There is More to SEO Than Tracking Rankings

Wed, Feb 25, 2009

Search Engine Optimization

Think about two department stores located in the middle of town. One is brand new, glitzy and has the “designer” name. The other has been around for years, has a modest appearance and locally owned – and perhaps not everyone has even heard of them. Yet, the modest department store is drawing in more customers and creating more sales despite the fact it isn’t the “#1 retailer”. How can this be? It’s for the same reason that being #1 in the search engine rankings doesn’t necessary spell success – you have to look at more than just where you rank, but how your traffic and segments are doing in comparison to various factors to determine how well your site is (or isn’t) doing.

So why is worrying about rank alone a wasteful exercise? Let’s start out by saying that yes, it is important to be on that first page and hopefully near the top – but let’s face it, not all of us can be #1 all the time. Here are so many factors that can affect where you rank at any given moment of the day. There may be a big news story of the day that is taking up screen real estate and affecting rankings for the keyword you are targeting. It could be a geographical problem – you are #1 in St. Louis, but #3 from Quebec. Search results vary by location as the engines try to deliver the most relevant results for the keywords and location of their customers.

It could even be the data center that is returning the results, or the new code that Google is testing out for their engine. Things that you have no control over and as a result have no consistent method to address as an issue.

A more accurate measure of how well you are doing in the rankings is to look at how much traffic your site is getting. Sure, you may be ranked 3rd but if you are getting a large volume of traffic (and hopefully converting the traffic into revenue-generating activities) then you could very well be doing better than the #1 and #2 results. This is why it is so important to implement segmenting on your website through tools such as Google Analytics so you can analyze how certain segments of your website – such as revenue generating activities – are doing. It helps eliminate the noise from the dollars!

Once you get a handle on search engine traffic and conversions, then you can start looking at merging that data with ranking data to look for correlations. Suppose you have a spike in traffic – was there a noticeable change in rank? Or was it due to non-organic methods? Correlating the two data sources help you know where the traffic is coming from and what type of traffic it is.

As you continue to develop your SEO skills and manage your web properties and clients it is important that you (and your customers) understand the difference between rankings and traffic. You can help your clients better understand how to interpret the data when you start by knowing how to analyze the data effectively.

Just remember Avis (the rental car company) and their slogan – “No. 2. So we try harder”. Then ask yourself if you need to work harder on your site, or is #2 producing the traffic and revenue that you and your clients desire?

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This post was written by:

Cassiano Travareli - who has written 90 posts on SEO Blog | SEO Marketing World.

SEO Specialist! Loves everything about Search Engine Marketing.