Organic traffic is generated by thousands of different keywords. From my experience, there are 2 common ways in which you can track keyword rankings. And, unfortunately, both of them are misleading.
Here’s why rankings alone are worthless
One of them is to focus on a small group of keywords. Pick 20 – 30 keywords with high search volume and just look at how their ranks fluctuate overtime. This is the most misleading option of the 2 because you simply ignore a great deal of relevant data.
The other option, on the other hand, focuses on researching, then tracking as many keywords as possible. Though it’s a good way to start, you quickly find yourself in the position where you can’t see the forest for the trees. Ranks fluctuate often and you need a way to see the big picture to understand if your campaign is going in the right direction.
Many tools offer a solution to this by splitting the list of keywords into “buckets”: top 3, top 5, top 10 etc. This is just a way of making a big lists of keywords look measurable, but it’s still misleading. Imagine looking at a list of a hundred keywords that rank in top 3 and another hundred that are not even in top 20. It may look like the campaign is performing quite well, when you’re actually missing an essential indicator: the search volume. Now let’s say that the first group contains only keywords with low search volume and the second group, keywords with high search volume. This definitely changes the perspective.
So what’s the best way of measuring keyword performance?
Use a global metric that takes into consideration both rankings (with their impression rates) and search volume
We call this metric the Visibility Score. It is really easy to calculate and it gives you a bird’s-eye view of your entire list of keywords, no matter how many you feel like tracking. Actually, the more keywords you track, the more relevant the metric becomes.
I’ve already said that this metric takes into consideration the rankings and search volume of your keywords. Now in order to really understand the global performance, it’s best to use a percentage. Think of this as the number of impressions in SERP divided by the total search volume of the entire list of keywords. It’s 100% if all of your tracked keywords rank 1 and it’s 0% if you don’t have any keyword ranking somewhere in Top 20.
By using this metric you can understand your overall performance in Google by looking at approximately how many people see your website in search results, considering the total search volume of a relevant list of keywords.
How is this a game-changes in the way you look at keyword performance?
Besides the fact that it takes into consideration the search volume of your keywords, it solves another and more difficult situation.
Let’s say we have 2 keywords with the same volume of 1000 searches per month. The 2 keywords experience the same drop of 20 position over the same period of time. Now it’s one thing to drop from rank 40 to 60, and completely a different (and more painful) thing to drop from 1st position to the 20th.
Because it takes your focus from rankings and turns it to impressions, it solves the problem above. We calculate the number of impressions by multiplying the search volume of each keyword with the corresponding impression rate of its rank. Now obviously a drop from top 3 means a massive drop in impressions, compared to a drop from rank 40 and below.
You can use this equation in an Excel sheet and start calculating your visibility score, or you can get it automatically in SEOmonitor.com.
Key-benefits in using the Visibility Score when measuring keyword performance
- It’s a global metric and it gives you the possibility to easily understand whether your campaign is going in the right direction or not.
- You can immediately spot the keywords (or group) that impacted your performance
- You can explain traffic fluctuations, by correlating changes in traffic with either SEO performance (Visibility Score) or seasonality and trends.