or he's directing or acting in local theatre. Say hi to Josh on Twitter @Jmr_Utah

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