How to use keyword ranking reports without them using you: A 3-step guide

Michael Wiegand

This is a companion blog post for my talk at MozCon Local next Tuesday on Powerful Ranking Reports using Google Data Studio. I won’t go into nuts and bolts here — I’ll save that for those who can make it out to the show. But I will go into the new frontier for ranking data usage.

Let’s face it. Ranking is not a great SEO metric anymore for a myriad of reasons. To name a few:

  • Results are too unique to individuals
  • Google is constantly messing with fine-tuning their algorithm
  • Ranking may get you traffic, but it doesn’t guarantee you sales

These are widely accepted facts in the search industry, but to paraphrase one of our clients:

“Perception is reality for a lot of business owners who wonder why the shop across the road shows up #1 ‘widgets’ and they don’t.”

Even so, search experts know better. Chasing keyword rankings for vanity’s sake is a fool’s errand. Especially when there’s profitable traffic to be had elsewhere.

But there are still great uses for ranking data beyond just chasing a single glory phrase. Today, I’ll walk you through 3 of them and the reports we’re using at Portent to address SEO progress through ranking.

The Ranking Map

The age of personalized search has made local ranking factors way more prevalent. Your storefront’s proximity to the person searching, the accuracy of your store listings in the search engines, your content’s relevance for a given city or neighborhood name, and ratings in the marketplace are a big deal now.

So instead of using ranking data for individual keywords, many ranking tools will allow you to see rank for target keywords in a given location. When you aggregate those numbers across a handful of important keywords for your business, you get a ranking map like this one:

Keyword Ranking Map

This helps you prioritize which store locations to work on listing accuracy for, which to start campaigns for gathering reviews from past satisfied customers, and – in some cases – show you how intense your competition is on the local level.

The Keyword Funnel

Another way to use ranking data that’s very valuable is grouping your keywords together by which part of the customer journey a person is in when they search for it.

It’s the traditional Awareness > Consideration > Conversion marketing funnel we’re all used to, but for search.

Here’s an example of how you would assign keywords to each part of the funnel:

  • Awareness – “widgets”
  • Consideration – “acme widgets vs. other widgets”
  • Conversion – “where to buy acme widgets”

You’d repeat this process for all of the keywords you’re targeting and then take your average rank and the total search volume available in each part of the funnel.

Keyword Ranking Funnel

This helps you understand what type of content you need most in each keyword theme: Educational content for people just getting to know your brand, comparative content to help them understand the nuances of various products in the marketplace and why they should buy it from you, or promotional content to share your latest deal when your prospect is ready to buy.

Keywords by Landing Page

Since web analytics platforms no longer get granular keyword data from search engines, it’s important to understand which page is obtaining the ranking for a given keyword and whether or not that’s the most appropriate page for somebody searching to land on.

Then you can cross-reference that page’s performance (I recommend using the Landing Pages report in Google Analytics for this) for the conversions you care most about and see if perhaps you’re not attracting the right audience to that content.

Keyword Ranking by Landing Page

So, remember, don’t fall into the trap of gunning for individual rankings. But there are so many creative ways we can repurpose this data to help us make better decisions as search marketers that it’d be a shame not to integrate some in our daily workflow.

Michael Wiegand
Analytics Architect

In 17 years as a marketer, Michael's experience has run the gamut from design, development, direct mail, multivariate testing, print, and search. He now heads Portent's Analytics practice, overseeing everything from Google Tag Management, to CRM integration for closed-loop analytics, to solving ponderous digital marketing questions. Outside of work, he enjoys recording music, playing JRPGs and supporting Seattle Sounders FC.

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