By Winston Burton
Some brands have been obsessed with the notion that rankings are the only SEO metrics that matter. While rankings can contribute to overall success, they are not a reliable measurement or predictor of success. Instead, increases in traffic and revenue, along with other conversion metrics, should be the sole metric by which SEO success is measured.
Rankings have been — and will always be — a snapshot in time, and can fluctuate depending on the following conditions:
- Algorithm Updates
- Technical Issues
- Loss of Links
The reality is that there are only a select number of keywords that deliver the most traffic to your site, and a majority of those keywords are likely branded. Your company should always rank #1 in all major search engines for your branded keywords. If your company does not, you have a serious problem.
Sometimes marketers say that their companies must rank in the top positions for certain keywords the company thinks are important. I’ll make my case for why they won’t be good targets. Then they tell me to do it anyway. And once that company’s site gets into the top-5 positions for those keywords, they don’t impact the bottom line because they have no search volume, result in zero conversions and do not help the marketer come closer to meeting its goals.
A good SEO strategy should always focus on keywords that have intent, search volume and are relevant to a brand’s products and or services.
As an industry, we need to mature and be very vocal about focusing on SEO metrics that really matter, which are:
- Increasing visits, traffic and revenue or any other conversions goals year over year
- Increasing the number of keywords driving traffic and converting through new content
- Improving the positioning of intent-based, non-branded keywords to drive incremental traffic
Now, I know many of you are thinking, “How are we looking at keyword-level data when that information is almost completely gone?” However, reviewing an array of data sources, including Google Webmaster Tools, analytics, historical performance, paid search data, proprietary and third-party tools, can help you get some of this information.
Imagine, there actually was a time when Google updated its index only once a month. How cool. You got your No. 1 ranking as the index was updated, and not even a meteorite could knock you off the top spot until the next index update. Those were the days. Your company should always rank #1 in all major search engines for your branded keywords. If your company does not, you have a serious problem.
But now, Google maintains a tiered index and partial updates are triggered by any number of signals. Temporal analysis updates are made to replace stale results with fresh, time-sensitive results to revolving queries. Add peaks and troughs in end-user data, and you get a clear picture of why you shouldn’t pin too much of a success factor on rankings. And, of course, being ranked for any query at any level when no clicks or traffic occur is about as much of a success metric as coming in second in a two-horse race.
Of course, you can’t dismiss visibility as being worthless. But neither can you count on it. The only true success factor in SEO is being able to join up the dots and tie the time, effort and cost back to business value.
Winston joined Acronym in 2014 with over ten years in search marketing. Prior to joining Acronym, Winston was the VP of SEO at Havas Media, one of the world’s top ten global ad agencies. He started the SEO practice for Havas and built the practice to include Clients such as Choice Hotels, Fidelity, Exxon, Volvo and Marc Jacobs to name a few. Winston spearheaded SEO strategy including content marketing, mobile, link building, and all technical areas of SEO. Winston’s career also included the SEO Manager role at Rosetta and time at Zeta Interactive.