I've recently started working on a web site redesign for a client. In setting the goals for the project, one of the key items was to maintain their high SEO rankings. They had worked hard to achieve #1 spots for certain keyword combinations, and didn't want the content rewrite to negatively affect their rankings.
I think that losing ranking is every marketer's nightmare as they consider changing web site content. This may be one key reason why businesses don't invest in web site content redesign projects.
However, as this experience shows, change may actually be good for you.
What is lurking in your stats?
I got my client's stats from the SEO firm that tracks their rankings. Wow. The report showed a majority of #1 rankings for the keyword phrases they were tracking.
Next, I looked at their Google analytics results. I took some time analyzing the stats from different angles. First, I wanted to understand what keywords delivered the highest value visits:
- What keywords brought the most traffic
- What keywords brought the longest visits
- What keywords brought the examination of the most pages
Alternatively, I also looked at what keywords brought the least value:
- the highest bounce rates
- the smallest page views
Then, I cross-correlated the rankings with the high value visits. The results were surprising.
The highly ranked keyword combinations were never being searched.
In other words, their high rankings were essentially worthless. No one was actually performing those searches and reaching their site. What a wake-up call.
Time to Triangulate
The good news is that as part of this project we are reworking most of the site content. This gives us the opportunity to design in results for the searches that matter.
We want to determine which searches will deliver the most satisfactory visits (for the visitor and for us). To do this, we triangulated three sets of stats.
- Historical, high value keyword phrases - taken from the site's Google analytics
- Current popularity of relevant keyword phrases - taken from Google search-based keyword tool or adwords tool
- Current rankings profiles for popular phrases - requires new SEO report to be run for new keyword phrases
Once we have established the keyword phrases to optimize, we can start developing our web pages to support those searches.
As we move forward, we will keep a closer eye on the effectiveness of our rankings. We don't want to waste effort optimizing our ranking for searches that are never done.