I have found myself once again fighting the good fight about why website search engine rankings are not the thing to focus on.
These conversations usually go something like this:
My response is usually something along these lines:
Why? Because (and repeat this with me like a beautiful mantra) website search engine rankings are not necessarily an indicator of conversions.
Ask yourself this… Do you really care if you are ranking for “insert whatever keyword you have recently become obsessed with here” if it doesn’t actually generate any sales?
It makes sense that business owners and in-house marketers want to pay for things they understand and that rankings are easy to understand. We have been doing work for you for 6 months and you ranked #20 for this keyword and now you rank #1. But what if your sales have not increased at all? Do you still feel that ranking number one for that keyword has been valuable for your company?
Although core SEO has not had huge changes in the last several years, there have been many minor changes to the algorithm that has greatly affected website search engine ranking. If an SEO company is giving you keyword ranking reports and are telling you that because you rank for this and that, they are doing a good job, you should be rethinking where you send your check. Here are the reasons why an SEO ranking report is meaningless on its own…
The biggest reason? They are not accurate (I don’t care how much you paid for the tool). Why are they not accurate? It’s all about you…
Call up your friend who lives in Whateverland and tell them to search for something (anything). Then you search for the same thing. Screen shot the results and compare. I can guarantee you, unless you were separated at birth and have the exact same search habits, that the results will be different. This is because of personalized search. The search engines take into consideration things like your geographical location (where you are when you search), search history (what you search, how often you search for it), the results you click, sites you bounce from, etc.
So my friend looks up pizza in Whateverland, while I search for it in my land. Blended search is when the search results page returns much more than plain text links; maps, video, images, news, blogs, etc. This can happen when you geo tag something. I am not getting the same results as my friend because I don’t care about finding pizza in Whateverland, I care about finding it in my land. With blended search, my results are probably going to show me a map and the places page for pizza places in the geo tagged area. This means that local search has a huge impact on the results.
I love this one ‘cause I visualize these data centers as giant warehouses full of millions of computers, bleeping and beeping as they try to figure out the searchers’ intent. These computers, as smart as they are, are not always in sync and so there can be differences in the results just because you asked that specific computer, at that specific data center, for that specific info.
Yes, it is true that most searches are not going to go beyond the first page, so coming up in the top of the SERP’s is important. But what people often forget is that searchers will start with a broad term, resulting in mixed search results which will then lead them to refine their search until they start seeing the results that make more sense for whatever it is they are looking for. This means that longer tail terms are super important.
Newer features like instant preview and Google suggest can also impact search habits. Users are no longer seeing a site from one angle or finding what they need through traditional means.
Then there is of course the issue of intent. If I search for something that has multiple meanings, search engines have to decide on what my intention is. This is often accomplished by looking at other factors as outlined above, including my search history but it can still fall short on returning the right results. So if I have a product that has the same name as a county, chances are I am going to be competing with the county’s Wiki, website, etc.
Social signals are pulling into search and they have yet to reach their maximum impact. That means that your listing could and most likely will be competing with real-time results. In addition, Google (the most powerful search engine just in case you forgot) is collecting +1 data and using it to determine the relevance of a page to a query. Enough said.
Check out Website Search Engine Ranking: What Else is There? to find out more about what metrics you should look at to grow your business.