People like to see their name in lights. And on the internet, “your name in lights” means appearing as a little blue link in Google’s search engine results. And so, people become hyper-focused on seeing and monitoring what search queries their web pages appear for in search results.
And since, like everyone else, our clients expect to see their rankings, we deliver monthly ranking reports that reflect their positions in search engines for queries that are relevant to their practice. However, as search engines continue to evolve and become better at delivering results that are personalized to their users, ranking reports don’t have the same meaning as they once did. And, in fact, they are becoming increasingly unreliable. Here’s Vanessa Fox on the subject:
What search engine results you see depend on a great number of factors. And many of these factors are specific to you as a user. Therefore, what you see you on a results page for a particular query may be vastly different from what your target audience members are seeing.
Even the best rank tracking software simply can’t accurately emulate personalized search results. And most don’t even account for the basics like geographic location. This means that you may be being grossly misled by your ranking reports.
If Not Ranking Reports, Then What?
When it comes to internet marketing, there are a lot of important metrics that you can measure. But if you’re going to start with just one, I’d begin with traffic. If you’re not getting targeted traffic (with a couple of exceptions), you’re not going to have success growing your business online.
But don’t just focus on search engine traffic. Diversify your traffic profile. Think of other places where your targeted audience is looking for information online. Participate at those locations.
With regard to search engine traffic, chances are that you are ranking well for the queries that searchers are using to arrive at your site. Further, it’s likely that you will see organic search visitors from keywords that you didn’t even know you were ranking for. You’re also likely to get visitor traffic for search terms that you think you’re ranking very poorly for (like second or third page). Do you think that users are really digging deep into search engine results? Perhaps. But it’s much more likely that you appeared much higher in the visitor’s results than you appear in your ranking software’s report.