Chasing Keywords vs Chasing Conversions

One of the first questions that I like to talk with new clients about are their keywords: what are the keywords they want to rank for and why. The answers are consistently surprising.

Client: We want to rank for terms “x,y, and z.”
Me: Are those your best converting keywords?
Client: Well, I’m not really sure, but they do have the most search volume.
Me: You don’t really care about search volume unless you sell CPM based advertising. You really want to know which keywords convert the best and go after those first.

This can often be a big friction point because egoes come into play whenever you talk about vanity keywords. Agencies are notorious for telling clients what they want to hear and letting them dictate a course doomed to fail. Affiliates, on the other hand, usually have a better handle on this concept. If these pages don’t convert into sales, they don’t get paid, so they tend to chase conversion-centric keywords.

If you are merchant and you “own the cart,” you really should be using your own custom solution. Track the original keyword that a customer used to reach your website and write it into a cookie. When they complete a transaction (or other desired event), write it to the database. Then on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, run a report on those numbers.

If you don’t “own the cart,” then you are stuck with an analytics solution. The key thing to remember is that a data driven cart is always going to be more accurate than any analytics. No, I don’t care who your analytics provider is or how much you are paying per month. Web analytics is always going to be a guesstimate. Some guesstimates will always be better than others–but they will still be guesstimates, no matter how fancy the Ajax driven reporting is.

So the question is: are you chasing keywords for visibility, or are you chasing them for conversions?

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