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Why Your SEO Results Might Suck Even If You’re Ranking First in Google

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Many businesses gauge the success of their SEO campaigns through their keyword rankings. But is this really the best way to judge the performance of your online exposure? In the past, maybe keyword rankings were considered a good measuring stick. But fast forward to today, and keywords are only one part of the search marketing equation.

So, why are you investing in SEO in the first place?

Sure, keyword rankings are a relevant performance indicator, but they should not be the primary goal of SEO. Let’s take a step back and re-clarify why you’re investing in SEO to start with: growing your business revenue or increasing your lead generation probably played a part in the decision, right? The fact that you appear at the top of search results for certain keywords does not necessarily mean you are doing either of those things. A more relevant aspect to consider is how much traffic your website receives. But not just any traffic …

NBOWT: a better measure of SEO success

Non branded, organic website traffic – let’s call it NBOWT – is the most direct and effective way to determine if your SEO efforts are actually producing anything worthwhile. Check your website analytics to see how many people are landing on your website, and where this traffic is coming from. If the number of new visitors from NBOWT is rising month-on-month, your SEO campaign is having effect. If there are no increases in NBOWT after a few months, it’s probably time to look for a new SEO strategy or provider.

Using NBOWT in your keyword strategy

Every business is different, but the same basic concept can be applied to all businesses when planning a keyword strategy. Start off by dividing your keywords into a foundation group and an indicator group. Your foundation keywords would be a set of around 10-20 broader keywords to guide your on and off page SEO. A set of 40-80 indicator keywords can then be used to measure the NBOWT roll on effect of your foundation keyword optimisation.

Monitor your analytics to see what keywords are starting to drive more traffic to your website. The key here is to move away from typing your keywords into Google to see where they appear, and to more closely monitor the number and relevancy of visits to your site. As you start to see an increase in traffic from both your foundation and indicator keywords, it’s safe to say you’re making progress toward your goals.

Putting rankings and NBOWT in perspective

Given the status and self-satisfaction that comes with high Google rankings (“Yes! I’m ranking above that other guy!”), people have fallen into the mindset that rankings are the most logical, if not the only, way to measure SEO success. But consider this: would you rather bask in the glory of high Google rankings, or have the increased revenue and leads that come from high NBOWT?

I’m not saying that the two are mutually exclusive. If a keyword is popular and relevant, ranking highly for it will certainly lead to NBOWT increases. But if you’re ranking highly for keywords that have low search volume, or are mostly searched by people outside your target market, you’re likely not getting closer to achieving your goals.

So what now?

The best way to ensure your SEO is on track is to take an active interest in your NBOWT. Some SEO providers may tell you that your campaign is going well – based on rankings. Others may tell you that things are going badly to convince you to increase your budget – again, based on rankings. While it’s usually preferable to leave SEO to the experts so you can get on with running your business, you should at least protect your investment by taking the time to learn how to tell if it’s working or not.

This overview of search traffic from Google Analytics is a great place to get started. If you have any other questions about NBOWT, please drop me a line in the comments below.

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