Case Study: Using Keyword Analytics to Optimize Blog Post Content

Once you’ve written a blog post and hit “Publish,” and garnered some initial readership and attention, you tend to move on to the next post, leaving the last one to the Archives.

(And by “you,” I mean “me.”)

But as blog authors, we need to continually remind ourselves that old content is just as valuable as new content, if not more so, due to our good friend, the long tail of search. Over time, it’s your older content that keeps driving repeat visitors.

(And by “we,” I mean “we.”)

Our favorite Google Analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik, underscored this point in a recent post that explained how to use analytics data to identify existing posts that serve as search engine landing pages and make them more effective.

So I’m going to put his advice into action and optimize a post I wrote last year on the Google Analytics Individual Qualification test. I’ll write up the results as a case study for our benefit, and yours.

Avinash was answering a question about how to verify the results of SEO efforts on a landing page, but the steps he describes work just as well to determine what SEO efforts should be made on a landing page in the first place. And then you repeat them to see how and whether your optimization worked.

Setting Up the Experiment

The first step is to identify a landing page (in this case, a blog post) that has generated repeat traffic over time. You want a page that already has some presence in search so you can amplify that and improve it.

Different analytics tools vary, but in Google Analytics, start by selecting a time period lengthy enough to show repeated visits. You do this in the dashboard view, in the time period pull-down menu. For this case study, I picked the calendar year 2009.

Then I went into Content > Top Landing Pages. You can pick a landing page from this list by sorting on visits, time on site, or bounce rate. I went with visits; my goal for this experiment is to take a page that’s already getting traffic and improve the time on site and bounce rate. Once I’ve gotten a visitor to our blog, I want them to stay and read some more, maybe even subscribe.

For this case study, I’m using a post I wrote in July, “3 Tips for Taking the Google Analytics IQ Test.

The next step is to narrow in on the organic keywords for that page; that is, the words that drive free traffic from
the search engines. (Optimizing for PPC purposes is a separate, though related, task.) To do this, you’ll need to create and apply a filter for organic traffic; Avinash’s post describes this in more detail, with screen shots, for Analytics.

After creating and applying this filter to my selected post page, I used the functionality that allowed me to send myself a PDF of the report for reference.

The final step is to select desired keywords and optimize the page. Since I want to improve the page bounce rate, I’m going to look for the keywords with the highest bounce rate. This shows the greatest mis-match between what search visitors are expecting to find and what is actually on the page.

In this case, there are several sets of key phrases that indicate visitors want more concrete examples of what the test is like, especially specific question samples. My original post talked more about general preparation for the test and types or categories of questions.

So for optimization, I’ll revise the post to include more specific, matching content and incorporate some of the related key phrases. For now, I’ll leave the headline alone; it’ll be easier to track the performance of the page going forward that way, since many reports in Google Analytics drill down by page title, generated from the headline.

Measuring the Outcome

There are a few metrics I’ll be looking at in the weeks to come, to see if these efforts have paid off.

  • Ranking for the optimized keywords. Has performance improved? This will come from an external tool, like Google or Yahoo! Webmaster Tools. I’ll probably also use the SEOBook Firefox toolbar.
  • Bounce rate by keyword. Has this improved for this page? This will come from Google Analytics.

Once I have sufficient data, look for a case study reporting on the results.

Your Turn

  • How do you monitor SEO efforts for your site or blog?
  • Do you optimize archived blog content?
  • What have your results been?

[Update March 23: The results of this case study have been published.]

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