Search engine optimization (SEO) is a constantly evolving analytical science. No longer do we plop in a list of short-tail and long-tail keywords using off-the-shelf keyword tools that suggest vague keyword ideas. But how can a client’s SEO keyword ranking history affect their organic performance—or our SEO strategy?
Many of our clients are law firms, where the competition for organic share of voice is fierce in efforts to gain more website traffic and better positions on search result pages. Many law firms look for potential customers to turn into cases from a limited source (organic positioning, social media, paid ads, etc.).
How we use data and tools to solve ranking problems
Primarily a law firm digital marketing agency, Hennessey Digital tracks over 30,000 keywords per day for our clients. We use various keyword research tools and have processes to ensure the data we monitor helps us proactively resolve organic ranking issues.
We also provide ongoing, transparent reporting to clients regarding how keywords rank and explain the correlation between rankings and search volume. This way, we can identify which keywords will move the needle regarding improved impressions in the SERPs (search engine results pages) to increase clicks and, more importantly, leads! Furthermore, this also allows us to evaluate which keywords are working well for our clients and which aren’t performing as expected.
We use various tools to help with keyword research. These include Semrush, Ahrefs, Google Trends, STAT, and Keywords Everywhere. These tools allow us to quickly pull data from various sources such as Google Ads, Google Search Console, and other popular data resources to determine some of the terms that may be relevant to our client’s campaigns.
Our team analyzes short-tail and long-tail keywords, optimizing for a combination of both to achieve maximum gains for our clients. There is no one-size fits all approach; only strategies informed by prior trials can be leveraged for individual clients.
Keyword research is integral to any SEO strategy because it helps us translate our client’s needs and goals into converting website traffic. We also must keep track of the changing trends within Google’s algorithm and competitor sites to rank high on search engines. It’s not enough just to throw words into these tools, cross our fingers, and hope for the best – we need to find out what people are searching for and create content around those terms that helps users.
One key focus is writing this keyword research-based content for the users first and search engines second, and a treasure trove of additional information that is most commonly overlooked is in historical search data. With proper keyword research, we will know within minutes whether or not the chosen keywords are popular. If they aren’t being searched for, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
Why we use historical organic keyword ranking data
We’re often asked why we use historical organic keyword data rather than just looking at current rankings. As Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” This holds true in SEO strategies as well.
Our tools utilize keyword sets for clients that segment ranking data into practice areas (like personal injury, car accident, medical malpractice, etc.) and geographical ranking data (covering major cities and even smaller towns where our clients provide services). In addition, we also provide a detailed analysis of the keywords used by each client.
We can provide this information because our tools allow us to track and analyze all search terms utilized by clients on Google and Bing. We can see what words or phrases are being searched for by potential clients and which words competitors seem to be going after as well. We can then use these results to help our clients create more effective SEO strategies, which should produce an increase in leads and better ROI.
We look back to the past to see which keywords worked and how they performed over time. With this information, we can identify trends that may be useful when planning future campaigns. Moreover, it helps us understand which words are most effective in different industries.
Keyword research is a vital component that helps us know what our client’s competitors are doing to ensure we stay ahead of them. Our SEO experts collect this for you and help find new opportunities by analyzing current content for optimization opportunities.
None of us know what the future holds for rankings, search engine updates or the exact ways trends may change, and historical data holds more answers than not. By looking at historical data, we can avoid being misled by short-term fluctuations in rankings. In addition, we can compare long-term trends in performance against competitors.
When comparing performance metrics, it is important to understand whether the differences are caused by random variations or real progress. By looking at historical data, we can ensure our clients are making real progress and be transparent when it may be a brief fluctuation instead.
Why SEO keyword ranking history matters
Tracking a list of keyword history over time helps to determine how a site should rank for specific keywords. Getting caught up the moment a keyword ranking improves is easy, and thinking that a website will perform better if we simply start using specific techniques without considering trends is a misstep. However, predicting which methods will work best for any given keyword is difficult since many factors go into the ranking process.
