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March 21, 2008

SEO Sleuthing and The Importance of Tracking Your Progress

Sometime you have to go backward in order to move forward. What happens when you hit your keyword ceiling (when you have squeezed the last drop of traffic from your keywords) and the traffic plateaus? Just like an SEO sleuth, you have to dawn your research cap, break out the optimization map and change your SEO method to produce exciting new results.

Charting your progress is an imperative step in the SEO process, yet oftentimes the fear of change and upsetting the balance can be paralyzing to webmasters and bloggers alike as they tend to overlook the transient nature of search engines and their algorithmic stability.

The only consistency is knowing that at any time the search results could become inconsistent and that the very same criteria your ranking strategy is hinged on could shift at any time along with your rankings, so it is better to diversify your tactics, as search engines only call it as they see it.

As new PHD endorsed scripts graduate from the testing servers and are injected into the data centers with great frequency (to see how the SERPs react) it’s almost as if search engineers like to keep you guessing when it comes to sculpting the most relevant result.

Tell tale signs of a new algorithm roll-out for example are when some of your most established rankings take a dip “like Snagglepuss (exit stage left)” and the old peek-a-boo ranking “now you see me, now you don’t” routine makes its debut at the expense of your site’s popularity.

This is where the value of search analytics comes into play. This is what really allows you to delve into the who, what, where, when and how, nuts and bolts of your content which allows you to optimally refine your message to target audience. Things like finding which post had the higher reader engagement, where they went from there, if the calls to action were successful and produced measurable results.

On the flip-side, the simple truth is, some keywords just don’t convert – they are either too broad, too narrow or simply are not the ideal match when people are initiating queries from search engines. So, despite how complicated or simple it is to optimize a phrase, if there is no traffic, you just have to think of it as an exercise (better luck on the next keyword). In any capacity, sometimes you have to cut your losses and just move on.

The only thing stopping you from attaining a high ratio of pre-qualified traffic from search engines is your ability to identify, optimize and funnel the right keywords for your sites content.

Whether it is inspiration, imagination or common sense makes no difference. The fact is, by adding strategic keywords that have a proven track record attached, you can study your analytics / user tracking statistics to introduce topics that further establish your authority in the industry and have a higher degree of engagement to set the stage.

If you spent a fair amount of time using keyword research tools, then you know there are some pretty obscure keywords that manage to coral several thousand online stragglers to the apex of randomness. Whether it converts or not is another topic, but since conversion is all about “setting the right mood to promote action”. If you structure your content accordingly, you can surprise roving visitors who floated in like fruit flies on a whim, with a fulfilling user experience. Conversions starts when you provide something so unique that it makes visitors stop and think “wow” just for a moment to appreciate the concept (which is more than can be said for most one traverses).

The key here is not to offer a bland value proposition, distinction is rewarded with curiosity. So, with this in mind don’t think lack luster, think blockbuster. Some times you have to break your own rules to find something new. If you always stay within the realm of the predictable in your approach or method, then you are doomed to repeat mistakes as well as previous breakthroughs (hence languishing on the premise of previous).

Familiarity can be a crutch that prevents one from reaching their full potential. For example, turning your titles into streamlined calls to action vs. the over SEO’d titles that read like ticker-tape humdrum definitions rather than something you would consider clicking. SEO is one thing, creating emotionally charged content with purpose is another, which is where the “marketing” in internet marketing warrants its definition.

The concept is to relinquish the ordinary and create extraordinary titles to entice the reader’s attention with a distinguished poise to stand out from the crowd in contrast to the other 9 search results on a page. In this instance, if your site is strong enough (as a result of topical authority) all that is required are a few pivotal keywords in the title or body to be returned as a high ranking relevant result. The advantage with this tactic is not about where you are in the fold, but that you create a “click trigger” as opposed to a utilitarian or bland call to action / title.

Likewise, instead of letting your keywords lose potency over time and recede back to the zero point, harvesting a batch of keywords from the past and coupling them with re-optimized titles could evoke a repeat performance in the top 10 and drive additional targeted traffic to your site. Yet, without a stint of investigation or the impulse to act on collected data, you may neglect multiple opportunities to rekindle the top 10 spotlight as a consequence.

Now for the exercise:

Just like waves in the sea, your site is on a voyage which changes every time you add new content. If you chart your results, it is clear that your site is constantly maturing as a result of link aging, gaining more trust, the links that influence you, etc. In order to keep afloat and establish a progressive course, one great exercise is to go back 90 days and act as if you had to re-optimize your site for your main phrases again. Then conduct an analysis for the keywords that were top 10 then (3 months ago) and see how much you have either slipped, advanced or remained buoyant since that time.

The objective is, to gauge how fast your pages fall from grace for your respective range of keywords. As the freshness of a new blog post or page fades, it must be supplemented with solid links or reinvigorated from within the site to remain in the spotlight as a relevant topic for search engines.

After you establish your rate of decline in the SERPs (which should not be more than 20 positions for an authority site for your keywords over a 90 day period) you still have a chance to resuscitate your content and hedge some additional traffic before they teeter off into obscurity.

The entire purpose of this post was (a) don’t overlook resources that are right under your nose and (b) sometimes you have to slow down and smell the flowers to chart the route of your site over time as you can tell where a site is headed, based on where it has been.

Have your rankings skyrocketed? were phrases that were in the 40’s finally evolved into top 10 positions as a result of authority? and how many keywords are you missing the mark on as a result of simply omitting the research. Sometime you have to look back to get a better idea of how to move forward. So perhaps now it’s time to brush off your dusty SEO tools to see where you stand in context to your competition.

Jeffrey Smith is an active internet marketing optimization strategist, consultant and the founder of Seo Design Solutions Seo Company He has actively been involved in internet marketing since 1995 and brings a wealth of collective experiences and fresh marketing strategies to individuals involved in online business.