Healthy, holistic measurement of your SEO copywriting success

Greetings!  Glad you’re here, as today we’re going to discuss how to measure our SEO copywriting success. Even after all our market research, competitive analysis, keyword research and per-page strategizing, Title and meta description optimizing, killer copywriting and content marketing, there is always room for improvement and refinement.  How do we know if our copy is working?  To answer that, we need to test what we’re doing.

Enter measuring our website’s success.  Holistically.

When folks think of a successful SEO campaign, most think “higher rankings.”  But that’s only part of the story.  There are actually two ways to measure success:

  • Search engine rankings:  Are you positioning for the keyphrases you’ve targeted?  Do you have keyphrase visibility for your main phrases?
  • Conversion metrics:  Are you making sales, generating leads, and seeing ROI from your campaign?

Yes, search engine rankings are important, and “back in the day,” search engine rankings were the only measurement available to us.  But the obsession with ranking fails to consider that a site on page two of the SERP’s actually may be doing much better with conversions than a higher ranking site on page one.  Even though Google’s Webmaster Guidelines specify the caveat that “no SEO firm can guarantee rankings,” clients still clamor for top ranking and of course, we still strive to get their sites on the top 10 listed on page one.

Now, our thinking has evolved along with the profession – and the introduction of conversion metrics.  Now we take a more balanced view of rankings, with the wider perspective of overall search engine visibility.  A healthy SEO campaign looks at both rankings and conversions holistically.

That said, let’s turn our attention to measuring our SEO copywriting success first in terms of keyword ranking.

Manual SERP Check:

Although an incredibly simple process, hand-checking your ranking takes time and no small amount of patience.  It doesn’t provide for instantaneous results.

  • First, make note of your keyword positions before you begin your SEO copywriting campaign, or before you introduce a new keyphrase.
  • Then, check your rankings within two weeks of uploading new copy and every month after that.

While you may be tempted to check your rankings daily, or even weekly, it won’t tell you anything useful.  Rankings will fluctuate from day to day, and from datacenter to datacenter (in the latter case, often according to your relative geographic location).  If you have the luxury of time and access to your server logs, you have the option of gathering data on keyword performance and ranking that way, although it may prove a daunting and tedious task and make little sense in terms of ROI for your efforts.

Similarly, you may be tempted to purchase rank-checking software, but be aware that Google specifically prohibits using such software in its Terms of Services.  The good news for us is that Google provides a free alternative in the form of its Webmaster Tools.

Using Google’s Webmaster Tools:

Google’s Webmaster Tools offers a way to streamline your SEO copywriting campaign and measure its success.  If you don’t already have an account, take a moment and sign up at Google Webmaster Central.

Once you’ve signed up and Google has verified your site, you’re ready to check your ranking via Google’s ranking report.  Simply go to Statistics > Top Search Queries.  You’ll see a ranking report for both “impressions” and  “traffic.”

The impressions show the top 20 search queries in which your site appeared, how your site positioned for those keywords, further broken down into the relative percentage of your site impressions returned per query.  The traffic statistics reflect the top 20 search queries from which users reached your site, your site’s relative positioning for those keywords, further broken down into the relative percentage of clicks per query.

Don’t be thrown off if some of the data looks quirky or otherwise odd.  That’s the inherent problem with anything automated – human common sense doesn’t factor in.  Overall, the ranking report does provide you with data quickly, as well as actionable statistics (for instance, you’ll know immediately that you could improve positioning for this or that keyword or keyphrase).  But it’s still a good idea to double-check the results manually – and to keep in mind that the ranking report alone should not be the basis for any major changes or big decisions.

Again, there’s no cause to obsess or worry over small fluctuations.  But if you notice a sharp decline in your ranking for a particular keyphrase for a significant period of time (say a month), and/or if you’re seeing more competition from new sites or familiar competitors, then you may want to put your content marketing strategy on the fast track.  If that doesn’t turn things around, you may need to think about a linking campaign and/or adding fresh content or otherwise re-working your site.

An important side note before we wrap this up:  if you have a store or office, then you’ll definitely want to optimize for Google Local Places with your business listing, map, and even videos and coupons.  It’s a free way to generate that much more visibility, traffic, and conversions.  And “free” is always fantastic in the ROI equation!

Thanks for checking in!  Hope you’ll return next week, when we’ll explore the second way to measure our SEO copywriting success with conversion metrics.  See you then!