Don’t Focus on Rank to Measure SEO Success

Written by Nick Stamoulis

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No Black HatSo many potential SEO clients have one thing on their mind. They want their website to rank number one in the major search engines for their priority keywords. What they don’t realize is that ranking can never be guaranteed, and any SEO company that does guarantee a number one spot is full of it. Yes, rank is important. It’s obvious that the websites that are ranked more prominently receive the most traffic. But when it comes to getting that coveted number one spot, it’s important not to worry so much about it. It will only drive you crazy. Here’s why:

Rankings Fluctuate

If you see that your web page is ranked number one for a relevant keyword or keyword phrase, that’s great but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to stay there forever. Every industry is competitive online these days and any smart website owner is investing in SEO and content marketing to improve their search engine presence. It’s tough getting to number one, and even tougher to stay there. It’s very possible to go from one to three in a matter of days without doing anything “wrong” per say. Website owners can only control their own websites. They have no control over what the competition is doing or how they’re doing it which means that they essentially have little control over how the websites are ranked within a few positions.

Number One Rank Might Not Mean Anything

A number one ranking is only valuable if it’s for the keywords that will actually generate traffic and conversions. It’s easy to promise a number one ranking for an obscure keyword that nobody is searching for, although that is pretty much a waste of good web content. It’s better to focus on the keywords that you know will deliver at least some traffic than spend hours and hours on keywords that might make it to the top, but ultimately won’t generate traffic because people just aren’t searching for them. This approach is also dangerous because it can result in targeting keywords that might not even be that relevant, meaning that the website is generating traffic from the wrong audience that will never convert.

Personalized Search

Search Browse Find Internet Search Engine Concept
Depending on factors such as previous search history, location, and social media activity it’s very likely that two people searching for the same thing will see a different set of results. You may even see different results yourself depending on if you are browsing on a desktop at home, desktop at work, or on a mobile device. The search engines want to provide their customers, the searchers, with the most relevant results that suit their personal preferences. Since everybody is different, search results can vary slightly.


Focusing too much on rank can lead to some bad decisions, like dabbling in black hat SEO practices that are frowned upon by the search engine webmasters and meant to game the system for short term gain. Sure, you may see a quick improvement in rank but it will be short lived. The search engines are smart and once they figure out what you are up to your site will be flagged. It can take a long time to come back from a search engine penalty, so dabbling in these practices isn’t worth it.

Does any of this mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to rank at all? Of course not. We still keep our eye on client rankings. If we see a big fluctuation it means that we need to dig a little deeper to figure out what happened. But small fluctuations are normal on a month to month basis. As long as there is a gradual, overall increase over a period of time it means that the SEO program is working.

Instead of focusing on rank, it’s more important to focus on organic traffic growth over time in addition to website conversions. If you’re generating more traffic you should also be generating more conversions as long as you’re targeting the right keywords and getting traffic from the right people.


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