What It Is and How to Track It


What Is Keyword Performance?

Keyword performance refers to how well the search terms you’re targeting help your business achieve its goals.

This goes for all search engine marketing (SEM)—both paid and organic (unpaid). So, tracking how both your search ads and organic content perform can help you evaluate your success. 

This article discusses five ways to measure how you’re performing for your target keywords. And offers tips for how to improve performance for both SEO and paid search.

5 Keyword-Focused KPIs to Measure Your Performance

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable metrics that help your business measure whether you’re meeting particular objectives. 

KPI tracking can help you identify high-value keywords. Or iterate on your keyword strategy to deliver more web traffic, leads, or sales.

Here are five common KPIs for keyword performance analysis: 

Keyword Rankings

Keyword rankings are the positions where your webpages appear (rank) in search engine results pages (SERPs). And they have a significant impact on how much traffic your site gets.

They’re separated into two categories: paid search positions and organic search positions.

For example, let’s use the keyword “dog supplements.” 

Hollywood Feed has the No. 1 paid search position with their pay-per-click (PPC) ad. But Natural Dog Company has the No. 1 organic ranking position. 

Hollywood Feed has the No. 1 paid search position with PPC ad, and Natural Dog Company has the No. 1 organic ranking position for "dog supplements"

Higher keyword rankings are generally more valuable. 

Why? 

Because people are more likely to click on the top-ranking results. 

Our State of Search report shows that about 22% of searchers click a webpage in the top-ranking position. But it’s closer to 2% for webpages in the No. 10 position.

Use Semrush’s Position Tracking tool to monitor all your keyword rankings. 

Open the tool and click the blue “+ Create project” button in the top right corner. 

create project button in Position Tracking tool

Next, enter your domain name and click “Create project.” 

"ohmydogblog.com" domain entered into the Position Tracking tool

Configure your settings, including selecting a search engine, device, and target location. Then, click “Continue To Keywords.”

targeting configuration settings in Position Tracking tool

Enter both the paid and organic keywords you want to track positions for. Then, click “Add keywords to campaign.”

Check the box if you want to receive weekly ranking updates via email. And click “Start Tracking.”

create training tips, what do hedgehogs eat, tick treatment for cats, and playful god breeds keywords entered into the Position Tracking tool

When the tool is ready, click the “Overview” tab and look for the table labeled “Rankings Overview.” Which will display your organic keyword rankings by default. 

The columns include the most recent positions, visibility (which measures your site’s progress in Google’s top 100 results for the term), and the estimated amount of traffic each keyword drives.

rankings overview tab in Position Tracking tool, showing keywords positions, visibility, and the estimated amount of traffic

Lower positions can signal room for improvement. For example, the page ranking in position 47 for the keyword “tick treatments for cats.”

So, you could improve the topical depth or overall quality of that article. 

We’ll go over how to improve rankings in greater detail later. But it’s helpful to know that doing so may result in a higher keyword ranking.

Which can mean more web traffic and visibility in the long run.

To see your rankings for paid keywords, scroll to the top, select the gear icon, and click the circle next to “Google Ads.”

Click-Through Rate

Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of users who click through to your webpage after seeing it in the SERPs. Which can tell you whether searchers are enticed by your results.

To track organic CTR, use Google Search Console—a free Google tool that helps you evaluate your organic performance.

After you create an account, select your website property. And click on “Search Results.” 

Make sure to click the box labeled “Average CTR” to see your CTR trends over time.

Average CTR metric showing 3.9% in Google Search Console

The above website’s Average CTR is 3.9%. 

To see the CTRs associated with specific keyword terms, click the “Queries” tab.

can chickens eat datas has 14.7 % CTR, chicken laws by country tennessee has 42% ctr, etc.

Since users tend to click on top-ranking results, there’s a strong correlation between higher keyword rankings and higher average CTR. So, it’s helpful to track both KPIs simultaneously.

How do you know whether your CTR is good?

It can vary by industry. But consider that a 2023 report from Databox shows the median CTR for organic search is 1.51%. While the median CTR for paid search is 3.89%. 

