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Thread: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

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    A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    Hey guys,

    We recently did a case study for our industry and would love if someone else would be able to do one since we are restricted to a specific demographic. The case study shows that, aside from branded terms, keywords rank low on the first page, or not at all, are driving near %66 of traffic to the site!! To us, this is HUGE. It means a shift in the way we sell our service and changing the customers focus from, just ranking for keywords, to actual traffic generated. We're definitely NOT saying that keywords shouldn't be important, maybe just not as important as traffic. Please weigh in with your feedback as I love a good discussion.

    Here is the case study:

    Apartment SEO Metrics: Search Rank Isn’t Everything


    Do you place more importance on your website’s keyword search ranking than actual organic traffic count? When determining the success of your SEO efforts, placing too much dependence on where your apartment website [anchor link removed] ranks in Google for the keywords you monitor provides an incomplete picture of apartment seekers’ search activity.

    I completed a small case study spanning 9 multifamily websites and found that, on average, 66% of organic traffic comes from long tail keywords where the property’s site ranked somewhere below the third spot in Google. Generally, desktops only show about 3 organic listings without scrolling, or above the fold, which means the majority of traffic is coming from search listings below the fold.

    If you’ve had any sort of casual awareness of SEO, you know that goes against all we’ve been told since before Google became world-wide overlord. To provide some factual context, some recent data points that seem to affirm the trends I’ve witnessed:

    • Only 17% of Google searches drive traffic to click the top-ranked organic listings.
    • But 48% of Google searches result in a page one organic click (for any of the listings ranging 1-10).



    From this we can pretty well deduce that a majority of users are clicking somewhere other than the top-ranked organic listings.

    So isn’t it time we shift our focus for SEO reporting/analytics?
    The emphasis on Google rank is an outdated success metric for both apartment SEO [anchor link removed] and the broader SEO community. Search has changed. It’s time to catch up with major algorithm changes introduced by Google over the last few years: It’s no longer about ranking high for a single keyword and expecting that to drive all relevant traffic to your website.

    Google reported a few years ago that 50% of all searches have never been searched before.˛ It’s impossible to predict every search that could lead users to your site, and with an expanding emphasis on long tail keywords, it’s also unnecessary.

    During my recent case study, I examined Google’s Web Masters Tools for queries and click-through rate percentage (CTR%), and simply compared clicks that came from non-branded keywords in two groups: keywords ranked in the top 3 versus all other keywords. As stated earlier, the discovery that 66% of organic traffic came from keywords not ranked in the top 3 goes against a myriad of longstanding popular notions.

    Equally surprising was how many unique searches resulted in an impression for the websites used in this sample: Averaging 334 unique search queries per site. It’s unreasonable to suppose we could predict all keywords and keyword phrases that our searchers are using, because there are hundreds of ongoing unique searches. And that’s why long tail keywords have come back to the forefront of on-page SEO. It’s also why Google has placed emphasis on rich content (photos, video, audio, etc). The actual content on your apartment website [anchor link removed] tells users and Google more than keywords ever will.


    None of this is to say that keyword ranking is bad, it’s been proven time and time again that higher ranked keywords drives more traffic. I’m only hoping to illustrate a broader picture of SEO. It’s more than just a keyword rank. If you’re focusing on a metric rather than results (read: organic traffic), you’re falling short when determining the success of your SEO campaign.



    Last edited by Linda Buquet; 07-15-2014 at 09:34 AM. Reason: 3 KW links and 1 image link removed
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    re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    Hi Ryan,

    I appreciate you sharing your case study with us, but per the rules, links to your own site or a client's site are not allowed, so I had to strip the 3 KW links and the image link.

    Thanks for understanding!
    Is Our Content HELPFUL? Please pay the community back by sharing!

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    re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    No problem. I copied the article to the post and I think I missed a few links. Thanks for the double check.
    Linda Buquet likes this.
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    re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    I still place importance on rankings. Traffic doesn't tell you a whole lot. It's still a middle man statistic compared to the real statistic, which is cash. Are your clients making money from what you're doing? If you rank on the 10th page for your keywords, have 20 site visitors a month, yet those 20 visitors are buying at a point that the customer is happy with their ROI, then you're successful.

    The only problem with that is ROI is difficult to track for local businesses, mostly because they don't care to take the time to ask the right questions or ask questions at all.

    When it comes to secondary statistics, like traffic vs ranking, etc. I still side with ranking personally. If I am getting 20,000 visitors at the bottom of the first page, that's great. If I just looked at traffic, I would think, "Man, job well done. I'm out." However, if you look at your ranking that is driving that traffic, you see that you can still improve, to maybe even 40,000 visitors or more.

    On the other hand, if you're #1 for everything, you can't do much SEO past that and your journey is over. Still not getting the right amount of traffic to advocate an ROI? Exhausted your keywords? Then maybe SEO just doesn't work for that client at that price to justify the ROI.

    If your point is that ranking in the top 3 vs top 5 or top 8 shouldn't be the measure of success, I can bite on that. The 1st page is what you need and that's all a client can expect. However, I report traffic after I report rankings.

    My job is to raise your ranking. If, after your ranking is where it needs to be, and you're still not getting the customer influx you need, then we were both wrong that SEO works for you. I did what I said I would do by raising your ranking but SEO just isn't working for you at that point. Then we cut the cord.

    I've never had that happen luckily and I doubt many others have either. Unless they're charging more than the SEO is worth (which is hard to do in my opinion).

