Five years ago, providing the top 10 keywords that brought visitors to the company Web site was worth a prize. Two years ago, showing which keywords generated the most revenue was the pay per click winner. Today, bragging rights go to assessing keyword value based on visitor volume, revenue, conversion and perhaps the most important Web marketing metric: time on site.
At a minimum most companies should follow the keywords that bring the most visitors to the Web site. Volume keyword lists can be very long, and as it turns out, not very helpful. They’re not the best way to decide which keywords to invest in. Volume has little value if there isn’t a subsequent interest in your site’s content. Anyone can post an overpromising ad and bring unqualified – and slightly gullible – visitors to their site. After seeing the irrelevant homepage, the visitor whom was "duped" into coming to the site simply will leave. If you’re going to put some marketing dollars behind your top keywords, you’ve got to measure the volume, not of all visitors, but of engaged visitors.
Revenue generated by keyword is not enough to be the sole basis on which to make keyword decisions. A long sales cycle might disassociate revenue from current valuable visitors. Also, you need to factor visitors that almost bought – dropped carts. Revenue isn’t the only pay per click indicator of keyword value.
If your site doesn’t sell online, you want visitors to convert – whether it’s a completed lead form or a newsletter signup. Conversions happen in a shorter time span than most revenue events – often in a single visit – so the degree of accuracy is higher. Also, it’s a good bet that more visitors convert than buy, so by counting converted visitors per keyword, we move closer to a measurement of the keywords that bring engaged visitors.
Conversion and revenue numbers show you the overall effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts. In comparison, time on site measures your Web site’s ability to successfully retain each visitor’s interest. It’s also a good indicator of the synergy between the expectations visitors had before clicking to your site and what they found once they arrived.
You’ll want to measure PPC ad effectiveness for each keyword separately from natural search listings. Here’s a look at a formula when it comes to keyword selection:
- Start by getting the top 40 search keywords-and keyword phrases that drive traffic to your site, listed by number of visitors.
- Show average time on site using only the 40 top-volume keywords from the previous step.
- Export the list to Excel for easy sorting, and tweak the view so that the longer time on site (better) appears on top. When measuring natural search results, remove any phrases and keywords from the list that contain your company name. Now you’ll have a list of the keywords most effective at keeping visitors on your site.
- Look at the top 10 to 15 keywords on the list and do a conversion rate "reality check." This involves looking for conversion rates at or over your average visitor conversion rate. If visitor conversion for a keyword falls below the threshold, consider updating the site for better conversion before investing in this keyword.
Do a reality check. If you’re working with a site that captures online sales, I recommend a reality check on the top 10 keywords in terms of revenue generation. If there’s a keyword that doesn’t generate revenue during a time period that encompasses eight to 10 sales cycles, consider updating the site for better sales conversion before investing in this keyword.
What you’re left with – meaning the top terms that passed both the conversion and revenue reality checks – are the top keywords and phrases for PPC advertising, SEO and other SEM investments.
Repeat the steps above to check PPC campaign keywords. Finally, compare natural search and PPC time-on-site results to confirm that PPC performance is, well, worth paying for. If PPC ads generate the same or better time on site as natural search, then you know the PPC ads are doing what you want them to do.
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