Stop Trying To Track Keyword Rankings. It’s Dumb.

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Look, I get it. You are working on organic marketing and that means you are intentionally trying to get Google and the other big search engines to rank your site for what you believe are important keywords. So, why wouldn’t you want to track them?

Because it’s dumb.  Dont be a dumbass Don’t trust me?

Let me explain:

The Strategy is Flawed

There are literally 1000 or more ways an individual could go to Google and search for something similar.

For example:

Let’s say a number of people are all seeking out a great painter Arizona. Some might geo target, others might not. Some might search for a specific service, such as a stucco house painter, others may do a general search for painter. Some might seek out a painter by including an adjective to help qualify the search such as affordable or experienced, others may not.

Some specific examples of what a search query could look like:

  • Painter
  • House Painter
  • House Painter AZ
  • House Painter Arizona
  • House Painter in Mesa Arizona
  • House Painter in Mesa, AZ
  • House Painter in the Mesa Area
  • House Painter in East Mesa
  • Painter for Houses
  • Find a Painter
  • Find a House Painter
  • Stucco House Painter in Mesa
  • Stucco House Painter in Mesa AZ
  • Affordable House Painter
  • Affordable House Painter Mesa Arizona

And a million more variations.

You get my point.

Even if you use sophisticated tools, hire SEO experts and spend hours analyzing the backend data of your site, there is still NO WAY you are EVER going to know every single possible variation of each type of potential way a user could search for your business, your services, your products and your website.

Of course keyword research is still important and I absolutely recommend you have a solid strategy for integrating your important keywords into the meta data and content of your site, but my point is to say the strategy is flawed.

What strategy?

Picking keywords and only tracking them.

You can pick a handful of important keywords based off of their estimated monthly search volume, but so what? If you don’t rank for them does that mean that you aren’t getting traffic? No. If you don’t rank for them does that mean that your site isn’t doing well? No.

There are a thousand reasons why you might not be ranking for a specific keyword… A few:

  • Your page SEO isn’t properly optimized for that exact term specifically
  • Your SEO is good but your in-bound linking doesn’t support the term enough
  • Your content isn’t properly optimized for that term
  • Google likes other keywords better for that page
  • Your competition is doing a better job
  • Your site is new and hasn’t gained enough authority to rank for that term
  • Your site is old and never established enough authority to rank for that term

I could go on.

Oh, and one last thing. There is only so much you can do. Back in the day you could pick a keyword and add it to your website meta data, content and then build in-bound links using that term as the anchor text and BAM! Rankings! Guess what? That exact strategy will now potentially harm your site and could even result in penalties. No bueno.

Google Penguin

The Penguin is going to GET YOU!

Instead, your on-page SEO, content and organic marketing strategies have to be much more sophisticated and diverse. It looks unnatural to put a keyword phrase in each important key area of your site meta and content and then to also have a bunch of in-bound links pointing to that page using the same keyword as the anchor text. That strategy is outdated and IT WILL HURT YOU.

The Information is Not Accurate

We’ve had clients track rankings using a tool and then manually look for the same results only to find they are not the same. Well duh. I hate to break it to you but the information is intentionally inconsistent, Google knows your game and they are trying to deter you from playing it. Did you know that Google has even said tracking rankings is against their terms of service? And don’t think they don’t know. They know.

So, why and how is the information inaccurate?

There are several big reasons why… all of which I already wrote about in a previous post called “Why Tracking Your Organic Search Rankings Will Drive You Insane”… but I will recap here for you:

  • Your Locations Matters (where you search from changes your results)
  • Your Web Browsing History Matters (what you’ve already searched for impacts what Google serves you)
  • Your Personalized Results are Influenced by Social Signals (logged in users get personalized results – and many are heavily influenced by their social circles)
  • Technical Aspects Play a Huge Role (Google has a ton of data centers and all can display slightly different results at any given time)

To further that, if you are using a tool – paid or free – to track your rankings then you have to understand that the tool itself is also impacted by the above variables. They aren’t allowed to scrape Google every week, day or hour to find your rankings. They are potentially buying the data or pulling it from another resource even that may or may not even be Google. You could be looking at outdated information or data pulled from some 3rd party source.

It’s okay to use a tool to track a few keywords, especially if you are a marketer and you want some very specific insights to use in your campaign strategies – but to rely on the data as a key performance metric and to give it to your client as an indicator of how well their marketing campaigns are doing is INSANE!

Tracking Rankings will Drive You Insane The data is all over the place! All you are going to do is frustrate yourself AND your clients.

Which leads me to my next point…

Rankings Don’t Equal Traffic or Conversions

I mean, think about it. Even if you are number 1,2 or 3 for a specific keyword in Google that doesn’t guarantee ANYTHING! People might not click. People may click a paid ad above you instead. People might click but they don’t like your site or content and decide to keep looking… so, there is no guarantee a ranking will lead to a click that converts.

Also, so what if you rank for a keyword – what about the other 1000 variations of that term (as shown in my first point: The Strategy is Flawed )? I am much more excited to see increased organic search engine traffic then I would ever be over a keyword ranking. Organic traffic means you are ranking for terms that people are clicking on. THAT is real data. Rankings mean nothing. Traffic is everything…. Well, good traffic (but I’ll get to that in a second). Why would you track your rankings or report on rankings to a client when they are VERY possibly 1) not accurate (as shown above) 2) not likely to maintain their placement and 3) not directly correlating with any tangible traffic data?

Such an outdated measurement.

