Keyword rankings are arguably the sexiest part of search engine optimization (SEO).
Perhaps that needs a little clarification. What I mean is when it comes to nonprofit SEO, rankings are very attractive in that they’re easy to measure, easy to understand and easy to compare. But the problem is they just aren’t that important. At least not in their own right.
There is nothing really wrong with keyword rankings per se. I’ll admit, even as the guy advocating against fixating on rankings, I routinely check to see how the organizations we work with are ranking in search engines. I get excited when we go up and frustrated when we go down.
But remember, rankings are only a small piece of the SEO puzzle.
Keyword Rankings are a Means to an End
Keyword rankings don’t matter in their own right. A top ranking doesn’t automatically benefit your organization.
True, a top ranking can lead to a substantial uptick in traffic and carry along with it tons of donations, volunteers and adoring supporters.
But it doesn’t necessarily do so. And it’s these outcomes (the donors, volunteers and supporters) that matter. Not the rankings.
Would you rather rank #1 for Keyword A but get no new donors, or rank #6 for Keyword B and get 50% more donors? The donors matter. The rankings don’t.
Shifting Your Focus
Alright, so we’re not going to focus all our energy on keyword rankings. But what should we look at instead?
While you should tailor your focus to your organization, here are a few broadly applicable suggestions:
Number of Donors or Volunteers from Search. Focus on the number of donors or volunteers that find your website via search. With effective SEO, you should see these numbers going up.
Keyword Phrases that Produce Action. Look into which keyword phrases drive the most donors or volunteers to your website. Focus on not only driving more traffic from these phrases, but also improving the experience of visitors from other keyword phrases.
Behavior of Traffic from Search. Keep an eye on the behavior of your traffic from search. If you’re driving the “right people,” you should see people engaging with your website, not simply viewing one page and leaving.
Volume of Unbranded Search Traffic. Unbranded search traffic refers to the people arriving on your website via search without typing your organization’s name into a search engine. This means they’re likely interested in what you’re doing but aren’t necessarily aware of your organization (since they aren’t looking for you by name). Increasing the volume of unbranded search traffic can be a great way to raise awareness of your organization.
Focusing on rankings is an example of measuring what’s easy, not necessarily what’s most important. It’s fine to keep an eye on your rankings, but balance it by tracking what really matters to your organization.