“How Do I Get to Number 1 in Google?” Is the Wrong Question to Ask!

Written by Nick Stamoulis

SEO is a necessary component of an online marketing campaign today. After all, one of the first places that people go searching for information today is Google. If your content appears prominently in Google for the keywords and keyword phrases that people are using to search, it will mean more visitors to the site and more conversions. It makes sense that website owners that are getting started with SEO often ask, “How long will it take to get to the top of Google?”, however SEO success isn’t measured by rank for a number of reasons.

Rankings fluctuate, and therefore aren’t reliable when it comes to measuring how an SEO campaign is performing. If you are number 5 one week and number 8 the next, does it mean that your SEO campaign is “bad”, that you’ve done something wrong? Probably not. It just means that your website happened to fall victim to one of the many changing factors that determine where a website shows up for a search on any given day.

One of the reasons that you can’t trust rank as an accurate measurement of SEO success is because search results are personalized, meaning that one person may see something entirely different than another person even if they type the same exact keyword or keyword phrase into the search box. The search engines pay attention to the location of the searcher based on IP address information or GPS information on a mobile device. For example, since we are a Boston based SEO firm we’d be more likely to appear towards the top when someone in Boston searches for “SEO firm” as opposed to when someone in Los Angeles searches for “SEO firm”. Search results are also personalized based on social media activity. Results can differ if you are logged into or out of your Google account, which is connected to your Google+ profile.

Rankings can also fluctuate based on the ever changing search algorithm. Updates are made regularly and even though Google has become more transparent about these updates, we will never know every detail of them. Updates can be minor or major and can result in an increase or decrease in rank, even just by a few positions. Since we don’t know everything about every update, there’s no way to determine what you (or your competitors) did “right” or “wrong” in many cases. The only time that it’s worth worrying about is if there is a huge drop off.

Due to these factors, the better way to measure SEO success over the long term is to pay attention to visitor growth. Over the span of an SEO campaign the trend should be upward. There could be a few months that dip down for various reasons but overall, there should be a nice improvement in traffic to the site. In addition, the traffic to the site should be well targeted, meaning that those that visit the site are more likely to convert. This is why it’s a good idea to target a mix of keywords, some competitive for the long term and more long-tail or niche keywords in order to achieve more traffic and conversions in the short term.

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