Let’s say I want to rank for terms related to my previous example (above) on “House Painting”. So, I go to a marketing firm and they say to me, “Oh, you should really target ‘house painting’ because that term clearly has the highest search volume in your space”. I would be like, great – let’s do it! Then, for the next several months that marketing firm would work on that term… but then I don’t see any rankings and I am frustrated and think they are doing a terrible job and who needs them anyways. But, if that marketing firm says, well, you know what? You may not be able to see rankings for that term, but guess what? We were looking at your Google Analytics and you have tripled your organic traffic in the last month!

I’d be like, WHAT? Okay!

What? Okay!

Why? Because traffic is what I hired a marketing firm for. Not ranking me for ONE (or a set of) specific keywords.

Besides, the REAL measure is how that traffic is leading to increased conversions. This is marketing people. Why does ANY business pay for marketing? Because they want to make more money. How do they do that? By making more sales. It’s pretty simple. No one cares (or should care) what their rankings are or how much traffic they get if their sales aren’t increasing.

I could write a whole new blog post on that so I’ll just leave it at this – organic online marketing is intended to help you get more traffic and conversions. If you are getting organic traffic you have rankings! If you are currently tracking specific keyword rankings and you don’t see solid results but you DO see increased organic traffic in your analytics, then guess what? You ARE ranking somewhere for something, you just aren’t tracking the millions of variations of the keywords Google could possibly serve you up for.

GET IT?

And I’m just going to say this one more time for kicks…

Who cares what you are ranking for as long as you are getting traffic and increased conversions?

There Are Better Metrics To Focus On

So, I basically just said it – but for those of you questioning what to track, measure and report on instead, here are a few of our favorite client KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) here at Eminent SEO.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, we DO NOT track or report on rankings. Ever.

What to Track INSTEAD of Keyword Rankings

KPI #1: Conversions

I don’t just mean visits here. If a visitor doesn’t take a desired action, then they aren’t worth your on-going marketing spend. I am talking about tracking actions – such as: a phone call, a purchase, a form submission, the download of an ebook or something else of that nature.

Of course to do this properly you have to have some amount of skill and might even need to have some paid tools (such as a call tracking tool), but we are talking about metrics here – if you need help implementing any of these suggestions, well, you’ll just have to call us!

KPI #2: Cost Per Conversion

Okay, great! Now you have conversions, but how much is that costing you? I’ve had clients come in with multiple lead source types (maybe they are running a PPC campaign, have a local campaign going, they are renting space on a large directory AND even doing TV ads) and they have no clue which ad source is actually bringing them their leads and conversions and in turn they really don’t know which marketing source is the most valuable to them. Why? Because they aren’t tracking them individually.

Each individual marketing campaign you are running (on and off-line alike) should be tied in to a separate number, landing page, website or conversion form if you are going to truly measure your efforts. From there, you should tie your ad spend into each individual ad source. Your online marketing firm should be able to track online actions, such a fill form or other web submission, however, if you are also taking calls this does take some extra effort on your part. If done properly you will know exactly where each lead/sale is coming from and determine a cost per lead/sale.

This is HUGE! Reread that if you have to. This is important people!

KPI #3: Visitor Behavior

Once you are certain you are properly measuring your conversions and cost per conversion you can start diving back into important the website metrics, such as visits, repeat visitors, number of page views and the average time on site.

Any good online marketing company is going to use these metrics to improve your conversion rates by addressing quality issues. For example, high bounce rates from a particular page indicate that even though you are getting traffic it’s not converting – so there is a problem on that page that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, as a marketing firm, if you see monthly improvements to these metrics you should be able to show your client that the website is capturing their audience and resulting in better leads and conversions….

Client Thumbs Up

Get a BIG Thumbs Up

And isn’t that a ZILLION times more important that some random keyword rankings?

THE Nutshell:

The Strategy is Flawed

You can’t possibly know every variation people might use to find you. And even if you could, your marketing company can’t just rank you for a specific term anymore anyways. That strategy is outdated and could actually hurt you!

The Information is Not Accurate

We now know (for a FACT) that there are dozens of ways rankings can be influenced and therefore not accurate. So, what are you really tracking anyways?

Rankings Don’t Equal Traffic or Conversions

If you think rankings (or the lack thereof) are proving anything, well, I hate to break it to you… but you are wrong. If you don’t see rankings but you have organic traffic and conversions, well then guess what? You DO have rankings.

There Are Better Metrics To Focus On

I could list 1000 key performance indicators that we feel are more important to a client on how their marketing dollars are actually increasing their bottom line… but I shared 3: conversions, cost per conversion and visitor behavior. If you are tracking rankings and not focused on these other 3 metrics, it’s time to get with the times.

Rankings are a thing of the past. Don’t be dumb.

Why are you so dumb

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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This entry was posted in Analytics, Marketing Strategy and tagged .
Avatar for Jenny Stradling

About Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

3 thoughts on “Stop Trying To Track Keyword Rankings. It’s Dumb.

  1. Avatar for Jenny StradlingChris Beckley

    Well said Jenny! I totally agree that keyword rankings are dead and more focus should be put into other metrics that actually mean something. I wonder how many people are not even aware that those 3rd party ranking tools aren’t even accurate anyway. They are using bad tools to get bad information that wouldn’t even be that helpful if it was good anyway. What a waste of time!

    Reply
  2. Avatar for Jenny StradlingPiya prasad

    Hello,
    Really Nice Article..

    Some Tips about the Importance of Tracking and Reporting Keyword Rankings:
    htt p://crbtech.in/SEO/the-importance-of-tracking-and-reporting-keyword-rankings/

    Reply

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