SEO Rankings vs. ConversionsIt has been the focus of Search Engine Marketing for many years, and has become almost an obsession for many webmasters and business owners: Keyword Rankings. The objective was simple. Higher rankings meant success.  For a Marketing Manager, it’s a great day when you can tell your boss “we are ranked #1 for “magic keyword!”

Having worked with a variety of large and small businesses, there is often one keyword they have become fixated on and claim it has been the reason for their online success.  Don’t get me wrong, having your site ranked on the first page of Google’s search results has the potential to increase site traffic… but what about conversions? Does being ranked #1 for an outdated keyword phrase over time still produce significant site traffic? Well, sort of… You want steady traffic to your site, but you are probably more interested in qualified visitors with the intent to purchase, download, or call a phone number (whatever your goals may be). Perhaps you have been focused on that one “magic keyword” for so long that you don’t even realize you are missing out on bigger piece of pie – with whipped cream and strawberries on top (I must be hungry). But shouldn’t getting more people to click on the “add to cart” or “download” button more valuable (and profitable) than being ranked #1 for a keyword?

But all my customers use that keyword!

Are you sure? Have you reviewed your site Analytics to confirm that this keyword is not only your biggest traffic drive (or was), but is also your most profitable keyword? Perhaps the reality is that this keyword has gone stale and it’s time to introduce your brand to a new audience. As Marketers, we always try to find new ways to reach the same audience, but we wouldn’t be doing our best at campaign optimization if we didn’t find ways to reach a new audience. Updating your keyword data is one way – finding out what other types of keyword phrases people search and how often (Besides using the Google Keyword Tool, you can always compare keywords and their seasonal search data with Google Trends.)

Another way to expand your target audience is to review the data you have collected for your site and your customer database. If you have a Facebook company page, you can check your Insights data for demographics. Who are your competitors targeting? Aside from the various ways you can collect data about potential customers, you are going to have to revise your keyword targeting. You may find that this expanded target audience is further along the conversion funnel than your previous “assumed” audience. So, what’s next? You optimize pages on your site for these keywords, revise your page titles and descriptions… and wait? No, you need to integrate these keywords into your Social Media profiles and content marketing (blog posts, press releases). The more branded content out there from various sources, the more potential for increased traffic and conversions. Don’t forget to set up Goals in Google Analytics to track conversions!

So, what about my keyword rankings?

Since you have all these various traffic drivers out there that have increased your site visits and conversions, does it still matter to you that your site has moved from #1 to #5 one week, then #8 the next week, then back to #7 the next week? We could drive ourselves cuckoo watching the constant fluctuation of keyword rankings. In reality, the rankings are never going to settle. Google is constantly modifying its algorithm, and there are so many variables that now go into ranking search results. We all had to adjust to Universal Search, Local Search, and now we all know about Social Media’s impact on SERPS. In fact, Google is working on perfecting Personalized Search that is based around Google+. The recently discovered Google job posting for a “Product Marketing Manager” that mentions “the more users that are signed in to Google, the better we can tailor their search results” is just another way to prevent companies from tracking keyword rankings. And don’t think the missing keyword data that comes up as “not provided” in your Analytics is just a glitch! Whatever Google is up to next, we can be certain is not going to benefit Marketers. As they withhold more search data, stripping Google API access from helpful SEO tools, we are forced to find other ways to define keywords that convert.  You may discover that those top-converting keywords have left your “magic keyword” in the dust.