Rank May Matter, But Don’t Let It Blind You to Reality

Written by Brick Marketing

There is no denying that websites that rank towards the top of page one for a particular keyword are going to drive more traffic to their website for that keyword than a site that is on the top of page two. And while it’s important to monitor your rankings as part of the bigger scheme of things (a drop in rank across the board could mean your site was hit with a penalty), it’s so important that site owners and marketers don’t lose the forest for the trees when it comes to rank and keep their eyes on the big picture. Here is what Marios Alexandrou has to say about rankings:

I don’t promise keyword rankings and certainly not when the list is short. I’d much rather look at traffic to the site and conversions from that traffic. I’ve seen plenty of situations where traffic has increased and rankings haven’t changed. I’ve also seen traffic go down with no change in rankings. If all I looked at were rankings, I’d be ignoring reality.

Here are two ways in which only caring about rank may blind you to reality:

You could be ranking really well for keywords with a small search volume.

Rank May Matter, But Don’t Let It Blind You to Reality

Are you really going to worry about rank with numbers like this?

We have another client who consistently ranks somewhere 4-6 for their #1 keyword, and is on page one for plenty of other long-tail variations. But month to month their organic traffic is pretty consistent; no big dips but no real growth either. After watching how their website performs for a few months (and doing a little more digging) we hypothesized that one of the reasons their organic traffic isn’t increasing as much as they’d like (even when their rank goes up) is because they have basically tapped out the search volume for those keywords each month.

Think about it like this—say your “big” keyword gets about 1,000 searches a month. That means that you could not possibly get more than 1,000 visitors for that keyword each month, no matter what you did. Even if you are ranked #1 chances are you’re not going to get every single searcher who uses that keyword, but how many extra visitors can you really pull if the search volume just isn’t there?

Rankings are personalized to each searcher.

Both Google and Bing are trying to deliver a more personalized SERP to the user, so the search engines look at your location, your past search history, your social network (Facebook for Bing and Google+ for Google), sites you’ve visited before, and more to deliver the most applicable search results for you the searcher. What that means for site owners is that you may rank #1 for your “big” keyword on your work computer but that’s because you are always looking at how your website does for that keyword at work! Meanwhile, you may be ranked #8 or #17 for another searcher, based on what their search history looks like. Eyeballing rank doesn’t tell your much because it can vary so much from computer to computer, user to user.

We have one client whose organic traffic from Google has increased 254% year-over-year. That’s a staggering growth rate! Most websites are perfectly content with 15-20% growth in the same time period, and depending on their niche sometimes even 5% is a solid win. 254% amounted to about 5,000 extra unique visitors for this website and keywords that used to send 0 visitors are now delivering 30 unique visitors a month. I’d call that a serious SEO win! But at a local business owners’ meeting someone came up to our client and asked why his business ranked higher for XYZ keyword and suddenly he’s so worried about ranking he’s missing the big picture.

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