One Always Lies, and One Always Tells the Truth: Where Do Your SEO Ranking Reports Stand?

Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Marketing, SEO [ 1 Comment ]

search engine optimizationSite owners still love ranking reports. Despite the SEO industry’s attempts to dissuade them otherwise, everyone loves to see that their site is ranked #1 in Google and Bing for this and that keyword.

While ranking well definitely has its benefits, ranking reports can easily fool a site owner into thinking their SEO program is doing better than it actually is.

Here’s what web marketing expert Mike Moran had to say on ranking reports:

“Too many people have been happy when they see they have a #3 result, for example, without thinking about what the keyword is, whether they are getting any traffic, and–most importantly—getting conversions. Now that search results are personalized, I see marketers fooled that their pages are ranking well when they are only ranking well for them personally. It’s not that rankings are unimportant, but sometimes they do more harm than good.”

Related: Finding a Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Your Local Area

When looking at an SEO ranking report site owners need to ask themselves two questions:

Are you getting any traffic from that keyword?

Let’s say you run a local bookkeeping business out of Boston. Chances are your priority keywords center around “bookkeeping services Boston” and many variations of that search term. Ranking well for a priority keyword can definitely make you feel good, but what if you are only ranking OK for those priority keywords? That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but ranking #22 isn’t nearly as impressive as ranking #8, so you end up hunting for other keywords to include in your ranking report.

  • Let’s say you rank #1 for “pet groomer bookkeepers in Boston, MA”—so what? Does that keyword drive any traffic to your site? Better yet, does that keyword get you any customer in the end?

Just because you are ranking well for a particular keyword that doesn’t mean that you’ll be getting any traffic for it. It’s easy to rank well for a keyword that no one is searching for because there is zero competition for it. And ranking well for a particular keyword is no guarantee that it’s the right keyword for your business.

Related: Find an SEO service to help you improve your search rankings

How biased are your search results?

The search engines are committing themselves to creating the best search results possible for their users. That means they are trying to personalize and customize your search results based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Social signals (the Bing-Facebook integration and Google +1 button)
  • Location (if you search for “pizza” chances are you’ll see only local listings, even without telling Google or Bing exactly where you are)
  • Past searches and web history

Rankings are bound to change day to day, or even hour to hour, based on a multitude of factors. This means that if you and I were to search for the exact same thing at the exact same time we might see completely different SERPs.

Related: 6 SEO Mistakes That Can Kill Your Website

So which ranking report is the right one? How can you be certain that what you’re seeing is an accurate representation of unbiased search? And even if you do manage to pull a completely unbiased ranking report, what does that really matter if your target audience is having their search results personalized? An unbiased ranking report might have your site ranked at #9 for a particular search term, but for your potential customers you might be #2 or #33 depending on their SERP personalization.

If you really want to measure the success of your SEO program, leave ranking reports at the door and look at organic visitor growth, conversion rates for non-branded keywords and new traffic from referral links built as part of your link building program. Those numbers aren’t so easy to fool.

Bio: Nick Stamoulis is the President of SEO marketing solutions firm Brick Marketing, which is based out of Boston, MA. With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers. 


One thought on “One Always Lies, and One Always Tells the Truth: Where Do Your SEO Ranking Reports Stand?


  1. avatarLane Feezor

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously feel this site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!


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