Is it time to ‘call time’ on keywords?

Posted on November 7, 2018


Ever since the phrase ‘search engine optimisation’ was first coined in the mid-1990s (or so it is believed) the use of keywords has been at the forefront of our industry. Website owners have obsessed over them, and online marketing companies have traded on them. It’s always been about the keywords.

How do I get on the first page for this phrase? How do I get to number one for this keyword? How do I rank higher than my competitor for this search term?

Keywords, keywords, keywords.

Many online marketing companies even have words related to ‘higher rankings’ in their brand names. How many digital agencies can you name with words like ‘climb’, ‘first’, ‘high’ or ‘one’ in their name? There are thousands.

Yet they’re all missing the point. It’s not about rankings. It’s never been about rankings. You’re all obsessing over a false metric. Where you rank for what keyword isn’t important in terms of your online marketing activity.

I’ve worked at agencies in the past where clients were sold on rankings. They were promised page one rankings for this keyword, and that keyword, as though that was going to transform their business. Of course it didn’t.

There are many more important things to consider. For example, the traffic you receive to your website is more important than rankings. There’s no point ranking for something if nobody is searching for it, or if your website doesn’t convert into clicks when appears in search results.

The traffic to your website is also just as useless if it isn’t converting into business. In many ways, it’s more useless as it’s eating up your website’s bandwidth, which costs you money. How many website owners spend money on SEO, PPC or other marketing activity without first getting their website in order? If your website doesn’t convert, it really doesn’t matter where you rank for which keyword.

The type of conversion is also important. Rather than simply looking at the number of customers or enquiries you’re getting through your website, you need to be considering the order value, or nature of those enquiries. If you’re selling products online, is your online marketing resulting in sales of the correct products for you? Is it the ones with the best margin, or the ones which are easier for your business to fulfil? Equally with enquiries, are you receiving enquiries for your more profitable services, or for the services for which you’ve set procedures so that they’re easier to deliver? Are the conversion rates high enough on the services for which you’re getting enquiries?

There’s no point getting loads of enquiries for a service if those enquiries take a long time to deal with and have a low conversion rate. There’s no point selling loads of products if you’re taking up all of your time fulfilling the orders and not making enough profit.

Much of this comes down to looking into your business, how it operates and in what direction you want to take it, yet it should all be part of online marketing.

Meanwhile, some people are still harping on about rankings and keywords as if they mean a jot. Good for them. Thankfully, we know different, don’t we?

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.

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