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Stop tracking keywords… Start tracking impressions

In this week’s Wednesday Workshop video, we continue the discussion we started a few weeks ago with our video that talked about customers using different terms to search for dealerships. Once again, we point out that your customers are seeing different search results than what you’re seeing in your rank tracker.

Instead of obsessing over the ranking results, you should start tracking your search impressions. Check out this week’s video for details on how to do it, and why it’s a better gauge for SEO success.


Welcome back to another Wednesday Workshop from DealerOn! It’s just me this week, the Hair is out shopping for Hot Wheels cause he heard some new models were released.

We did a video a few weeks back that talked about how your customers don’t search for you the way you think they do. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s just a few posts back on our blog…

But we had a lot of dealers ask about the video, and we also had several conversations at recent conferences with dealers who wanted to know why we think that keyword tracking isn’t a good metric for SEO success.

Once again, it’s an issue that most people don’t really have a handle on: You don’t see what your customers see. Thanks to localization and personalization, every user sees slightly different results.

Google is going to look at the past search history of the device you’re on and adjust the search results based on that history – that’s personalization. Even if you’re not logged in, there’s a search history for every mobile phone, tablet, or computer that will influence the results of any search.

For any searches with local intent – which just happens to be almost every search you could make for anything related to car dealers – Google will localize results based on the physical location of the person doing the search. If you’re on a computer, Google uses the IP address for location info, and if you’re on a phone, it’ll use cell tower triangulation or the GPS chip. Results will be different based on the proximity of the results to the location of the person doing the search.

So when you pair those two factors with the fact that most customers are using search phrases that are different from how you think they’re searching, that pretty much destroys keyword rankings as a metric for success.

First of all, you’re most likely not going to be tracking most of the search phrases people will use to find you. But more importantly, the phrases that you ARE tracking are not a realistic picture of what your customers are actually seeing.

The rank tracking tool you’re using is based at a group of servers somewhere – but not in the actual location you’re wanting to track. Many of the rank trackers can simulate results in that area, but they’re never exact – and even still, your customers aren’t all searching from one computer.

2 searches from 2 different computers 10 miles apart will show different results. That rank tracking tool is giving you a snapshot of one computer, at one spoofed location.

Not that rank tracking is a bad idea – we do it for every client we have, but it’s really more of a high level health check. We want to keep an eye on general rankings, because if there’s a big drop, that means something is amiss.

But as a metric for SEO success, rank tracking doesn’t mean squat. Instead, you should track your search impressions. Instead of worrying about individual keywords, you’re looking at the total number of times your site showed up in searches. As you gain more visibility with your SEO efforts, you’ll see an increase in search impressions. On the flip side, if you’re not doing SEO and your competitors are displacing you and pushing you off of page one results, you’ll see a drop in search impressions.

The easiest way to track search impressions is to connect your Search Console (formerly called Webmaster Tools) to your Google Analytics. You can then go into Analytics and click “Acquisition”, then click “Search Console”, then click “Queries”.
You’ll see a report that shows the total number of impressions you have for the selected date range. It also shows the total number of clicks you got, your Click Through Rate, and your average position.

Keep in mind – Search Console only keeps data for 90 days, so you won’t have historical data – even though it’s inside of Google Analytics. You’ll need to be sure you go to this report every month and click “export” to save this data for future reference.

That’s all the time we’ve got today. As always, if you’ve got questions or comments, leave ‘em down below and we’ll get back to you shortly. Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to come back next week for another Wednesday Workshop from DealerOn.

Author Greg Gifford

Greg Gifford is the Vice President of Search at DealerOn. He has over 16 years of online marketing and web design experience, and has specialized in automotive SEO for the last 8 years, helping hundreds of auto dealers thrive while the industry has struggled during the recession. Greg speaks internationally at both automotive and SEO conferences, teaching thousands of small business owners and marketers how to get their sites to show up higher in local search rankings. Greg also spends his spare time doing freelance website design and SEO for local businesses. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in Cinema and Communications, and has an obscure movie quote for just about any situation.

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