The following are some examples of what we may use to track a list of keyword history:
- Google Trends – This tool allows you to see how often a particular term has been searched on Google. You can also compare different countries or regions.
- Keyword Discovery Tool – This tool allows users to enter their own keywords and search for related terms. The tool provides keyword ideas and suggestions based on the number of times the word appears on Google.
- Google Autocomplete – This tool allows anyone to type in a phrase in the Google search bar and see what comes up as a search suggestion related to the phrase.
- Google Search Console – This tool allows webmasters to check page rankings for various keywords.
- Google Analytics – This tool allows businesses to monitor traffic from organic sources such as search engines, social media sites, and direct visits.
- Search Console API – This tool enables developers to access information about individual pages.
- Google Keyword Planner – The Google keyword planner is a tool that helps you determine which keywords will be best for your website. It gives us suggestions of keywords based on your current content, competitors’ websites, and other factors.
- Google Ads – We manage Google Ad PPC accounts for many clients and leverage this data against our organic efforts to determine what is performing well.
Any combination of the above tools may be used to understand how keywords historically rank, including keyword difficulty, volatility, and search volume. That said, we also must take great measures to understand how and why keywords decrease in ranking outside of the random variations we expect.
How we diagnose a drop in organic rankings
Rank tracking tools are the first step in diagnosing site or link profile issues. They allow us to see what changes occurred over time and how they affected our client rankings. After enough analysis, we can pinpoint where things may have gone wrong and which course correction to begin.
We use our rank tracking tools to monitor every day, week, month, quarter, and year. If we notice anything unusual, it might indicate that there’s been an algorithm update or that a competitor has changed tactics. While Google announces a certain number of core updates, many more updates are suspected within the marketing community when we see dramatic keyword ranking fluctuations and extreme website traffic drops or increases.
When we detect a drop in rankings, we will generally try to determine if the drop was limited to a specific area of the site or if it is more widespread. We will also analyze how many pages were affected and whether other factors may have caused the drop – like site downtime or technical issues.
We then take steps to correct the problem. If the issue is with our code, we will fix the bug as soon as possible. We will generally dig into the content of the affected pages and use artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools, as well as our primary keyword research tools, to validate the topical relevance of ranking existing pages. We can make necessary content tweaks or additions to improve and recover organic ranking performance. We look at a variety of things, such as:
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) – LSI is based on the assumption that words in a document are related because they appear together frequently and thus can be used as an indicator of semantic similarity between several similar keyphrases (an example of similar semantic words would be – bar, tavern, pub, inn, and watering hole).
Natural Language Processing (NLP) – Google uses NLP to understand natural language and extract meaning from text. It does this by analyzing the context of each word within the sentence. Moreover, it can also explore the relationships between words in a sentence.
Page Authority – A Page Authority score is calculated using a combination of backlinks, domain authority, and page content.
Topic Clustering – The topic clustering algorithm is a method for grouping documents into topics. The algorithm works by first finding the most common words in each document and then grouping together all of the documents that share similar sets of words. This method produces clusters with a high degree of internal coherence.
Content Quality Score – The quality score measures the overall quality of a web page. It considers the quantity and quality of links pointing to a given URL. In addition, Google includes other elements that influence SEO, like content, keyword density, etc., in calculating its quality score. Google’s algorithm is constantly changing, so we have to keep up with all the changes.
Focus on keyword search volumes
Changes outside of Google algorithm updates include user trends that drive keyword search volumes. We look at keyword search volume as if you were going to place a billboard on the side of a freeway – the more cars that drive past it (impressions), the more likely people will contact your business (clicks). It is imperative to focus and ensure efforts are being placed to drive organic ranking for relevant keywords with high search volume and to produce a sound content strategy around this. Otherwise, we risk creating a lot of noise that no users are around to hear.
