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As an agency, we don’t spend our time on standard keyword rank tracking. And, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t be spending your time either! Putting too much focus on keyword rank tracking has the potential to be a waste of time, which can mean missed opportunities for your business.
What do we mean by keyword rank tracking?
Keyword rank tracking allows you to monitor where you show up on a search engine results page with a specific set of keywords. It might tell you that you’re in position #4 for your top keyword, position #1 for your secondary keyword, and position #3 for a third. It’s a simplistic way of trying to measure your visibility, especially in the era of Google’s personalized search results, which means you may not see the same results as other people. Keyword rank trackers tell you where the results come up for the software; not where the results would appear for you, or for one of your customers.
What are some of the issues with keyword rank tracking?
It might not be time or money well spent
One of the biggest issues is the sheer inefficiency of the process. When you’re a small business owner, most of the keywords that are going to convert (turn into a lead or sale) for you are long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are longer phrases that are more specific than regular keywords and are generally less competitive and easier to show up for. Long tail keywords may see few searches and for that reason are hard to research and discover, and track, but that doesn’t mean they are not good. Many can signal a high degree of buyer’s intent and are related to people being closer to buying or deciding on a product or service. Because it’s hard to compete for the more general and highly competitive keywords, many smaller businesses target long tail keywords.
Your site may cater to dozens of these long-tail gems. They likely change month-to-month since each individual keyword has such a low volume. Yet, combined, they send you a lot of traffic and leads and are very valuable to your business.
Does it make sense to rank track dozens of keywords? How about hundreds? What if the majority show up just once and not again? Are you even able to see a trend? Tracking hundreds of keywords might be appropriate for enterprise-level marketers, but that’s not us!
You might not be tracking the right thing
The “ten blue links” organic position that most keyword tracking is paying attention to? That stopped being relevant a long time ago. The “#1 organic ranking” is now “#1, when Google is done displaying all of Google’s different kinds of ads, their map, and various specialized featured snippets and new stories.” It’s still helpful to be there, of course, but it may not matter how often you get there for any given keyword on your list. Local search results matter a lot more to small, local businesses, and a lot of those trackers aren’t paying attention to map rankings. And what about the “People also ask” section, are you or your rank tracker counting this highly valuable ranking? We’ve found this section to drive a huge amount of traffic and this usually appears before we get to the #1 organic ranking.
Here is an example of what the People also ask section looks like:
Results vary by the minute
Finally, the results can vary wildly depending on when, and how often, you are doing your tracking. Results can change by the minute on Google. Tracking once a quarter? You might see a blip and panic when in reality there’s been no material change in your visibility.
Ideally, we want to put our effort into getting results, not tracking results that may or may not impact your bottom line. That’s why we don’t endorse standard rank tracking practices.
What’s an alternative to keyword rank tracking?
There are better ways to use keyword data.
For example, we look at the diversity and relevancy of keywords that you are ranking for. This tells us if more people are searching for you over time and if you are being found for the new content you are creating.
Here is an example of keywords related to three blog posts we created for these keywords. We can see that they are drawing traffic as targeted.
Another area we monitor is your visibility in Featured Snippets or on Google Discover. One Featured Snippet we see many of our clients ranking in is “People also ask.” These results can show up at the top of the page or are interspersed and really stand out from the regular results. They can drive a huge amount of traffic, much more than one would get from a #1 ranking in the regular part of the results.
The snippets also get read out on voice search, offering an opportunity to get in front of customers who no longer use visual search results.
Focusing on the right metrics
When we report results to our clients we work with them directly to see what matters for their business. We commonly focus on these key areas:
Are you getting more leads than you were getting before you started working with us? How many emails and phone calls are you getting to inquire about your services?
If you sell products, are you seeing more shopping traffic on your website?
Ultimately, marketing should be an investment, not an expense. Are we bringing in more money than you’re spending on our services? If we’re not, what do we have to change to make that happen? We strive to communicate the value that we bring to our clients, and this is one of the most appropriate ways to do that.
What’s measured doesn’t always matter.
Many marketing agencies will try to sell you their services based solely on keyword tracking and positioning.
Ultimately, measuring the individual position of individual keywords matters about as much as measuring the number of “likes” you get on the average Facebook post. It may boost the ego a little bit, but it doesn’t have much of an impact on the success of your business.