My Love/Hate Relationship with Keyword Tracking

Topics: Keywords SEO

I’ve never been a huge fan of keyword tracking, for several reasons:

  • SEOs will obsess about a few head terms, forgetting that the long-tail is equally (if not more) powerful.
  • SEOs will gleeflully point to increased positions on terms, but then this won’t always correlate to increased traffic.
  • SEOs will have nervous breakdowns when positions drop on terms, even if the trend is unaccompanied by decreased traffic.

Of course, I still track keywords for all clients. As Aaron Wall brilliantly points out, “It is worth tracking a variety of keywords (at various levels of competition) daily while there is major flux going on, because that gives you another lens through which to view the relevancy algorithms, and where they might be headed.”

Nor do I deny that the end-goal of SEO is to increase positions, the theory being that increased traffic will follow (and generally, it does).

But keyword tracking alone offers an incomplete picture of your overall online footprint: you also need to measure keyword performance against your actual site traffic performance.

Let’s take the MayDay update as an example. I know of one site that was baffled by a 20% drop in traffic, because (most) of their keyword positions hadn’t fallen off very much! How could that be? Well, as we know, the MayDay update largely affected the long-tail of search. This means that while there was little fluctuation in relevancy algorithms for head terms, there was a LOT of fluctuation in the long tail.

But do most SEOs tend to track long-tail terms? Not so much – because otherwise, we could be juggling reports for thousands, or even tens of thousands of different terms. And like I said – I care more about traffic, not reports! Especially because in this case, their keyword report reflected almost nothing that pointed to a 30% drop in traffic.

Of course, now any SEO worth their salt also keeps an eye on traffic– and don’t get me started on the myriad of ways you can delve into these SEO metrics as well (kudos to SEOMoz). Happy tracking!

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