While most marketers will agree they’re fine with getting more traffic to their content – we’re also constantly in search of the right traffic, people who will actually convert and purchase. If you’re looking for content marketing traffic that you don’t have to pump advertising dollars into, then you’ll need to know the keywords and topics that are driving traffic to your content, what keywords are driving traffic to your competitors content, and how to create content based on them.
Having the right tools for getting keyword and content data in a timely manner is important for ensuring you have the best insights to improve brand findability and beat the competition. Beyond getting the data, knowing what data to use and how to use it turns insights into actionable best practices.

What is Keyword Ranking and Why is it Important?

content and search marketing metricsAlthough most people intuitively understand the concept of keyword ranking and understand that the query results that show up first, rank higher. What people forget is why rank matters. Besides the obvious reason of wanting to appear at the top of the list of possible pages, there are other reasons to pay attention to keyword ranking.
“For a keyword to be valuable to your business, it needs to have a certain amount of people looking for something with that keyword. We talk about this in terms of search volume and we take measurements from a lot of different data sources to help marketers estimate how many people are searching for that keyword on a regular basis,” notes Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO.
When measuring keyword effectiveness there are two metrics to keep in mind:

  1. Click-through rate: if you’re ranking at the top, or anywhere on the first page, you’re much more likely to get a higher percentage of clicks.
  2. Overall search volume: track the number of people who are searching for a specific keyword on a monthly basis and estimate potential traffic from a certain keyword based on your ranking.

The days of keyword stuffing are gone and brands can no longer game the system to rank for specific keywords. Google’s recent algorithm changes have forced brands to focus on creating relevant content that is married to the keywords they’re trying to rank for. In the past, the goal of seo was to simply rank at the top of the search page. The problem is that simply ranking doesn’t guarantee increased engagement.
“In the past, if you had to game the system to rank for a specific keyword, the content people went to after they clicked on that link was not what they expected and they dropped off. Brands that used those tactics saw huge bounce rates associated with the keywords they had spent so much time and effort ranking for,” notes Erin O’Brien.
On the positive side, the recent algorithm changes have resulted in reduced bounce rates associated with top ranking keywords. Popular keywords and pages that rank at the top of the search results are now associated with relevant content that the searcher is actually looking for. The challenge for marketers is to create the best content based on specific keywords that will help you to keep your brand at the top of the search results and lead your audiences into a meaningful journey that ends, hopefully, with conversions.

Keywords and the Competitor Landscape

The more keywords you can find that are relevant to your business and to your competitor’s businesses, the more opportunity you have to measure overall market demand. Use the high volume, high engagement keywords you’re ranking for and the popular keywords your competitors are ranking for to improve your share of voice in the market.
“Brands that limit the number of keywords they track are missing out on market opportunity. Expand your market share by using and tracking not only the keywords you’ve already been using, but also the keywords your competitors have been using to generate search volume. Understanding the overall market by doing some competitor analysis and discovery is a critical, strategic move that brands should do on an ongoing a basis,” recommends Ray.
A common strategy amongst marketers is to look for keywords with a lot of traffic, but low competition. While this may intuitively sound like a good approach, it’s more effective to find the keywords that are generating the right traffic to your content. Once someone lands there, hopefully your content is relevant enough to keep their attention without bouncing out. The keywords that drive the most engaged traffic may be keywords with a million searches per month or they may be keywords with only 50 to 100 searches per month.
competitors chart keyword insights
“What we’re really advocating for is that people go with the more specific keywords that target the precise users of their products and services as opposed to keywords associated with very broad topics that everyone is trying to rank for, but may not be relevant,” notes Erin.
Finding keywords specific to the niche areas of your market and using them will make all the difference between another voice in the crowd, and getting found for what you really do best. Eventhough specific keywords may have a lower search volume than keywords that cover the broader topic, the search volume they generate will be a lot more relevant and more likely to convert. The likely results:

  • More relevant search volume
  • Lower bounce rates
  • Higher click-through rates
  • Higher conversions

