Keyword rankings are no longer a primary performance metric of your website
The core concept of digital transformation is the shift from a seller’s world to a buyer-centric model, meaning marketer’s can no longer market features and functions but instead the focus is on user experience and the buyer’s behavior. This concept has drastically changed how marketer’s measure success and in turn changed the way technology supports the marketing function.
Back in the day (no more than 5 years ago), Google Analytics and the practice of SEO was a marketer’s best friend. Keyword rankings was a science. Reaching page one for your company felt like the biggest success and all you had to do was trick-out your web page and stuff it with keywords. At this time the data you could pull from Google Analytics alone was more than enough. Google showed you exact search volumes and “not set” wasn’t an option. It was easy to determine what hot topic keywords people were searching for and exactly what you could hijack to get them to find you. Whether your website was relevant to what they were actually looking for, didn't matter as long as the keywords lined up, you were golden.
Today, it's not so easy. Google Analytics is consistently changing what they let you see and is evolving as human behavior evolves. The data SEO engineers once used to get you to Page One is no longer available. Truth be told, getting to Page One doesn’t matter anymore because the constant gaming of words no longer matters if the human being immediately leaves your website if it's not what they want, confusing or lack clarity and credibility. Not only is this more complex than ever before, it will also change from buyer to buyer depending on their criteria and what they personally value more.
Digital transformation has made keyword rankings inaccurate. According to HubSpot, there are three broad buckets that have rendered keyword rankings obsolete:
Device and location are the most technical as it has to do with technology advancements Google has relative to five years ago but personalization is perhaps the most interesting and hardest for marketers to determine.
Keywords and Buyer Behavior are vastly different
As HubSpot explains, "besides the obvious changes in Google Algorithms and the loss of available data in Google Analytics SEO, keyword rankings today are directional at best. Strong keyword rankings no longer equate to high volumes of qualified traffic or increases in revenue". Today Google rankings are different for each individual person. People no longer search in fragmented sentences, using only keywords to find what they are looking for. People search conversationally, meaning they will type whole sentences into their search engine, or they will ask Siri or Alexa as if asking a person. You can’t stuff a web page full of popular sentences on the off chance a buyer asks that question.
“This technological shift to accommodate personalization and human behavior has forced marketers to become more savvy and focus on content and a variety of marketing tools to meet goals.”
Content is now the key focus. HubSpot has introduced a concept called Topic Clusters to measure the performance of content and help your content be found on Google. Essentially this concept is grounded in the idea that instead of focusing on one specific keyword on each individual page you focus on one topic with a variety of related topics across a variety of pages. This holistic view of your content and measuring of page performances is how we need to shift our digital marketing practices. You don’t need HubSpot to map out this strategy, although it doesn’t hurt.
What you do need is a documented content strategy and a plan to measure success. Google Analytics will always be one of the top tools for determining how well your website is performing. However, you must use this data along with other data to truly see a holistic view of your web presence. If you don’t know where to start, discovering your value proposition and buyer personas are the first step. Once you know who you need to appeal to and how best to build credibility with that audience, only then can you can start using data to create goals and metrics for success. Take it one step further, and start automating your marketing tasks so your resources can focus on what you cannot automate. True digital transformation of the marketing function is embracing the concept that marketing automation tools can help you do your job better. Marketing automation aligns the marketing and sales process and is always a reliable tool into the visibility and success of your marketing function.
Data needs to drive decisions
Bottom line is that we can no longer use keyword rankings alone as a factor of success. You must use the hybrid of tools at your disposal to create a holistic view of success in your web presence. The next evolution of SEO relies heavily on the support of content creation and a mixture of tools to measure success. Digital Transformation has not completely killed keyword rankings, it has evolved how we must use SEO to determine performance and success. Marketers should always rely on data to drive decisions but with technology advancements and buyer behavior we must continue to evolve how we interpret and use that data.