To stay competitive on the web, it's essential to evaluate the success of different keywords in terms of driving convertible traffic and update content marketing plans accordingly.

With the guidance of our first blog, Finding killer SEO keywords for content marketing: Part 1, you should have a solid keyword list, and have optimized your site and your content marketing for those terms according to best practices. Whether you’re a marketer working for clients or the owner of an ecommerce site, there’s no doubt that you’re ready to watch your keywords work their magic on your site!

Trouble is, where do you begin to track the performance of said keywords, and what tools are out there to help you along the way? Fret not. In this second blog installment covering the world of keywords, I’ll outline some important keyword evaluation metrics for maintaining a winning keyword strategy, as well as some easy-to-use tools to help you along the way. 

Sign up for an analytics program, and use it

There are many website analytical tools on the internet that can help you explore and monitor important details of your site. Two popular programs are Omniture and Google Analytics. These tools help you understand the fine print of how much traffic your site is pulling in, who your visitors are, how they got there and what content pages they’re looking at. They tell you (nearly) everything you need to know about your website performance. They’re incredibly insightful and critical to achieving successful conversion rates for your products and services. It’s highly recommended to take full advantage of these easy-to-use tools.

Google Analytics, Omniture and other programs give you concrete insights on which keywords are driving traffic to your site – which makes them essential to SEO, keyword and content marketing overall. An added bonus? Most offer tours, tutorials and demonstrations to help familiarize you with the data.

Examine your site’s top keyword referrals

Using your Analytics program, you should be able to view the top keywords that are drawing traffic to your site. By default, the page will list the top 10, but you can expand this list to view many more. This data shows you the keywords that lead visitors to your site, as well as the volume. With many programs, you can also use a “compare to past” function to measure growth in traffic referrals around specific keywords over time.

Once you have this information, you can see which keywords are giving you the most bang for your buck. Identify the top performing terms and think about how you can create more content around them. Make sure the landing pages, articles, blog posts, etc, that are centered on these key phrases have clear calls to action so you can encourage conversions among visitors who land on your site for these queries.

Also, this is a good way to spot check for keywords you WANT to be driving traffic to your site, but aren’t currently bringing in visitors. For instance, if a core product or service you offer isn’t bringing in traffic, think about how you can create something really compelling around it – like a blog post or infographic that includes it in the title and will catch people’s attention, compel them to share, draw related traffic and get them associating your brand with that key phrase.

Evaluate keyword traffic quality

Don’t forget to also look at the quality of the traffic coming to your site on different keywords. Google Analytics makes it easy to see the average time on site, bounce rate and pages per visit for traffic around specific keywords. Determine which are driving not only the most but also the best quality traffic to your site. These are phrases you should be zoning in on.

Check in on dynamic search volumes

Monitor the popularity of your keywords and ensure you’re targeting trending terms by checking the global and local search volumes of your list every month. As industry buzz terms are introduced, others tend to fade away, meaning that a keyword that once had an attractive monthly search volume may have fallen by the organic search wayside – so it’s good to check in with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

Dynamic search trends

On the flip side, terms on your list that were once less important could be gaining search momentum. Prioritize these words in your SEO efforts. Regardless of what you discover, checking search volumes for your targeted keyword list is a quick and easy way to keep your strategy focused and current.

Check your rankings and make adjustments, but keep the big picture in mind

You’re probably eager to see where your web site is ranking in search engines for your core and secondary keywords, and check out any movement. However, with the natural ebb and flow of the search world, you’ll drive yourself crazy if you check it too much (up a spot one day, could likely be down a spot the next, but overall positive trending for the month). Run your keyword list through a tool such as Rank Checker once a week or bi-weekly to monitor any keyword progressions or regressions.

Also, bear in mind that personalization filters (including the new Search plus Your World development) make it hard to get a clear picture of how sites rank for any given user. While using a tool like Rank Checker that looks at search in a vacuum can offer some insights on rankings, no one else is searching in a vacuum. Think about asking colleagues, employees, or friends who live in your target regions to conduct search to see how localization filters might impact your search.

Search filters aside, keep in mind that significant progress takes time!    

Stay on top of your competitors

Gain a competitive advantage by creating a spreadsheet of your top keyword competitors, or sites that are ranking for the terms you’re after. Check out their websites, and look for any standout qualities within their content marketing, site design and/or offerings. Compare these to your value props, and take advantage of any opportunities that can further your expertise or service.

It’s always wise to understand who your competitors are, and what they’re doing on the web. Also, since organic search is in a state of perpetual change, competitors can – and will – appear out of the blue. I’ve found it helpful to create a competitive landscape to help visualize the scope of competition you’re against, such as the one below. Color code any competitor that is ranking more than once in the top ten search results, so you can easily identify main competitors.Competitive keyword analysis

SPOT CHECK CONTENT MARKETING FOR KEYWORDS

Once you’ve done the work of researching the keywords that are driving the most (and most convertible) traffic to your site, the new or hottest industry phrases, the keywords that are helping you gain rankings and the keywords your competitors are ranking for, take a long hard look at how you can improve your content marketing strategy. At Brafton, this is one of the steps that goes into updating the editorial brief.

You should build into your strategy that the best-performing words inspire content marketing subject matter and get used regularly on your site. Also, investigate whether words that aren’t building much visibility for your site are actually being used in your custom content. Are these phrases really poor performing or just underutilized?

Final Thought

While it’s smart to check in on keyword rankings and compare your site to competitors that are targeting similar terms, remember that this isn’t the be-all, end-all of successful SEO keywords!

Don’t lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, traffic and conversions surrounding SEO keywords is what you’re aiming for. Here’s what Matt Cutts has to say about keyword rankings in terms of site success:

Adrienne Lumb is a content marketing strategist in Brafton's San Francisco office. She works directly with clients and alongside editorial staff, social media experts, and graphic designers, to come up with dynamic content portfolios that drive client results. A San Francisco enthusiast, she considers fog horns in the Bay the ultimate lullaby.