    Anyways, I agree traffic is important. Ranking is still the measure by which I track success.
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    Laustin1878 is offline Local Search Pro++
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    re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    Rankings and traffic are great but if they aren't converting, than what good is it? I know the role of an SEO is plentiful and has evolved quite a bit over time. Many sell their services on traffic. I'll improve your traffic for x dollars. I'll get your site to show up in Google for x dollars. What the client doesn't know is for which terms or how it gets there. I've seen people use Google AdWords as their catalyst for page 1 rankings lol

    I've always said I'd rather have 50 visitors a month with 5 or 10 purchasing a product or buying the service vs. 8,000 with the same amount of people purchasing. Yes, the 8,000 visits is impressive on paper but at the end of the day, what is it doing for the bottom line besides exposure? That is for another argument. Maybe I'm crazy but I've started focusing on conversions. Getting a better grip on the traffic that is arriving at the site now now before expanding and building traffic.

    I still see a place for keywords in SEO despite where Google is going. I still think there is a ton that can be learned from existing traffic to a website though. Now for a site that is starting at zero, rankings have to be important and a priority. I plan on rereading the OP and will reply back if I have any additional thoughts. Thanks for sharing yours.
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    Re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    Quote Originally Posted by Laustin1878 View Post
    Rankings and traffic are great but if they aren't converting, than what good is it? I know the role of an SEO is plentiful and has evolved quite a bit over time. Many sell their services on traffic. I'll improve your traffic for x dollars. I'll get your site to show up in Google for x dollars. What the client doesn't know is for which terms or how it gets there. I've seen people use Google AdWords as their catalyst for page 1 rankings lol

    I've always said I'd rather have 50 visitors a month with 5 or 10 purchasing a product or buying the service vs. 8,000 with the same amount of people purchasing. Yes, the 8,000 visits is impressive on paper but at the end of the day, what is it doing for the bottom line besides exposure? That is for another argument. Maybe I'm crazy but I've started focusing on conversions. Getting a better grip on the traffic that is arriving at the site now now before expanding and building traffic.

    I still see a place for keywords in SEO despite where Google is going. I still think there is a ton that can be learned from existing traffic to a website though. Now for a site that is starting at zero, rankings have to be important and a priority. I plan on rereading the OP and will reply back if I have any additional thoughts. Thanks for sharing yours.
    At the end of the day, it is all about money. If you're #1 on Google and not making any money off of it, SEO isn't profitable for you.

    I also agree conversions are a big deal. They're equal. You can't have conversions without traffic and traffic doesn't matter without conversions.
    Laustin1878 likes this.
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    Laustin1878 is offline Local Search Pro++
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    Re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    Absolutely it's about money and most business owners know you have to spend money to make money. That's where ROI comes in and there is no crystal ball for that unfortunately.

    I don't wholeheartedly agree with being #1 and not making any money from it than SEO isn't profitable. I may be taking your comment out of context and I apologize if I am but it could also mean you are just ranking for the wrong term.

    You are correct again about not being able to have conversions without traffic and some sort of ranking. Too many people brag about high volume websites but miss the fact that if those people aren't buying than something needs to be changed. I know several SEO's who have changed their titles and sales pitch to conversion specialists or conversion optimization.

    I have seen pages in the search results outside of the top 3 that deliver quite a good bit of traffic. I'd be interested to know how this case study varies between desktop and mobile searches. I still think mobile is going to grab the top results while desktop searches will see clicks away from the top.
    Linda Buquet likes this.

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    Re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    There are tons of KPI's out there to help you tell whether you're successful in your campaign, but the trick is not to get set on one and only one metric to track. Rankings are great, but if the ranking is for a keyword that doesn't convert are you actually successful? You have a #1 ranking as promised, but it doesn't help the client's bottom line. Sales and cash for the business are good, but you need to track where those sales are coming from. If a majority of sales come from a well known referral source (not an organic visit), then the 20 visits that turn into sales can be deceiving.

    Proper keyword research + Goal setting + hard work can lead to a variety of outcomes. Set the right goals up front with the client and you'll establish a great long term relationship. This is the marketing game we play
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    Re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    Quote Originally Posted by Laustin1878 View Post
    Absolutely it's about money and most business owners know you have to spend money to make money. That's where ROI comes in and there is no crystal ball for that unfortunately.

    I don't wholeheartedly agree with being #1 and not making any money from it than SEO isn't profitable. I may be taking your comment out of context and I apologize if I am but it could also mean you are just ranking for the wrong term.

    You are correct again about not being able to have conversions without traffic and some sort of ranking. Too many people brag about high volume websites but miss the fact that if those people aren't buying than something needs to be changed. I know several SEO's who have changed their titles and sales pitch to conversion specialists or conversion optimization.

    I have seen pages in the search results outside of the top 3 that deliver quite a good bit of traffic. I'd be interested to know how this case study varies between desktop and mobile searches. I still think mobile is going to grab the top results while desktop searches will see clicks away from the top.
    I meant theoretically you're #1 for everything

    At that point, it would be apparent that SEO isn't helping you. Just one piece of the pie.
    Laustin1878 likes this.
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    Laustin1878 is offline Local Search Pro++
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    Re: A Case Study on Local Search Keywords & Traffic

    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaMackens View Post
    I meant theoretically you're #1 for everything

    At that point, it would be apparent that SEO isn't helping you. Just one piece of the pie.
    Haha ok, I definitely misunderstood you. I do agree with you now that I know what you meant.

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