6 Metrics to Consider When Choosing Your Target Keywords
Consider all the advantages of thorough keyword analysis. Online marketers who are well-versed in research techniques can reach more customers while also finding entirely new audiences. They can identify trends and predict changes in their markets. They can audit their SEO strategies and stay in front of the competition. This can't happen without knowing your best keywords.
Here we'll review six metrics to consider when researching your keywords. Brainstorming is always a good first step, but it's what you do with your keyword data that can take your SEO to the next level.
Metric No. 1: Search Volume
Gauging the popularity of various keyword terms is a great way to start your research. Obviously, if more people search for a keyword term, then you're more likely to get visitors to your website by achieving high rankings for that query. Granted, earning high rankings is difficult on more popular keywords, but search volume is still a fundamental element of keyword research.
To determine search volume, use the Google Keyword Planner found within the AdWords interface. Check out the 12-month volume graph that appears with your keyword to see how volume fluctuates throughout the year. Also, remember to factor in the search volumes of closely matched keywords.
Metric No. 2: Search Volume Trends
Do search volumes for certain keywords change over time? This is good to know, especially when you feel like you're suddenly underperforming for certain search queries. You can glimpse monthly keyword trends in the Google Keyword Planner, or you can review your website's analytics data to see how traffic from various search queries has fluctuated over the years.
Not all keywords have significant upward or downward trends, but many do — especially given the seasonal nature of business. Home improvement keywords may peak in the spring and summer, then decline in the winter. Holiday keywords might have short peaks, but otherwise be flat. New cars, computers and other merchandise often debut with high search volumes that taper off over several months.
Metric No. 3: Competition in Organic Searches
A good way to boost your SEO more quickly is to identify relevant keywords with less competition. This can be easier said than done, especially in popular business verticals where the paths seem pretty well-travelled.
To check a keyword's organic competition, use a service such as the Moz Keyword Difficulty percentage. Or, if you don't want to start an account with another company, you can also use the AdWords competition metric to see how contested a keyword is in the paid results — it's not the same, but it will give you a ballpark idea of what you're up against.
Metric No. 4: Number of Search Results
Search your keyword in Google and you’ll see the approximate number of results at the very top of the page (e.g., About 19,400,000 results when I searched for “cosmetic dentist”). This is how many pages Google found that are relevant for that search phrase. However, all of those pages are not actively optimizing for that keyword.
To find the approximate number of pages that appear to be optimizing for a given keyword, you can use an advanced search command: “allintitle”. Copy and paste the search below into Google:
Google will then show you how many pages online have the keyword, “cosmetic dentist” in the title tag of the page. This is a tell-tale sign that the page is optimized for that keyword and is therefore actual SEO competition.
Treat this as yet one more metric by which to gauge the competitiveness of a keyword. The more pages that appear to be competing for a given keyword, the harder it will be for you to outrank those competitors.
Metric No. 5: Approximate Keyword Value
Another way to determine the competitiveness of a keyword is to literally determine its value. A simple formula can tell you how much you'd need to pay for a top paid position with that keyword. This is how much you would need to pay to advertise, but of course, with SEO you would get this traffic without paying Google for each click.
First, get the keyword's average monthly search volume from the Google Keyword Planner. Next, multiply that by the average clickthrough rate (CTR) for a top SERP ranking — research by Smart Insights shows the top-position CTR to be around 30 percent. Finally, multiply the product of the volume and CTR by the keyword's suggested bid in AdWords. The resulting answer tells you the value of a first page ranking in Google.
Metric No. 6: Historic Analytics Data
Have you been working on your SEO strategy for a while? And, if so, have you been using Google Analytics? If so, then you already have a trove of data that could help you make better decisions about which keywords to pursue.
Review your rankings for various queries and which keyword searches deliver your best CTRs. Plus, review your landing pages to see which pages are driving the most conversions, and which have high bounce rates that need to be fixed.
Reviewing these metrics will help you gain more valuable insights from your keyword data. And with those insights, you can make more productive decisions about how to shape your website content in ways that improve your rankings for various search queries — both now and in the future.
Keyword research is a never-ending process in SEO, and over time you'll build a list of keywords that will be central for your online marketing. And in addition to growing your marketing, good keyword research can even guide you to grow your business.
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Phil is Founder and COO of Main Street ROI. Phil leads the company’s operations and is primary creator of Main Street ROI’s marketing training programs. He is an expert in search engine marketing, website analytics, and sales funnel optimization. Phil’s marketing thought leadership has been published on Forbes.com, Inc.com, MSN.com, and many other major business media outlets.
Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, Phil started every game on the varsity football team as the defensive safety.