Recently Google started blocking several of the big-name rank checking software used by many in the SEO industry. This, of course, sparked the debate on whether SEO firms should be bothering with providing ranking reports to their clients. I have to say, I'm conflicted on that issue.
On the one hand I know all the arguments that rankings don't matter. Rather than make them again, I'll point you to these posts:
If you're short on time, read the two articles I've bolded above. But the long and short of it all is that no two people see the same rankings. So while you're fighting for one of the top three positions, someone else is seeing you in positions #1, or #8, or #6, or not at all.
This makes ranking reports suspect at best.
But there is another logical side of the argument, which I also know too well. Rankings still do have meaning. Allow me for a second to play devil's advocate. I know this position too well, because it's the argument my clients use whenever I try to convince them that rankings are meaningless (usually when being questioned about the drop from the #2 spot to the #4 spot!)
In all things there is a primary base of reference. Before search engines begin implementing any sort of personalization or localization of the search results, they have to start with something to personalize. This is the base set of results. Take out all localized and personalized aspects of whatever results anyone sees and that's what you're left with. This baes is very, very important.
Why? Because this is what many people still see. And how do we know this? Simply because not everybody is "logged in" when they perform a search, which is when most personalization of search results occurs. Unless the search engines are keeping an eye on your same session search patterns, but that's another post for another day.
We know that rankings in these base results deliver traffic for certain key phrases. I've had clients tell me they can immediately tell when they lose a few spots in the search rankings. The orders slow, the phone calls drop off, and their traffic numbers decline. Now, who cares about traffic numbers, but you can't argue with a client that tells you that they are losing sales.
Some will look at this as an argument against ranking reports. Afterall, it's the sales that matter, not the rankings. I fully concur! But when you're investigating the reason why there was a drop in sales, one would be remiss not to look to see if there is a change in position for certain keywords. Of course, you can only know if something has changed if you knew what it was beforehand.
I'm not advocating using rankings as a measure of success. Quite the opposite. But sometimes there is no amount of "education" in the world that's going to convince people to stop looking at the level of exposure they are getting. Better rankings equals more exposure, and we all know that for good websites, more exposure equals more sales.
If you're able to ignore rankings, God bless you. But you can't make much of an argument for ignoring the level of exposure you're getting. Just be careful that rankings are not seen as the goal, any more than traffic is the goal. Sales and conversions matter most. Rankings and traffic are just a means to an end. But to not know where you're ranking for your keywords leaves you without an important tool for assessing how, when, where, and why your sales figures may have suddenly changed.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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