Identifying Your Website’s Top Performing Keywords

by on September 14, 2010 · 3 comments

Identifying A Website's Top Performing Keywords This post is part one of a two part series discussing how to identify and strengthen the top performing organic keywords delivering traffic to your website.

The idea is to help create a sense of priority amongst SEO tasks by using analytics, a rank checking tool, and Google’s webmaster tools. By using these tools you will soon be able to streamline SEO and identify actionable tasks that can help correlate SEO work to real results.

Step 1 – Mining Your Top Referring Keywords

A typical problem for most site owners is discovering exactly what SEO tasks can be amplified in order to deliver better site performance. For example, link building vs. content building, or adding more pages vs. improving page relevance. To begin carving a path of actionable items its best to begin by understanding what keyword phrases are delivering the most traffic.

Google Analytics Referring Keywords

To do this your website will need to be using a third party program that collects data about who is arriving at your website, what they are doing, and where they came from. Tools such as Google Analytics do this, and also make it easy to mine lots of information about your visitors.

The first step is to download a list of all the phrases visitors have used in the past month to arrive at your website. This can be captured in Google Analytics by going to the “Traffic Sources” tab and then selecting the “keywords” tab.

Next, under the export button at the top of the page select “CSV,” or “Excel for CSV” which will activate the download of an excel sheet containing lots of data about your referring phrases. For larger websites its also helpful to expand the list of phrases on the page to 100 by using the “show rows” tab toward the bottom of the page.

Now, open the excel sheet and take a look at the list of keywords and data. I like to organize the Excel sheet by leaving only the keyword column, visits, and bounce rate. Notice I’ve also added two columns titled “Rankings” and “Landing Page” those two columns we will fill out in step two. What we have now created is a list of your top 100 referring keywords for the past month. While this data is very useful it doesn’t help us identify which phrases could be emphasized to perform better.

Step Two – Mapping Keyword Rankings & Landing Pages

To identify if keywords are under or over performing we need to understand how they rank at search engines. In particular how the keyword performs on Google considering it holds a market share of about 85% of all search traffic. There are two ways to mine search rankings.

  1. Manual enter in each keyword to Google and find your website in the results.
  2. Use a tool such as Rank Checker to find the keyword positions.

If your website is relatively small with a limited number of keyword phrases doing this manually is an easy exercise, however, if you are receiving thousands of visitors per month its probably best to use the tool to in order to collect more data.

Once you have identified the ranking positions and landing pages for each keyword you’ll have a complete data set that is ready to examine and act as the basis for deciding what SEO steps to take.

Examining The Data & Drawing Conclusions

Notice in my data for the website receives a lot of traffic from the term “Southside Pittsburgh Restaurants.” That phrase also happens to rank #1. But, scan down the list and you’ll notice a number of similar phrases ranking below #1 that also drive some traffic. For instance:

  • “southside restaurants pittsburgh” ranking at #5
  • “restaurants south side pittsburgh pa” ranking at #5
  • “pittsburgh south side restaurants” ranking at #6
  • “pittsburgh southside restaurants” ranking at #4
  • “restaurants in south side pittsburgh” ranking at #5

These phrases are ranking anywhere between #4 and #7 and still produce small bits of traffic monthly. If those positions could be improved and month over month rank #1 that is a direct increase in very targeted traffic. Probably the best phrase to single out would be “southside restaurants pittsburgh” which delivered 13 visitors, had a 0% bounce rate and only ranks in the number 5 position on Google. Its likely if that position improved to #1, more traffic would follow. Its also comforting knowing the phrase has a 0% bounce rate, and is simply another way to phrase the main keyword driving traffic “southside pittsburgh restaurants.”

Another take away I’m seeing for is that the site is able to attract visitors searching specific restaurants. In this case, Cafe Davio is the most searched restaurant, the runner up is Pizza Solo, and in fact if you scroll down the complete list of referring phrases this trend continues. That indicates possibly strengthening the level of optimization for restaurant phrases across the site could lift rankings and deliver more traffic.

Use the same strategy and apply the methodology to your website. In the next post I’ll continue along with the example and go over how best to identify SEO tasks that can impact specific rankings determined as under performing.

About the Author

This is a guest post by Jeff Howard. Jeff has delivered SEO results for major consumer oriented websites all the way down to local businesses, and writes a column for Search Engine Guide.

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Jeff has written 21 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Kenyon January 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

The new Google Webmaster tools does most of this for you now in regards to what URLs are ranking at what positions for each keyword.


shahzaib June 28, 2013 at 7:57 pm

google insights is now closed its redirected us to the new trends and it’s not that powerful tool like insights!


helenseo April 10, 2014 at 3:15 am

This is very cool. I just used Google keyword planner and typed my url and it showed me my keyword rankings!


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