There are those who feel marketers should
not be concerned with search engine rankings
. Why? Because a number one
position doesn’t always imply success in the form of traffic or conversions.
Ok, seems fair enough. A better explanation is that search engine ranking data
is valuable, it’s just misunderstood most of the time.

Why search engine rankings are misunderstood

A lot of business owners misunderstand the value of search engine rankings
because search engine positioning has been branded with business
, sort of like "the higher you are listed the more successful
you become". As a result, many people are still in the mindset of "I
want to be number one on Google". Even if they went a step further and
said they wanted to be "number one" for a popular keyword, this kind
of thinking makes little business sense – because a number one spot on a search
engine doesn’t mean customers will buy or that your business will succeed. Most
business owners don’t even realize that search engines list websites for
many different keywords.

The value of search engine ranking data

Even though ranking data doesn’t directly imply business success we can
still gain of lot of useful info from ranking results:

  • Keyword ranking data shows who is and who isn’t competing within that
    space. If you can be a first mover or at least early to the game then
    you’ll have an advantage.
  • Search engines rank your web page(s) for many different keyword
    combinations, not just a single keyword phrase, so the more phrases you
    rank for the wider your reach and the more visitors you get from organic
  • You can compare your site’s keyword ranking distribution with competing sites’ keyword ranking
    distributions to get an idea of how competitive that site really is. One
    good tool for looking at keyword reach is seodigger.
  • Search rankings can be used with respect to analytics data to refine
    your organic optimization process, helping you decide when to continue or
    when to abandon a keyword target.

Examples of how ranking data helps you

Lets say you’ve done a lot of work to try and have your client website rank
well for a keyword where you think there is a lot of valuable search traffic.
Let’s also assume you aren’t concerned with looking at keyword ranking data,
you’re just looking at your site’s traffic. After making the effort to optimize
you still aren’t seeing any traffic – so would it be a smart choice to prune
your efforts now or continue? Looking at your keyword ranking data can give you
an answer:

  • If your ranking data shows you are dominating the targeted keyword
    space and you aren’t seeing a lot of traffic then those efforts are worthy
    of pruning – their not sending any traffic anyway.
  • However, if your ranking data shows that you’re still not on the map
    for those targeted keywords then you might want to continue down the same
    path or at least reevaluate why your efforts are not working. Also consider
    the idea that the more competition you have the longer it will take to see
    changes in search engine results.
  • If you receive a fair amount of traffic from a keyword that you don’t
    rank well for at all then this means you might really want to make a big
    push for more visibility because you’ve only experienced the tip of the

Making the connection between effort, rankings and analytics

In organic search, you have the effort that you exert to
push your website and you have the results, which come in the
form of search engine rankings and traffic. Think of it like Effort
-> Rankings -> Traffic
Rankings show how relevant your website
appears with respect to the competition. Your level of organic traffic shows
how much demand your website actually experiences based on how relevant you
appear. So it’s important to note that if you didn’t look at ranking data at

  • then it’s hard to know if you had too much competition keeping you from
    receiving traffic or if there was just not enough valuable traffic in that
    space at all
  • it would be difficult to tell if a keyword was worth pursuing further
    or if it was worth pruning in the event that you’ve done work but aren’t
    seeing traffic results

If you can understand that search engines rankings are an important measure
of feedback when used with respect to analytics data then you have a pretty
big edge over your competition
. The key point is that once you know where
you stand in the search results and you know what traffic you’re getting, you
can better determine whether or not to continue along current path or optimize


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