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Which are my priority search terms to work on?

There are thousands of search terms that you’d want your website to be found for. I assume the time you have to work on improving SEO isn’t unlimited; so which are the specific terms to prioritise? Today I’m going to show you the method we use. It only requires Google Search Console and a spreadsheet.

What we’re going to do is to look at all the search terms where our site appears in the Google results, no matter how well (or badly) it’s doing. Then we’re going to see where we might get some possible wins.

Note that Google Search Console doesn’t tell us about potentially relevant search terms where we’re not appearing at all. If you think those might exist, you’ll need to do some separate research to identify them (try looking at competitors’ websites!). But I wouldn’t class those as easy wins anyway, because you’d be starting from scratch. What we’re going to examine here is the performance of the search terms where we are appearing.

So, fire up Google Search Console – make sure you’re in the right account: the dashboard should show hundreds or thousands of clicks. If you’re in the old interface, click the blue “Use New Search Console” button. You should be in a report called “Overview”.

Click on “Performance”, set the date to the last few months (higher if your numbers are low), then +NEW > Country > United Kingdom. Click the “Average CTR” and “Average Position” panels above the graph, so these columns appear in the table.

What we’ve now got is a list of how often we appeared in the search results for each search term shown, how many clicks this got us, the average clickthrough rate and the average position. The important figures for this exercise are the impressions and position.

Export the data by clicking the down arrow at the top right of the data table. Open the data in Excel if you saved it as CSV, or in Google Sheets.

The first thing I like to do is to sort on impressions, largest to smallest, and deleting the bottom 50% to 75% of results, which will have had too few impressions to be that interesting. Find a nice break in the numbers – you might be deleting entries with fewer than perhaps 2, 10 or 50 impressions, depending on the volume. At this point I like to highlight the top few rows (e.g 10–20) which have an exceptionally high number of impressions. Colour them green or something like that.

Now re-sort your (truncated) table by position, smallest to largest. This gives you the search terms where you’re ranking highly, down to those where you’re not.

An obvious thing to look for now are the relevant search terms where the impressions are high (the ones you highlighted) but where you’re not ranking very highly. Some may stand out. But look carefully and you might start to see some less obvious, but really quick wins. At about the point where the average position changes from 9 to 10 and 11, you’ll probably find the clickthrough rate goes off a cliff. This is because it’s the point where your results are starting to be found mainly on the second page of search results. Are there any interesting search terms with a worthwhile number of impressions in this area? It’s quite likely that if you can just boost their ranking up to position 7 or 8, the clickthrough rate will rise rapidly. A bit more content, better titles and tags, and a few good links could see a big difference in traffic.