Using SearchStation effectively requires, like most tools, an understanding of the philosophy that created it.
What are we measuring? We are measuring what search engines display for a keyword (a search). The display is called a SERP (search engine results page), which is a page layout that changes all the time. It should be simple logic to ascertain that there is no definite way to know exactly how may clicks a given position on the SERP will yield because we are trying to estimate a population of humans interacting with a computer program.
On day one; we can’t know how many people are searching for your product within a reasonable distance. That means we can only estimate clicks to your website resulting from a keyword derived from various studies.
Over time we can refine our estimates based on observations. We may come close to knowing who many people are searching for your product within an geographic area, and we may come close to knowing how many of those prospective customers will visit your location, and how many will buy your product. But only over time and with disciplined study.
Local search is very different from global search. Only in local search do we find the Business Card (Card) in the top right of the page. This placement yields the greatest number of clicks. Paid ads at the top of the page are often second, followed by Places listings and then the top of Organic listings, and so on. Also consider that in the case of (the searcher) shopping, they tend to click on paid ads more frequently than when performing some sort of research. Having said that…
All our reporting starts with the the Card because the keywords that should cause your Google My Business account to be displayed in the Card, form the backbone of our entire philosophy. If we get a Card, it follows that we probably are #1 in organic listings, sometimes with Sitelinks and also a Places listing. This is the maximum real estate (meaning clicks) we can get (not including paid results, but that is something for separate discussion).
We know that the business name, should produce this optimal SERP we just described. Also the proximity to the location of the business has an effect too. The further from both the business name and the location, the less frequently a Card will be displayed.
But we need a benchmark. Therefore we start by using keywords that we know will display our website, then those that should, and then those that could. From this list, we will know two things; not only which keywords Google thinks uniquely describe your business, but we also now know of the failures to rank for some obvious Card keywords. Now we know where you stand.
A key differentiator here at SearchStation is that we do not build a keyword list because we “wish” or “hope” to rank for a keyword. Wishing and hoping are not just irrelevant, it is reverse logic. Sadly this is the first approach promoted by other Search Rank Reporting services. You will waste more time on SEO using the reverse logic of using a “wishing and hoping keyword list” – its an amateur-trap.
Brand keywords and location keywords play pivotal roles here. The keyword “Toyota” will not likely work to get your Toyota dealership into the Card. More than likely Toyota USA will be displayed. That’s normal. But if “Toyota of …” or your business name (lets call it Joe’s Toyota) does not work, we have got a real problem. It could be worse should your competition get the Card in these cases. But no worries. We know how to fix these things. The first step in all professions is to identify that a problem exists in the first place.
Why the location of your SearchStation is strategically important.
Remember that your local audience does not always use location specific keywords when searching for a “2015 Toyota Tacoma”. Instead they may search for a “2015 Toyota Tacoma near me”. Search engines can display the results for this in many ways as already explained. But the only contemporary way to measure your businesses search rank (before SearchStation) was to use the search term “2015 Toyota Tacoma my town“. THAT is a DIFFERENT search term, guaranteed to produce different results. This explains why SearchStation must be located in the general vicinity of your target market – so it can see what a local shopper for your product would see when they search for your product naturally, re. “near me”.
Next we look at the keywords that cause your business to be displayed in Places. Places are those listing ( 1 to 4 of them in a “pack” ) in the organic results but with addresses and reviews and such. The Card and Places are closely related. Often you will see both on a page. Analyzing this display also tells us if there is something wrong with your search performance.
The Pareto Principal – also known as the 80/20 rule
In reality, only about 20% of the keywords you currently use do 80% of the work. The other 80% probably bring only 20% of the traffic. So knowing which is which will save untold hours of toil. (you can often judge an Internet Marketing campaign by the size of the keyword list)
It is appropriate here to talk about Zero Volume Keywords – they should never clutter-up your Internet Marketing campaigns. A Zero Volume keyword would be one that few normal people would use. Some SEO keyword generators and some report vendors love to remind us that we rank #1 for these keywords. But the only reason we rank is because they are keywords no one would use. Some people confuse these Zero Volume Keywords with Long-Tail Keywords – they are not the same. A good example of a (good) long-tail keyword might be “black 2015 toyota highlander leather” because real buyers really do search for those things.
Paid Search – PPC Ads
Now that we can measure our Cards, our organic listings and our Places accurately, we can fine-tune how much we bid on our paid ads (keyword bids), for those keywords which we currently don’t rank and perhaps cannot ever rank for – but those keywords may have the largest search volumes, thereby getting the most clicks.
On those keywords which we do already rank, we can usually bid a few cents and still get the #1 spot in both ads as well as #1 in organic. This simple technique can save a lot of money perhaps increasing the effectiveness of your advertising spend by 50%.
More importantly, you will be surprised to find that your local business does not rank at all for Short Tail search phrases of your products such as “2015 Toyota Tacoma”. SearchStation reports on these keywords by measuring a) if your business does not rank, b) do any of our competitors rank? c) who ranks in PPC? The answer will determine a) whether we can try to get into organic results, or b) we must pay to get onto this page.
On-Site SEO – what keywords to use?
The next step in Search Engine Optimization is to utilize the keywords we don’t rank for (or rank far lower than we would like) in our website content. There is no reason to push more keywords that we already rank well for into our content. But sadly that is what most people do. If you already rank in the #2 spot for “new toyota tacoma for sale”, why try for #1? Its a lots of work for a few more clicks? (that you probably get anyway because most people click on more than one listing). We want to wisely increase our marketing reach with new keywords that will bring in a broader audience. We will choose those keywords carefully, checking that they have good search volume.
So now you have a comprehensive understanding of the philosophy upon which SearchStation is built and the methodology I follow in order to produce quality SEO for clients.