Rankings or Conversions? That’s the million dollar question…

SEO Jul 9, 2013

If you’re doing SEO for clients, you’re probably getting asked to help them “rank number one in Google”.

The same probably goes for your own websites, too.

While Search Engine Optimization has changed substantially, you are still measured by the results of your work.

Website audits have a clear, definable deliverable, and can be done relatively easily and in a short amount of time.  To actually rank on the first page can be a much longer process. And when you do achieve top search results, if it’s for the wrong kind of keywords, you’ll be asked by your clients why nothing seems to happen.

The objective for most websites is to sell something. Your customers are looking for conversions, not just rankings. They think rankings equal conversions, but that’s not the case. We can spit out ranking reports all day, with improvements in keyword position, but you should also include visits and conversion data, linked back to the keywords you are ranking for.

The Task Of Discovering These Keywords Actually Never Ends

If you’re engaged in doing work for a client, you know that continually discovering high converting keywords is necessary to keep driving organic search traffic, which will hopefully lead to higher conversions. Just to be clear: we are talking about non-branded keywords. Branded simply means your website or company name appears, like “Acme hydraulics” — if your company name is Acme, then that’s branded.

This is an example of non-branded keywords:


 Non-branded keywords are powerful because you have a chance to get in front of your visitors whom are searching for what you offer, but are (most likely) unaware of your existence. That means understanding search intent, as well as knowing how the language and keywords used changes for potential customers, depending on where they are in the buying cycle. You can only do this if continuous keyword discovery is part of what you do. And it should be.

Start Discovering Awesome Non-Branded Keywords

As you do SEO, having your analytics setup properly is fundamental for any work you do. You should also have goals and conversions as part of your setup. This could simply be that you’re attempting to channel visitors to certain pages and outcomes on your website.

To arrive at a conversion goal, just ask yourself what you would consider a successful visit? Here are some examples:

  • Specific outcomes, like downloads or contact page visit: If you’re using Google Analytics, for example, you can set up goal conversion funnels, where you can track a visitor throughout, say, a product page, then pricing page, and finally a contact page.
  • Number of pages visited: Are visitors looking at more than just a page or two? That’s good! Even better if they’re visiting the pages you want them to check out.
  • Time spent on site: A visitor staying on the site for a certain amount of time, and a low bounce rate, usually indicates that they’re interested in what they’re seeing.

On your left-hand side in Google Analytics, pick Goals to check on those you have already (you do have them, right?)



To set up goals, go to your Profile settings and find “Create A Goal” under the Goals tab. You can either pick from a template or setup a Custom goal.

To set up goals, go to your Profile settings and find “Create A Goal” under the Goals tab. You can either pick from a template or setup a Custom goal.

Setting the type of goal is important, as you essentially are deciding what kind of conversion you are looking for.

Setting the type of goal is important, as you essentially are deciding what kind of conversion you are looking for.


The Basic Process Of Discovery

A basic process for discovering the types of keywords looks like this:

  1. Set up your analytics to track goals and conversions.
  2. Look for the non-branded keywords that are sending organic visitors and website conversions your way.
  3. Check the search volume and don’t forget to look at broad and exact match.
  4. Make sense of the rank position for a keyword, and also which page(s) are ranking for it.
  5. Review the content of the pages that are ranking and analyze to uncover opportunities for optimization.
  6. Add new content to the page or new pages for the non-branded keywords you’ve discovered and monitor for changes in traffic, position, and conversions.

That’s easy, but how do you make the call on what keywords to pursue?

Here’s How To Judge The Value Of Those Keywords

Granted, you might come across several possible non-branded keywords to pursue rankings for, but are all of them created equal?

Probably not.

If you’re selling trip packages for skinny dipping trips, then “skinny dipping in the atlantic” might be worth less to your website than, say, “skinny dipping in a hot tub”. You can easily discover keywords, but judging intent and value is trickier. The best answer to this is to test your assumptions and guesses, and test until you know.

Here are some general guidelines to help you make those decisions:

  • How relevant is the keyword to your content? Will visitors find what they’re searching for when your site shows up? Will they take the actions you want them to take and result in conversions?
  • Check the competition — Making note of what competitors websites are ranking already will be useful to determine how hard, or easy, it will be to rank for the keyword(s).
  • Are there search ads showing up along organic results? If there are, that usually indicates a high-value, perhaps even lucrative, keyword that could generate the kind of conversions you’re looking for.
  • Consider buying a test campaign for the keyword — Yes, you read that right. One of the best ways to test keywords and search phrases for conversions is to, lo and behold, actually send the traffic to a relevant page on your website. Instead of spending months trying to rank for a keyword that might convert, you can test it over at least 300 or so clicks (make sure you pick exact match in Google Adwords if you do).

So, What Keywords Are You Missing Out On?

Right about now is when you head over to check your analytics to determine conversions, keywords, and all those goodies. If you make time for ongoing discovery to find high converting, non-branded keywords, you can end up capturing not just more traffic, but more profitable traffic.

Draw input and feedback from various sources, like your go-to tools, SERPs, conversion and analytics data to help you make the call on what keywords are worth to pursue and rank for.

Your tracking and metrics should include how many conversions are attributed to the (new) content created, how many keyword visits are associated with the content, check for backlinks and even social media signals, as well as the position of those key pages.

What do you think? Have you been tracking results other than SERP? Do you see the value in measuring the results of conversion events and not just rankings?

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  1. Avatar

    Great article! keep them coming!

    1. Avatar
      Damian Thompson

      Glad you enjoyed it! Anything specific you’d like to see from us?

  2. Avatar

    Really great stuff here! Thank you.

  3. Avatar

    it is waste even if you rank in top or bottom when it makes no difference., i would rather go for services which offer me conversions instead traffic or rankings.., this article tells exactly the same. And choosing keywords also makes lot of sense now a days.., i have a question for you.., i was looking for some services., i’m little confused in two things..,whether i should choose a company which has seo packages or else a company which has a request for consultation (promises conversions)…, hope i may posted in wrong section., guide me if any other place..,

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