Further reading: How to Understand, Measure, and Improve Your Organic CTR.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of users who take a desired action (like booking a meeting or purchasing a product). And it can give you an understanding of whether your content and ads are helping you achieve your goals.

The formula for conversion rate for organic search is: Conversion rate = (number of conversions / number of visitors) x 100.

And the formula for paid search is: Conversion rate = (number of conversions / number of clicks) x 100.

Conversion rate can be influenced by a number of factors, such as:

For paid search ads, you can see your conversion rates in your Google Ads dashboard. You can also see your cost per conversion (the average cost to generate a sale or lead.)

Google Ads dashboard with conversion rates and cost per conversion columns highlighted

To track organic search conversion rates, follow our guide to setting up custom events in Google Analytics (GA4)

Average Cost per Click

In paid search, average cost per click (CPC) is the average price that advertisers pay every time a user clicks on their ads. And it’s a key metric for determining which keywords to target in your campaigns.

You can use the Keyword Magic Tool to check the average CPC for target keywords in your industry.

Type a term related to your niche in the text bar and select your target location. Then, click “Search.”

"natural dog food" keyword entered into the Keyword Magic Tool search bar

In the table, you’ll see a list of keywords related to your seed keyword. Look for the column labeled “CPC.” That number is the average price that advertisers are paying per click in Google Ads.

For example, “natural dog food” costs advertisers an average of $5.70 per click. While “all natural dog food” costs $4.92 per click.

“natural dog food” keyword has $5.70 cost per click (CPC), while “all natural dog food” has $4.92 CPC

It’s crucial to pay attention to CPC when selecting keywords you want to bid on in Google Ads. 

Why?

Because if advertisers are willing to pay a high CPC, that means the keyword is likely to result in more sales (if they send highly qualified users to your website). 

But focusing on high-CPC keywords can also lead to quickly spending your ad budget without getting many eyes on your content. 

So, consider your campaign goals and which terms are most aligned with them. And keep in mind that you can target high-CPC keywords through your organic efforts—which doesn’t cost you anything aside from what it takes to create the content.

Return on Investment

In SEM, return on investment (ROI) is how much money your business generated through SEO content and paid search versus how much money you invested. Which clearly shows you whether your efforts are positively impacting your bottom line. 

The formula for calculating search engine marketing ROI is: ROI = (return on SEM – SEM investment / SEM investment) x 100.

For example, let’s say you spend $3,000 on paid search ads and content creation and generate $8,000 in return. This leaves you with a net profit of $5,000 and an ROI of 166%.

All of the KPIs listed in this article can influence your ROI. Which is why it’s important to track and optimize for them.

How to Enhance Your Organic Keyword Performance

Improving organic performance can increase your web traffic and lead to higher ROI on your SEO efforts.

Here’s are some ways to boost performance: 

Conduct Keyword Research to Identify New Opportunities 

Keyword research is the process of studying keywords to identify ranking opportunities for your website. Which can lead to more traffic, conversions, and even sales.

In general, the more keyword rankings your website has, the more eyes you can get on your content.

Use the Keyword Gap tool to identify new organic ranking opportunities. 

Enter your domain name on the top line and then add up to four competitors’ domain names. Then, select your target location and click “Compare.”

Keyword Gap tool search interface, with "ohmydogblog.com" competitors' domains added

In the Keyword Gap report, click the “Untapped” filter at the top of the table. 

Untapped keywords table in Keyword Gap tool, showing keywords that onmydogblog.com does not rank for, while competitors do

This will show you terms at least one of your competitors is ranking for but you’re not. 

If you create content that targets these terms, you can increase your total keyword rankings. And connect with more users who are searching for products, services, or content like yours.

Create Useful Content That Meets Search Intent

Search intent refers to what the user is actually looking for when searching a keyword. And creating content that matches intent is more likely to show in SERPs.

Marketers separate search intent into four primary categories: Navigational, Informational, Commercial, and Transactional.

Types of search intent are informational with terms like what is a dog bone, navigational with terms like petco dog bones, commercial with terms like best dog bones, and transactional with terms like buy dog bones.

