Stop Asking About Your Rank Already

Written by Nick Stamoulis

We are always upfront with prospective SEO clients regarding how we measure the success of an SEO campaign. We explain that SEO is a long-term process and that it will take time to start seeing an ROI, especially in a competitive niche. We measure the success of an SEO campaign by looking at many factors over the course of a 6+ month time period including time spent on the site, bounce rate, referral sources, keywords that generated visitors and the most important- number of visitors to the site. Notice that we did not mention rank, that’s because we don’t pay attention to rank as a measure of SEO success!

Website owners have become so obsessed with tracking the rank of their site that they are losing sight of what actually matters, and that is gaining visitors to the site that are likely to convert. Yes, a prominent ranking correlates with more visitors to the site- but your site may never reach that coveted number 1 position for a competitive keyword, it might not even ever crack the top 5. That’s why website owners need to shift their focus and work on what they can do, which is implement an SEO campaign that will generate more traffic from not only the search engines, but from the web as a whole.

Rankings aren’t a reliable indication of SEO success since they fluctuate so much. A website can rank number 4 for a specific keyword one week and then be listed at number 9 the next. This doesn’t mean that those that are responsible for your SEO have all of a sudden done something wrong and should be punished. It just means that your website has fallen victim to one of the many changing factors that determine where a website will show up in the search results on any particular day. There’s a good chance that just as you start to freak out over your number 9 position, you will bounce right back up again.

One of the factors that contribute to the fluctuation of a rank is the personalization of search. One person might see your website listed at number 5 and another might see it at number 7. This is due to the location of the searcher based on IP address or GPS information on a mobile device. When searching in Google, when signed in to a Google account (ANY Google account- Google Talk, Gmail, Android device, Google+ etc.) you will see different results than if you aren’t signed in, same thing goes for Bing if you are signed into Facebook. The search engines take your search history and what your social connections are up to into account. The ever-changing algorithm also makes it tough to use rank as a legitimate way to measure SEO success. Sure, there are the huge algorithm updates that we read about, but really it’s being tweaked more often than we know and there’s no way to know what exactly each of them entails. Both minor and major updates can result in your website shifting around on the search engine results page by a few positions.

While we understand how website owners can become obsessed with rank, we don’t condone that behavior. Of course a significant drop off the charts is something to worry about, but besides that- focus on visitor growth instead.

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