Search Engine Rankings are NOT Useless

There’s been lots of buzz about the worth of search engine rankings recently. First, Google go public about banning rankings checkers like web position gold, then the SEO blogosphere joins in to collectively slam the merit of monitoring search engine rankings.

There have been some excellent and compelling arguments for and against becoming fixated on rankings. Even in the last few days I’ve read a great post from Eduard Blacquière on Yoast.com (congrats, by the way Joost!) which covers the subject very nicely, particulary mentioning skewed search results thanks to personalisation (if you’re logged in to a Google account, though, yes?). The article finishes with metrics that are far more useful to an SEO – check it out if you have time.

Problem is, rankings checkers (or at least the process of collecting rankings data on a regular basis) are not useless.

Rankings checkers skew Google’s keyword data

Here’s my first point. Has anyone considered the reason why Google might not like rankings checkers is because all those extra searches are skewing their keyword data? Thinking about niche, low volume markets in particular, too many SEO’s running ranking checkers are going to screw up search volume and click through rates in the organic results (yeah we’ve all seen the javascript, Google!). I know people who are running reports on 40-50 clients in the same industry on a weekly basis. Let’s say each report has 1000 keywords. Do the maths!!

There’s nothing new about the subject of automated rankings checkers and Google’s dislike of them, and every now and again, the faithful old captcha screen in Google search goes up just to confirm they’re on the lookout for people generating “automated queries”. The whole office always looks at the SEO team. Gulp..

In house SEO can be different to agency SEO

My second thought. What if you’re an in house SEO? Let’s say you’re running more than one, enterprise level site. Let’s say that most of your company turnover is coming from organic search and your teams are constantly working on organic search positioning. What do you do then? Rankings are revenue generators, and enterprise SEO’s are measuring revenue by organic keyword. You probably have 200+ top level, high competition keywords that require constant attention to keep them alive.

We’ve known for years what it’s worth to rank in Google, and the difference between position 1 and 2.

Everyone’s doing it, right?

My third thought. The “Analytics Every SEO Needs To Know” session at SMX in June 2008 was excellent. Moderated by Rand Fiskin, I found it to be the most inspiring session there (yes, better than “Give it up”, because the ideas were actually usable!) Particulary, Laura Lippay’s deck. She demonstrated her “SEO Grid” – an Excel spreadsheet that shows current rankings for a keyword, number of searches, visitors who clicked and revenue potential. With that information and the above click-though percentages by position, you can tell what keywords are worth chasing in the natural search engine listings on Google, Yahoo! and MSN. The whole concept was entirely based on the idea that a ranking position equals a certain amount of revenue – and gives a framework in which to stay focused on the benefit of improvement. Ok I admit, Laura’s teams are probably using Yahoo data, but even so, the ethos of this presentation was based on checking rankings. It was very good advice, too.

If you’re planning and organising an in house, revenue driven SEO operation, the fact is that you have to stay focused on rankings. More and more the “it’s ok as long as your traffic is going up” strapline just isn’t enough, because rankings are here to stay. I hope..



Stay Updated: Sign Up for Webinar & New Blog Alerts

5 thoughts on “Search Engine Rankings are NOT Useless

  1. Rankings are very important especially in generating traffic to your site..but let’s not just focus on rankings but also let’s consider our site’s relevance and content.

  2. @Richard Thanks for mentioning my article at Yoast.com! I didn’t say rankings are worthless :) However I did say that rankings are worthless when yoy rely on them only to determine the succes of your SEO.

    You’re basically saying it in your post:

    Rankings are revenue generators, and enterprise SEO’s are measuring revenue by organic keyword

    That means that revenue per keyword is the metric to chase, not the ranking!

  3. Hey Eduard! Thanks for dropping by..

    We’re taking daily rankings positioning and plot that data directly to the revenue generated by the keyword. Would love to go through that in more detail with you at some point! Revenue per keyword is exactly the metric, but I tell you what – you only ever end up chasing the rankings when you see the difference in rev between position 1 and 2. I love SEO!

  4. peter caputa says:

    I’m not saying anything new here, but the true metric to measure is # leads and # of customers and ultimately revenue and profit per keyword. However, knowing which of my keywords in my portfolio are ranking on the 2nd or 3rd page helps me prioritize content creation and link building around the keywords that will be easier to get to the top of the first page. Keyword rank along w/ search volume and competitive difficulty gives me a clue on what activities I should do to maximize my traffic in the short and long term. Checking rank is critical. Doing it manually would be crazy.

  5. @Richard Good to hear you plot rankings data next to revenue per keyword data. Of course a change in rankings makes you wanna do SEO because of the revenue difference. But with personalization of serp’s the rankings will change more often, although that won’t necessarily reflect revenue changes.

    @Peter Of course general rankings give you a clue what to focus on, but that should also be reflected in your search engine traffic :)

Comments are closed.