The search intent of a keyword should influence what type of content you create. 

For instance, product pages are more likely to rank for transactional keywords. And blog posts often rank for informational keywords.

Use Keyword Overview to identify the search intent for your target keywords. 

Enter your keyword into the text box and select your location. Then, click “Search.”

"dog pool toys" keyword entered into the Keyword Overview tool search bar

The keyword “dog pool toys” has commercial intent. Meaning searchers are still in the research phase and may not be ready to make a purchase right now.

the keyword “dog pool toys” has commercial intent

To optimize for commercial intent, you could create an article that lists different dog pool toys. Along with key information about them, like material, size, and price.

This meets the user’s search intent by allowing them to compare and contrast multiple products.

Optimize On-Page Elements 

On-page SEO is the process of making improvements to elements like title tags and meta descriptions on your webpages. 

This can help search engines better understand your content. Making it more likely to appear in search results. 

Plus, Google often pulls the title tag and meta description to create the blue hyperlink in the SERP.

Like this:

title tag and meta description shown as blue hyperlink in the SERP

So, optimizing those elements can entice users and lead to higher CTRs.

Here are a few tips for a variety of on-page optimizations:

  • Ensure that your title tags are between 50-60 characters and your meta descriptions are under 105 characters
  • Include your target keyword or a keyword variation in your title tag, meta description, and H1 (the heading tag that identifies the primary topic of a webpage)
  • Add valuable or enticing information (e.g., “Free shipping,” “Book Now,” or “35% off!”)
  • Use logical URL slugs (the end portion of the URL) that are easy for users to understand

How to Boost PPC Keyword Performance

To improve your PPC campaigns’ performance, follow the suggestions below.

Improve Your Quality Score

Quality Score is a metric from Google that can be used to assess your ads’ quality and is expressed on a 1-10 scale. 

Google calculates it using:

  • Expected click-through rate
  • Search ad relevance
  • Landing page relevance
A graphic showing how Quality Score is determined

Quality Scores can give you a sense of how your ad is likely to perform in the ad auction. Meaning an ad with a high score is likely to appear prominently. Which can then lead to better CTRs, conversion rates, and ROI.

To improve your Quality Score:

  • Find and bid on more relevant keywords
  • Organize keywords into groups 
  • Optimize your ad copy for search intent

Use Bid Adjustments

Bid adjustments are percentage increases or decreases to your search ad bids depending on factors like the searcher’s device or geographic location. And you can use them to generate better results.

For example, if you tend to earn a higher conversion rate from mobile clicks, you can bid slightly more to rank for mobile searches.

Let’s say you bid $5 to rank for the keyword “natural dog food.” With a mobile bid adjustment of 20%, your ad bid increases to $6. Which could help you secure a higher ad position.

Bid adjustments are a great way to improve the ROI of your search ads. Because you can pay slightly more to target those searchers who are most likely to convert.

Further reading: 6 Smart Bidding Tips That Will Take Your Google Ads to the Next Level

Target Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are highly specific search terms that are often longer. And targeting them with your ad campaigns can lead to more clicks and conversions.

Why?

Because they often represent users who are looking for very specific information and are likely to take the next step.

They also tend to have lower search volumes and CPCs. Making them more affordable for ads. 

Add Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are terms that you don’t want your search ads to appear for. And you can use them to avoid driving irrelevant traffic to your site.

For example, if your website sells luxury furniture, you might want to rank for “buy furniture.” But not “buy used furniture,” “buy cheap furniture,” or “buy affordable furniture.”

Adding “used,” “cheap,” and “affordable” as negative keywords will prevent your ads from being shown for those types of queries.

In addition to preventing irrelevant traffic, increase the ROI of your paid search advertising.

Track Keyword Performance with Semrush

If you want to improve your results for your target keywords, you’ll need to have the right tools to monitor your metrics and make improvements to your content and ads. 

To get started executing the tips above, leverage Semrush’s suite of SEO and PPC tools. 

Get started today with a free account



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