Categorize Searches for Strategic Marketing

Audiences who search for you and your keywords may be doing so for a variety of reasons and expectations. Categorizing search results by audience intent will help you to decide which keywords to put budgets and efforts behind. Keeping track of the keywords that convert or are part of your customer journey can also help you frame conversations with your executive team to explain why you’re putting efforts into some keywords and not into others. Searches can be categorized as:

  • Navigational search – audiences looking for a specific place on web
  • Informational search – audiences looking for information
  • Commercial intent search – audiences on the customer journey

“Searches with commercial intent have a range of purchasers or customers – we call it the customer journey. It’s basically this idea that people usually originate their searches online for a new product that they’re interested in with very basic things like the best shoes for running or the best brands for fall fashion, or whatever,” advises Ray. “First they’ll look for inspiration and ideas, then once they’ve decided on a brand or model, that’s when they start looking for the best price, availability, or whatever.”
Different types of marketing materials and messages may be targeted to different types of searches. When creating strategic marketing plans, consider matching specific keywords to specific types of search. The topics that generate interest may fit into the information search category while other keywords and topics may be more specific to making product decisions and fit into the commercial intent type of search. That’s not to say that any keywords or topics should be limited to any one part of the journey, but understanding this process may help you to create a buyer journey that more closely matches the actions your target audience is actually taking.

Finding Trending Topics with Keyword Metrics

Until about a year ago, when Google implemented secure search, brands could get a rich set of data from Google Analytics that showed exactly how many searches were generated by a specific keyword. For awhile after Google changed it’s algorithm, citing security reasons, people were left in the dark. Fortunately, the functionality now exists in Webmaster Tools. Although brands still cannot get data on exactly how many searches were generated by a keyword, they can view clicks. It’s not exactly the same measurement, but it’s relevant enough.
In addition, many marketers have come to rely on Google’s Keyword Planner, part of the Adwords Campaign Manager toolset. Using this toolset, users can research new keywords for adverstising buys. Because the tool also gives a fairly good estimate of organic search volume, the same tool can be used for content keywordSEO keyword performance by marketing channels.
“Having all the tools in one place has been one of our goals. We integrate with both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools to provide our users with all the functionality they can get from the Adwords toolsets and the Webmaster analytics,” states Ray.
No matter what tools you’re using, you’ll want to get the most up-to-date information on trending keywords. In addition to tracking the most improved ranking keywords for your content, track the same data for your competitors. Notice changes in rank for content tied to specific keywords to see where your audeince members are paying attention and where your competition is spending time and energy on their marketing efforts. Once you’ve identified the keywords you’ll be using, move beyond just using them for your website and blog. Some places to use your high ranking keywords, and your competitor’s high ranking keywords:

  • Email subjects
  • Social media posts
  • Advertising/paid promotion
  • FAQs
  • Marketing asssets
    • Brochures
    • Case studies
    • Ebooks
    • Video
    • Infographics
    • Blog
  • Website content

Keep Content Fresh with Keyword Discovery

Keeping your content fresh and relevant means updating your keywords and topics to match the way people are discussing your industry and the products and services available.
“Over time linguistics change and the way people discuss things and talk about things change. The features that people are interested in are likely to change, as well,” notes Erin. “Even if you think you’re in an industry that hasn’t changed in the last 100 years, I guarantee you, something about your industry has evolved. Therefore, the things you track and how you track them should mirror that.”
If you’re missing an opportunity to capture specific keywords, you’re basically leaving those entirely to your competitors. Keyword discovery allows you to find the keywords you should be targeting and the keywords that are relevant to you and your audience.
The data from keyword discovery and from competitor discovery work together to show you who is creating content that is attracting your audience and what specific content is driving traffic. Keeping on top of other things going on in your industry can oftentimes give you clues into what else might move the bar when it come to creating real traction for your company.
If you haven’t updated your keyword research and keyword tracking views over the last few months, or even a year, consider taking a little deeper dive to discover the keywords, content, and competitors you hadn’t considered before. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Monitor keyword rank status
  • Discover new keywords
  • Discover competitor keywords
  • Use keywords from niche markets
  • Use keywords that add value to the customer journey
    • Evaluate search volume
    • Look at click through rates