Keep your Eyes, Not your Money, on the Search Engine Rankings

There are those who feel marketers should not be concerned with search engine rankings. Why? Because a number one position doesn’t always imply success in the form of traffic or conversions. Ok, seems fair enough. A better explanation is that search engine ranking data is valuable, it’s just misunderstood most of the time.

Why search engine rankings are misunderstood

A lot of business owners misunderstand the value of search engine rankings because search engine positioning has been branded with business success, sort of like "the higher you are listed the more successful you become". As a result, many people are still in the mindset of "I want to be number one on Google". Even if they went a step further and said they wanted to be "number one" for a popular keyword, this kind of thinking makes little business sense – because a number one spot on a search engine doesn’t mean customers will buy or that your business will succeed. Most business owners don’t even realize that search engines list websites for many different keywords.

The value of search engine ranking data

Even though ranking data doesn’t directly imply business success we can still gain of lot of useful info from ranking results:

  • Keyword ranking data shows who is and who isn’t competing within that space. If you can be a first mover or at least early to the game then you’ll have an advantage.
  • Search engines rank your web page(s) for many different keyword combinations, not just a single keyword phrase, so the more phrases you rank for the wider your reach and the more visitors you get from organic search.
  • You can compare your site’s keyword ranking distribution with competing sites’ keyword ranking distributions to get an idea of how competitive that site really is. One good tool for looking at keyword reach is seodigger.
  • Search rankings can be used with respect to analytics data to refine your organic optimization process, helping you decide when to continue or when to abandon a keyword target.

Examples of how ranking data helps you

Lets say you’ve done a lot of work to try and have your client website rank well for a keyword where you think there is a lot of valuable search traffic. Let’s also assume you aren’t concerned with looking at keyword ranking data, you’re just looking at your site’s traffic. After making the effort to optimize you still aren’t seeing any traffic – so would it be a smart choice to prune your efforts now or continue? Looking at your keyword ranking data can give you an answer:

  • If your ranking data shows you are dominating the targeted keyword space and you aren’t seeing a lot of traffic then those efforts are worthy of pruning – their not sending any traffic anyway.
  • However, if your ranking data shows that you’re still not on the map for those targeted keywords then you might want to continue down the same path or at least reevaluate why your efforts are not working. Also consider the idea that the more competition you have the longer it will take to see changes in search engine results.
  • If you receive a fair amount of traffic from a keyword that you don’t rank well for at all then this means you might really want to make a big push for more visibility because you’ve only experienced the tip of the iceberg!

Making the connection between effort, rankings and analytics

In organic search, you have the effort that you exert to push your website and you have the results, which come in the form of search engine rankings and traffic. Think of it like Effort -> Rankings -> Traffic Rankings show how relevant your website appears with respect to the competition. Your level of organic traffic shows how much demand your website actually experiences based on how relevant you appear. So it’s important to note that if you didn’t look at ranking data at all

  • then it’s hard to know if you had too much competition keeping you from receiving traffic or if there was just not enough valuable traffic in that space at all
  • it would be difficult to tell if a keyword was worth pursuing further or if it was worth pruning in the event that you’ve done work but aren’t seeing traffic results

If you can understand that search engines rankings are an important measure of feedback when used with respect to analytics data then you have a pretty big edge over your compeition. The key point is that once you know where you stand in the search results and you know what traffic you’re getting, you can better determine weather or not to continue along current path or optimize elsewhere.

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