As an SEO, there’s a metric I frequently use to demonstrate a very important and positive effect of a properly and thoroughly executed SEO campaign. It doesn’t have to do specifically with positioning, but with optimization, relevancy, and overall search engine visibility. It has to do with how search engines, specifically Google, use language semantics and relationships between words to determine relevancy, and how optimizing for a set of terms doesn’t mean you’re going to get traffic on just those exact terms.
Instead, it means your site will see traffic from potentially hundreds or thousands of keyword variations – resulting in an overall increase in search engine visibility.
That said, when measuring the success of an SEO campaign, it’s important to watch positioning, unique visits, conversions, etc., but also to record and track the keyword variations used to find your website in search engine results; that is, the many different terms that were typed into search engines that have resulted in a visit to your website. Ideally, this number should increase as SEO work is implemented. It’s also important that the list of targeted terms does not represent the ONLY terms a site will get natural search traffic from. Because the engines are able to make semantic connections between words and can deal in keyword variations, it’s important to analyze the keyword traffic you’re getting on variations of your targeted terms.
For example, an online retailer of baby furniture may begin an SEO project with a variety of top level terms, which likely include the keyword “crib”. By performing the search ~crib we can see that Google recognizes terms like ‘bedding’, ‘baby furniture’, ‘baby’, ‘crib bedding’, etc. (see bolded terms in results) as related to the searched term. By naturally using terms like this throughout optimization, the overall relevancy for baby crib-related terms will be higher, therefore increasing the overall relevancy of your site for related terms and improving traffic opportunities.
In a conversation about keyword traffic, it’s also important to discuss the long-tail terms that are likely going to drive traffic to the site. For example, optimizing for the term pocket protectors may result in traffic from terms such as leather pocket protectors, plastic pocket protector, clear pocket protector, vinyl pocket protector, pocket pen protector, and many others, depending on the types of products offered. By naturally referring to the products and qualifying them in a manner that is consistent with the products or services you offer, you will increase the overall optimization on your site.
In the end, it’s important to study and research terms related to your primary targeted terms in order to improve your site’s opportunity to gain traffic from a variety of related terms. It’s also very important to monitor and analyze keyword traffic to see how initial optimization has resulted in site traffic from an assortment of long-tail and related terms, and recognize that these terms represent increased exposure in the search engines.