By Linkdex

Keyword ranking data is critical for all business owners. It’s often seen as traditionally being an SEO metric, however for those in the know the data provides insight into competitive intelligence, consumer preferences and behaviour highlighting tactical opportunities.

Although business owners and senior executives are becoming increasingly more educated about digital marketing, it’s still rare for businesses and analysts to leverage the power of keyword ranking data to its full extent.

This article is designed to cover how you can leverage keyword ranking data for your business with examples of some best practices and explanations for how to get the most out of your data.

When focusing too much on keyword rankings limits your success

Firstly it’s worthwhile touching on some of the common pitfalls with working with keyword data. By far the two most frequent issues I have seen are not creating an exhaustive enough keyword universe to work from, either from missing valuable keywords in your market or not structuring your keyword lists with enough detail (such as flagging branded terms or key themes). The other most common issue is rank tracking large volumes of keywords when there aren’t pages that even exist for the terms.

Even when you have well structured keyword data to work with and all of the pages you need, most businesses will focus only on which position they are ranking in without considering the following:

● How relevant is this page to the search query?
● How well written is the page and how useful is it to users?
● How does it reflect my brand?
● Do we think it's achieving a good click-through rate (CTR)?
● Does this page convert well?
● What are other websites in my industry saying about my product or service?

Google makes it difficult to determine accurate rankings

The other thing we've learnt from working with keyword data is that getting unbiased ranking results constantly is a difficult problem to solve. This is largely due to changes Google has made to its search results in recent years. Several factors need to be taken into account, including:

● Personalisation: Google encourages users to sign in to gain more comprehensive analytics and also to try and enhance results for a better user experience.
● Localisation: Major search engines will also try to tailor your results based on where you are physically located. For example, typing “pizza” into Google’s search box can yield completely different results for you compared to somebody who is searching for pizza in a different city.
● Browser history: Searches you’ve previously done on your browsers can influence your results in Google.
● Device type: Whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer can also influence your search results.
● Keyword fluctuation: It’s common for keywords in Google to fluctuate and change frequently especially around algorithm updates and in the most competitive verticals. Based on this it’s recommended you should check your most important keywords daily.

Even if you manage to perfectly optimize every page on your site, it’s nearly impossible to account for all of the different variables that Google uses to personalise your search results.

If you're interested in learning more about this particular topic, a bestselling book, “The Filter Bubble” by Eli Pariser, details just how personalised the major search engines have become, with speculation around different signals Google uses to personalise search results here.

10 ways to leverage keyword rankings for your business

Marketers lost access to most keyword data when Google introduced encrypted search, and lost additional data when other top search engines did the same. Now every source of keyword data you have at your disposal is far more valuable.

The best alternatives to this rich source of analytics data is now based on platforms that can analyse ranking data and build models to try and return some of the missing insights to you in different ways. Keyword rankings inevitably drive nearly all of the alternative data sources. Outlined below are a series of my favourite applications:

1. Don't obsess over just one keyword or a small group of keywords. It's excellent to rank well and be visible for the keywords in your industry that drive the most traffic, however focusing too much on a handful of keywords will never give you the full picture of your market. This is why it's important to develop as exhaustive list of keywords as possible to form a "keyword universe", which will enable you to get a vastly more comprehensive view of your vertical.
2. Most sites are like “icebergs”. No matter how large the domain from experience there are normally only a relatively small number pages that drive a majority of organic search traffic. Get more pages to rank is a great objective along with getting the pages that do to rank for keywords that drive revenues.
3. Consider what other sites are saying about your product and services. This point has already been touched upon, but the biggest missed opportunity historically in SEO has been to focus on the position you are ranking in and ignoring what other people and websites are saying about your brand.
4. Find your non-contributing pages. This is another really actionable strategy to understand which groups of your pages aren’t contributing in terms of traffic and visibility through your analytics tools. You can review them for how useful they are and for planning around improving sections of your site if necessary.
5. Keyword rankings are often really useful as a secondary business KPI. Businesses often use traditional reporting metrics and KPI’s such as revenue and conversion rates. Using keyword data can help you to understand why a number may have changed or to highlight an opportunity.
6. It’s highly unlikely that you have access to your competitors analytics data. In terms of visibility and competitive intelligence the next best alternatives will include analysis of your competitors rankings. At Linkdex we’ve been focused on helping provide our clients with solutions to analyse visibility across markets and also to help understand opportunities through advanced forecasting.
7. You can use frameworks like AIDA or the awareness ladder. They can be used to map content and keywords to your purchase funnel, driving really actionable insights for your campaigns. I also recommend using categorisation to enable prioritised groups of keywords (e.g., low/medium/high) and creating groups around your branded keywords with this type of analysis.
8. Using keyword groups to analyse complex ecosystems. A great example being travel. Analysing the travel industry includes data on the major brands, travel agents, OTAs, flight booking engines, affiliates, car hire, hotels, comparison sites, and bloggers (and this is just scratching the surface!). Grouping keywords and domains into the above segments like this provides a greater depth of insight when working with your data.
9. Keyword ranking analysis can also help you to understand the most important people online. This is one of the areas we believe is most important at Linkdex as historically marketers have been guilty of concentrating too much on websites, when actually it’s often more important to build relationships with the people who manage and write for major websites.
10. Developing your keyword ranking data enables you to define share of search. For organisations that are fortunate to have the available resources you can also develop many sub-groups within your keyword data that can act as segments for your analysts. This enables you to understand your overall market share, as well as being able to analyse parts of your industry.

Final thoughts

The bottom line is that analysis of well defined groups of keywords is infinitely more powerful than not using groups of keywords, especially when layering this data with your other key business metrics. Using categorisation will help you to leverage all of the different techniques discussed in this article.

Keyword rankings and your web analytics data will never give you all of the answers you need without defining clear segments and groups. When used in the right way keyword ranking data is an essential source of insights for your business.