Keywords have been part of the website performance lexicon for years.  A website’s performance around select keywords has typically been explained by listing select keywords and identifying where a website ranks for a given keyword.  This relationship between keywords on a web page, a person’s keyword search, and the likelihood that those keywords result in a favorable listing of a web page on a search engine results page is constantly evolving.  In Cyrus Shepard’s post last week on The MOZ Blog about The Death of Keyword Rankings, he discusses other reports that better depict the important metrics for a website.

Google’s Hummingbird update has made several significant changes to the end user’s experience

  • results for a given keyword do not always contain all of the keywords that person is searching
  • user clicks on search engine results pages (SERPs) are increasingly more affected by the presence of ads and author photos. Because of this, top rankings on a page are not necessarily the most likely to be clicked.

These changes have devalued the keyword ranking report and Cyrus points to the following reports as more representative of traffic –


Rank Indexes provide an indication of how a group of related keywords are performing.   Within an index, individual keywords will have varying performance from report to report.  Over the same period of time, one keyword within the group may show an increase in rank while another may show a decrease.  The index can provide a more representative view of the performance of the related keywords, rather than merely looking at the performance of each individual keyword.


What are the sources of traffic to your site?  Is it organic, referral, social?  Organic traffic is what we’re all familiar with  but what about referral and social traffic?  We tend to be consumed with reporting the performance of keywords and their relation to traffic on the site.  But these other areas provide qualified traffic to our sites, and need to be considered.


Are you receiving endorsements from traditional links, social media, other sources?  Traffic through endorsements represents opportunities to strike up relationships with those who have referred traffic to your site.  Relationships help to build authority and further promote content on a website.


In the end, what matters are business goals.  If actions we’re taking with optimizing our website for search engines are not producing a positive impact on Key Performance Indicators then our website is not helping our business.  Keywords may be an indicator of poor performance, but they’re not the only thing we should be looking at to optimize our KPS’s.

So, maybe your keyword report shows that your keywords aren’t performing as you expected.  But Cyrus’s recommendations of monitoring Rank Indexes, Reach, Endorsements, and KPIs, point to other important metrics for a website. Positive growth in these metrics  means your efforts of optimizing your site are indeed moving in the right direction.