SEO ranking is sometimes talked about like it’s the Holy Grail of marketing. If you can rank number one for your key search terms, you’re doing something right, right?
Not necessarily. Ranking first in search results doesn’t mean anything if it’s not having an impact on your business’s bottom line. Here, we’ll take a look at what goes into performing well in search results, and why there are other factors that are more important to consider when it comes to SEO.
Understanding Google’s Criteria for Displaying Results
The first step to performing well on search engines is understanding how you’re being evaluated. Google is notoriously tight-lipped on the specifics of what goes into how they display search results, but there are around 200 elements that they consider. When you think about the number of factors they assess, plus the fact that no one has clear visibility into how heavily each factor is weighted, it suddenly seems like madness to try to game the system to rank number one.
The amount of time and money you would invest in doing things like building up incredible reserves of content and establishing backlinks from reputable sites alone would equate to countless hours each month. How are you supposed to manage that while also running your business?
Organic Search Results are Personalized
Google and other search engines are focused on delivering the best results to individual searchers, meaning that search results are tailored to the searcher based on past searches, other activity on the web, location, and a host of other factors. So, while you could see your business ranking first for a specific keyword, your next door neighbor could perform the same search, from almost the same location, and get completely different results.
Google is also moving from answer results to answer “journeys.” Search Journeys look at context to show searchers results related to where they may be in their buying or searching journey based on previous searches or visits on the web.
This is another reason rank is a less important factor and why many SEO partners have stopped providing SEO ranking reports – they’re too subjective, can change within a moment’s time, and don’t take Search Journeys into account. So, if an SEO partner is promising you a first-page SEO ranking, you may want to re-evaluate their practices to make sure they understand the way search engines really work.
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Organic Search Results aren’t the Only Thing on the Page
Search engines have changed so much over the last few years and are continuing to evolve. When Google first started out, you saw the 10 organic results on each page. Nowadays, that first page of results is filled with paid search ads, Google’s 3-pack, and featured snippets, plus news and social media integrations. SEO ranking simply doesn't mean what it meant five or ten years ago.
There is a lot of content for consumers to weed through before they even see the first organic result. And most consumers don’t make the distinction between paid and organic search – they’ll just click on the very first link they see that looks like it contains the solution to their problem. Which is why a holistic SEO strategy that includes these other factors – like local listings and optimizing content for featured snippets – in addition to a paid plus organic approach to search engine marketing is so important.
Where to Focus Instead
So being laser-focused on your SEO ranking isn’t the way to go about search engine optimization. What should you be focusing on instead?
Rather than thinking about the goal being ranking at the top of results, your goal should be to take an SEO approach that generates good results for your business.
Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be internally-focused. You can’t control how Google determines which results to show, but you (or your marketing partner) can control your own content, metadata, descriptions, and internal SEO strategy.
As such, the indicator of whether that strategy is working or not shouldn’t be something that’s happening on an external website. It should be what’s happening on your own website.
Do you have a solid clickthrough rate? If people are clicking on the link to your website that appears in search results, that’s valuable information. Your title tag and meta description are obviously catching the eye of consumers. The information that you’ve included there leads them to believe that you’re the company with the best solution to their problem.
Are you getting more unique views? If unique visitors are up month over month, it means that your SEO efforts are probably effective (regardless of your specific SEO ranking). They’re getting you noticed by the right consumers, who are visiting your website and finding the information they need.
Are you getting more conversions? Are visitors clicking on your offers for content upgrades or signing up for your newsletter? If this is the case, it means that the content you do have is useful enough for them to take the next step and invite you to send them more content directly to their inbox.
A successful SEO program will take time to start getting results. And it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. It’s something that needs constant monitoring and optimization in order to get the results you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more immediate results, it’s great to get your paid search marketing started while your SEO is ramping up.
A successful SEO strategy can help you increase your web presence and get more visitors to your site, but there’s a lot that goes into it. LOCALiQ loves working with businesses to help them improve their SEO. Give us a call today so we can work together!