3 Messages Your Rankings Are Sending

Tracking keyword rankings in Google can be one of the most fun and frustrating parts of SEO. When we see movement for those phrases that are the “Big money, big money, no whammies, no whammies, stop” keywords, it’s a good day. But when day after day those words still linger off the first page, it can make you want to chuck it all and go back to an analog world.

But sometimes, we spend so much time looking at ranking reports for what we want to see that we miss the forest for the trees. If we only listen for what we want to hear, we may not pick up on what is actually being said.

Sometimes keyword reports, especially the extended ones from tools like SEM Rush or SpyFu, that give you more than just the phrases you’re looking for have a bigger story to tell. At least they do if you know how to read between the keywords.

Dominant Theme of Relevance

Looking at the kinds of phrases you rank for can be a huge message about how a search engine interprets your most relevant concepts. If there is a large ratio of your ranking phrases that are based around one prominent theme, that is a strong indicator of the topics on which your site is most trusted. If there is a common subject among dozens of keywords, that can represent opportunities and areas of weakness.

On the opportunity side, if a theme is strong, and it’s an important theme for the site, you can work on focusing other signals around that. By creating additional content, links, and digital assets to enforce that perception of authority on a topic, a site can strengthen its position.

As a top-ranking site in a niche, there is also the value of perception. Having strong Google rankings surrounding a theme can help influence others regarding your authority. This can extend to media outreach including press releases, social media interactions, and even print materials. Promotions that encourage potential visitors to “Google a prominent keyword” for which you rank well can also capitalize on that prominence.

The scope of your ranking phrases can also indicate a weakness in relevance. If you are not ranking well for a major theme of your business, then it may be time to consider creating more signals surrounding that subject.

Where You Need New Content

One of the biggest clues you can read from a keyword report is where you should focus efforts around content creation. Content creation can support existing relevance or enhance authority where relevance is lacking. It can also help indicate where a user experience might be incomplete.

When Google ranks a site for any given keyword, it is a result of multiple on- and off-page factors being weighed to determine which pages should be served to users as a result of a search. Google is not wholly infallible in this endeavor. Sometimes a page that ranks for a keyword is not necessarily the best or most appropriate. In other circumstances, a page may rank for a phrase but not fully serve the user intent. By examining your keyword rankings for these situations you have the opportunity to better present information on the pages that rank or expand your content to provide a better, more comprehensive page that should rank.

Competition and Co-Citation

Studying your keyword rankings can also help you determine new competitors, and new strategies for SEO. Most businesses have isolated a core of key competitors who may bid on the same phrases or may appear together in the SERPS for several different searches. Outside of that, an expanded analysis of keyword rankings can reveal additional businesses that may be on the rise, or may be utilizing tactics that can be learned from.

A newer site that has become competitive in the long-tail may have structural, content, or optimization tactics that can be implemented on your site. They may also represent successful off-site marketing campaigns from link-building, marketing, or networking. While we may focus on who ranks alongside us for the head terms, evaluating the broader field on longer phrases or queries which tend to get less attention may reveal new information that is useful.

Also, evaluating the scope of rankings can reveal websites that aren’t competitive that may be ripe for partnerships or co-citation. Another site that ranks below you but does not target your customers could be a good site to work with on an initiative or just to link to. Linking to similarly relevant, but not competitive, websites enhances the comprehensiveness of content, but may also send additional signals of relevance to search engines.

Filtering keyword reports to a small section of phrases can be useful when it helps quiet the noise a bit. But it can also keep us from hearing things we need to know. It is absolutely worth examining and considering the implications of the entire volume of ranking phrases, at least on occasion. There are messages within that report that can be applied to strategic development and competitive analysis. There is subtext in a ranking report that deserves to be understood because it may be those quiet suggestions that help bring forth some of the best new ideas.

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