We use data from our proprietary database to estimate monthly search volumes for keywords. Our estimates include traffic estimates for both desktop and mobile devices. It’s important to know that the search trends on these two devices can make a huge difference in our analysis. We must consider and optimize for both.
If you want to know what people are searching for, we recommend checking out the Keyword Planner mentioned in the list above. You’ll find detailed information about the number of searches performed for different terms and estimated monthly search volume, cost per click (CPC), and pay-per-click (PPC) cost.
What about zero search volume?
Thanks to our many years of working in the legal sector, we have tons of historical data for keywords that our personal injury attorney clients are looking to target. Interestingly, our tools sometimes return “Zero Search Volume” (ZSV) phrases. As a result, we can target these keywords and phrases that may ordinarily be overlooked. Internally, we refer to these zero search volume phrases as “diamonds in the rough” since they will often drive impressive incremental traffic. Furthermore, by targeting these ZSV keywords in combination with other strategies such as link building, social media marketing, etc., it is easy to see why some of our most successful campaigns have been driven by ZSVs.
How to create a successful SEO campaign
With keyword research, where a successful search engine optimization strategy starts, it’s not where it ends. There are multiple factors and segments of SEO that must be taken into account to have successful results, like increased ROI, conversions, and revenue.
Keyword Research & Analysis
The first step in creating a successful SEO campaign is to perform thorough keyword research. The goal here is to find a list of keywords that have the potential to bring traffic to your website. These keywords should be highly targeted toward your products or services but not so competitive that they won’t convert.
Once you’ve identified a set of keywords to target, you’ll need to optimize site content to support these terms. You’ll want to include those keywords in various places throughout your site’s copy, including title tags, meta descriptions, headers, body copy, and other appropriate areas.
Now that you’ve optimized on-site content, it’s time to take care of some off-page optimization. Link building is one of the most effective ways to get new visitors to your site since Google considers backlinks votes of confidence from other sites. We recommend focusing on authoritative link partners who are relevant to your niche.
Keyword Search Volumes
We use data from our proprietary database to estimate monthly search volumes for keywords. Our estimates include traffic estimates for both desktop and mobile devices. Furthermore, we also provide a breakdown of the estimated number of searches by device type (desktop/mobile).
If you want to know what people are searching for, we recommend checking out the Google Keyword Planner. You’ll find detailed information about the number of searches performed for different terms and estimated monthly search volume, cost per click (CPC), and PPC cost.
Finally, you’ll want to ensure you track everything correctly through Google Analytics. There are many different views you can use to track data, such as:
- Top Keywords
- Landing Pages
- Referring Sites
- Google Ads Conversion Tracking
- Social Media Conversions
- Website Traffic
- Organic vs. Paid Traffic
- Mobile vs. Desktop Traffic
- Time Spent on Site
- Bounce Rate
- Pageviews per Visit
- Average Session Duration
- Exit Pages
- Searches per Month
- Cost Per Lead
- Cost Per Sale
- Revenue Per Visitor
- Visitors Per Day
- Sessions Per User
- Users Per Month
The future of organic rankings and SEO strategy
Historically, our SEO keyword ranking efforts have been to dig into our clients’ past performance, focusing on the organic search histories and monitoring fluctuations. We’ve found that several factors can affect rankings on Google, and by using our proprietary tools, we can pinpoint which ones are affecting your campaigns positively or negatively.
Additionally, we can use this information to help make more informed recommendations about how best to optimize your website for maximum traffic that will convert into a client.
The SEO industry is constantly changing, and the reality of SEO keeps everyone on their toes. The internet evolves rapidly, so it’s hard to keep up with new technological developments. To stay ahead of the competition, you need a marketing team that understands how to quickly adapt by leveraging historical data and emerging trends.
We excel here at Hennessey Digital because we know where to look and which conclusions to draw while remaining transparent with our clients as strategies pivot along with the ever-changing digital marketing landscape!