How can I improve my keyword ranking? The demand-driven SEO technique

A common perception of SEO is that the starting point is to brainstorm a bunch of keywords you'd like to rank for. This can range from a hunch through to using keyword tools to generate a list of desired terms, filtering for what's not too competitive.

I'm going to introduce another approach, one that we've found to work really well: using the demand you already have and building on it. It can be much easier to improve your ranking for keywords you're already ranking for than to rank for something new, out-of-the-blue.

It's not for everyone. If you are at day one of your store and have zero traffic, you have no demand to start from. But the good news is, if you're appearing at all in search engines for relevant terms you can grow this seed into a strong presence in the rankings.

What keywords are you appearing for?

Open up your Google, Bing and Yandex webmaster tools. We'll use the Google Search Console for our example.

In Search Traffic > Search Analytics you'll see all of the keywords you've appeared for in search results. If you use this report just to check your rankings, you're missing some gems here!

What this report really tells us is that Google has found you relevant for all of these keywords. Whether you appear on average at number 1 or 300 you are viewed as relevant for all of these keywords.

We all know that the vast majority of clicks happen on the first page of results and you're not likely to get anything (clicks-wise) when you're not up there. However, taking a keyword from #27 up into #3 is much less of a gamble than trying to rank for a keyword you don't currently rank for at all.

You'll use these low rankings as a foundation for your SEO, boosting your site up the rankings and into click territory.

Finding the keyword gems

Simply eyeballing this report you may be able to pick out some gems. What you're looking for are keywords where you're just outside of the top 10, but ideally not as far down as the 100's.

Similar searches, for example [fraser tartan trousers] rank 19, [clan fraser shirt] rank 21, [buy clan fraser pants] rank 32, are even better. You can see the common 'clan fraser' and 'apparel' theme that Google thinks you're relevant to.

It's likely you haven't received any clicks for these keywords, mostly due to missing out on the heavily click weighting of the first page. Let's change that!

After you've identified a keyword group to target, examine it a bit closer:

  • are people searching for these things likely to become your customer?
  • are sites on the first page your competitors, or do they share a similar customer type?
  • is this keyword group something people are searching for in a decent volume? (you can use the Google Adwords tool or similar to find this out)

If you answer yes to all of these then we could have some gems here, otherwise repeat until you find a group that fits.

Usually keyword research also considers the competition for keywords, throwing away those where the competition is very strong. In our case this is less of a consideration because you are already in sight of the first page so have a good chance of getting there from this foundation.

Building on the keyword's SEO foundation

The next step is to work out why Google views you as relevant to these keywords and focus your effort on expanding.

In Google Search Console 'Search Queries' report, press the icon next to the keyword to go to the Google search:

Here you can see how your site appears in a search for this keyword. Why is the page Google has selected shown?

Are related keywords in the page title (the blue link text)?

Are they in the meta description or page contents (the paragraph text)?

Do you or other sites link to this page using related keywords in the link text? (Check your Google Analytics > Behaviour > Site Content > All pages report. Press the page you're interested in and then choose a Secondary Dimension like 'referral path' or 'source/medium'. Email us if you get stuck!)

The reason you're currently ranking for this keyword will be one or a combination of the factors above.

To rank higher, use what works on this page to 1) create more content like it and 2) build more links like those you have.

Focus, measure, repeat

Focus on creating more content and building links for just a few of these keyword groups- it's important not to spread yourself too thinly as that risks Google not picking up your change as being substantial enough to boost you up the ranks.

Like all SEO, it can take time to kick in. I recommend giving it one month to collect enough data on each of your target keyword groups.

Then, in the Google Search Console 'Search Queries' report, compare the past month with the previous one to see the change in your average position for your target keywords.

Look for how your ranking has changed for the keywords you were ranking for before and also new, related keywords you have started ranking for. If there is no or downward movement you may wish to try a different group.

But if you see some signs of upward movement in the rankings- great! If they've generated clicks, take a look in your Google Analytics to work out how those visitors have behaved on your site. This can be tricky due to the keyword not provided problem. Instead, you can look at the new content you've created in the Google Analytics 'landing pages' report.

Do the users bounce? How long do they stay on the page? Do they view other pages? Do they convert to a goal?

Working out the quality of traffic coming to your shop for this keyword is important for two reasons. First, is it worth investing in SEO for this type of visitor. And second, if the traffic all bounces back to Google you will not be able to maintain your ranking- keyword/site combinations with a high bounce rate will be demoted in the ranking and a site with a better keyword bounce rate performance will be promoted instead.

Then with this knowledge in hand, double-down on the keyword group or move on to try another.

This demand-driven approach to ranking has proven very successful for our clients looking to be more visible and get more clicks from search engines.


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