When it comes to search engine optimization, or SEO, it might seem like your top goal for investing in this strategy would be to show up in the top spot on Google. And while that might have been the case in the past, the way that Google and searching, in general, has evolved over the last 10-15 years now renders that goal obsolete.
But, still, we see that many SEO companies are continuing to market themselves on the promise of a #1 rank on Google – offering short-term strategies at low prices without much to back it up.
Here’s why that’s not only unrealistic but also irrelevant and what SEO metrics you should focus on instead to measure success.
Why Ranking Isn’t the Most Important Factor for SEO Success
Previously, rank reports were a measure for SEO success, and many companies would offer them on a monthly basis to clients. However, as searching evolved to focus on personalized results for searchers – based on a range of factors like location, previous search behavior, and more – rank reports become less important.
There’s a great example our Director of SEO, SMM & Listings Fulfillment Rob Frost-Dean gave us that illustrates this: If you and a friend both search for “dolphins,” you could get completely different results based on your location, previous search behavior, and intent. If your friend is in Miami and has previously searched for football schedules or scores, their results could be all about the Miami Dolphins NFL team while yours might be all about the animal.
A rank report doesn’t take this into consideration, and because searches are so personalized, there’s no way you could get an accurate reading of how your website is ranking across all the different factors.
It’s also important to look at how the search landscape has changed. Now, many times the first results on Google are for the Google Map Pack, which are the three results that appear under a map for local search results. Or, the first result is a featured snippet, which provides a condensed answer or piece of information based on the search. So, you can rank first – technically – but still be halfway down the page, which doesn’t really translate to that top spot.
A good SEO strategy takes this into account and optimizes your website and offsite factors to help you show up in search results that are most relevant to your business, your location, and what consumers are searching for.
If Rank Reports are Inaccurate, Why Do Companies Still Promote Them?
It’s widely accepted by industry experts that ranking is not an important measure of SEO success, however, many SEO agencies continue to stand by them and aggressively promote the guarantee of a first-place rank to businesses.
One reason they do this is easy: SEO takes time, so the promise of quick results that get you to the top of the page is hard to resist, so they can easily win over clients.
Another reason: they can adjust the rank report to show that you are ranking first for specific keywords, but if you try to do the search yourself, you may never see that that’s the case.
Rank reports don’t give transparency into all the factors that went into getting your site to show up in that top spot. Again, results are going to be different based on location, intent, search behavior, and more, and your rank report is likely not going to include that information.
What SEO Metrics Point to Success?
Rather than focusing on ranking, there are some SEO metrics that are worth measuring to identify whether or not your SEO strategy is working.
- Organic Traffic: An increase in organic traffic shows that more users are clicking to your site from search engines, which would mean that your SEO strategy was getting you in front of more people.
- Bounce Rate: Decreased bounce rate shows that users find the content on your website helpful and want to continue to engage with it, which is an important component of SEO.
- Leads: If you have a tracking system in place, you can see whether or not you’re getting more leads from that increased organic traffic.
When it comes to finding the right SEO partner, it’s important to know what to look for – and what to look out for – including to be wary of any company guaranteeing a #1 spot on Google or promising immediate results. Instead, look for an SEO agency that can provide transparent reports that measure the most important metrics, are realistic in their timeline to begin seeing results, and who have a proven track record of helping businesses with their SEO strategies.