Last week, in a guest post at Search Engine People, I talked about keyword profiling — research you conduct to get inside the minds of your users. Once you’ve selected your keywords, does the work end there?
Many people forget about the importance of evaluating keyword performance. They get caught up in what they think should work instead of what is working. That is where keyword evaluation comes into play.
Keyword evaluation is the process of reviewing the performance of the keywords you’re targeting in your SEO campaign to determine whether or not you should invest more or less time into ranking well for that term. I typically start the evaluation process about six months into my SEO campaign, but you can definitely review keywords earlier depending on how quickly you’ve gotten a website to rank.
My keyword evaluation process has three components:
Within each SEO campaign there are keywords that you’re focusing on more heavily than others. This typically means you’ve been building inbound links using the keyword as anchor text to the page you are trying to rank for. If you’re a Raven Tools user, whenever you add anchor text to a link you setup in the Link Manager, we’ll check to see if you’re managing that keyword in the Keyword Manager and will automatically keep track of the number of requested and active links you have using that keyword as the anchor text.
What you’re looking to do here is to get a rough idea of how much of your link building/SEO time is spent toward ranking for each keyword. It’s very important you have a good idea of this metric so you can justify the need to increase or decrease the amount of time you’ll spend optimizing for that keyword moving forward.
We all have a keyword or two that our boss/client is adamant about ranking for. If you’re able to justify why you shouldn’t be spending your time ranking for that keyword during the keyword profiling process, here’s your chance to show them that you’re not getting any traffic for that keyword, either. The goal with this process is to look at where you’re ranking for each keyword and to see how much traffic you’re actually getting by ranking in a position for it.
Remember back inn 2005 when AOL leaked information that displayed what the clickthrough rates were for each ranking result in their search engine? This was amazing data for SEO’s because we could see what the traffic difference was between ranking number 1 and number 2 (and so on). So in your keyword evaluation you can do the same thing, but it takes a little extra work. As you move up in the rankings you want to take note as to how much traffic you received while in that position. You’ll then be able to get a rough estimate as to what the clickthrough rates are for rankings in your own industry (they will most likely be different in each industry).
This is arguably the most important metric in the keyword evaluation process: you need to also dive into which keywords are converting and which aren’t. There are thousands of keywords we’d all love to rank for, but if no one takes action — who cares?
The conversion evaluation process is simple. Open up your analytics and do a broad search for the keywords you’re targeting. I say “broad” because you’re going to want to take into account long tail searches that you rank for as a result of ranking for the keyword.
Using the traffic evaluation numbers you found earlier, calculate how many conversions you can expect should you be able to move into the top ranking position for a keyword. Figure out which keywords are going to make you the most money and start focusing on them.
Putting it all Together
Once you’ve investigated all three of these areas, it’s time to put together your new strategy. It’s important to include this data when justifying to your coworkers/bosses/clients why you think you should take your strategy in another direction.
I try to evaluate my keyword performance once a quarter once my initial rankings have been established. Figure out what works best for you.
And don’t forget that you can always test how well keywords will perform using PPC!