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Given how much the search engines have changed over the last couple of years, Holistic Search evaluates whether the sole ranking KPI's used by many organisations is the best metric for client success or should we be thinking similar to other marketing channels such as Affiliate, PPC, Display in favour of ROI
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Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 1491 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I thought the entire ranking reports dead thing happened like in 2002 or 2003. I wish they'd just die already, at least die as why are we still talking about them being a metric for success.



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1491 Days ago #
Votes: 0

It should have, Danny. I've been trying to spread the word about that since at least then, but unfortunately convincing others to educate their clients about it hasn't worked yet.



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from NickWilsdon 1491 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@Jill

We do the same but large Int'l corporations and agencies are still asking for them. Russian clients wouldn't dream of abandoning them. It's a bit depressing when there has been so much progress on analytics, conversion and KPI definition.

This article could go more into the alternatives than just stating the usual arguments. The first two points are reasons why rankings aren't a KPI, which is by definition a quantifiable, consistent measurement but then refers to rankings as a "KPI on borrowed time".

The third, more interesting point, is that they aren't a particularly useful measurement. Ask any business owner is they want a top 10 position or a 20% increase in sales and they will always tell you the latter. That's the real failing of measuring SERP rankings. Creating false targets can cause you to make the wrong decisions for your business.

To take a real-world example, an education system might set itself the target of passing X% of students in their exams. To meet this target, schools ensure they teach students past exam papers and technique 24/7. This results in the children become good at exams but receiving a less rounded & in-depth education. Their knowledge is limited strictly to the questions set by the exam board, which they learn to answer parrot-fashion.

When selecting the criteria to judge your success you have to be sure it is inline with your real goals.



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1491 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Agree, Nick. The article I wrote for Search Engine Land a while back goes into more of those details you talk about:

5 Reasons Why Rankings are a Poor Measure of Success

Added:

Actually, after looking at that one again, it was more the follow-up article that described a better way of measuring success.



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from NickWilsdon 1491 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@Jill

Both very good articles - saw the first when you wrote it and finishing the second now with my cocoa =)



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from peteyoung 1491 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Have to agree with your sentiments Danny, unfortunately it would appear many organisations are still using rankings as a basis for success (or failure) - and not small ones either. Until that changes I can't help thinking we will continue to have these types of debates in the future.

That said things are changing and given how much Google has changed and continues to change one can't help thinking so will the way we measure and evaluate

PS No Sphinn Nick/Jill :)



Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 1491 Days ago #
Votes: 0

How about SEO consultants follow my lead? I refuse to provide ranking reports for my clients. Tell them that right up front. You want ranking reports? Do it yourself or find another consultant. Working quite well so far, no complaints. :-)



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1490 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@peteyoung, sorry, while I agree with the sentiments, I didn't think it went beyond anything that I have been saying for years, so I couldn't justify sphinning it.

In thinking about it more, I am going to Sphinn it as the more that is said on this topic, even if it's just beating that dead horse, the better chance we have of SEOs and their clients actually taking it to heart.


@MattMcGee, yep, we do the same thing. I haven't run a ranking report in years...hallelujah!



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from Psychobel 1490 Days ago #
Votes: 0

But one of the commercial realities is that some clients absolutley insist on getting ranking reports and if we can genuinely do that client some good, we will take the business. It doesnt mean that we leave it there of course. Once we have the clients ear, we can then educate from within as we demonstrate what focussing on relevant conversion can do for their businenss.



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from richardbaxterseo 1490 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I agree with you guys - chasing individual rankings vs understanding (and capturing) the value of the long tail is a no brainer. That said, there are some fiercely competitive in-house SEO teams out there (travel, recruitment, retail, gambling) where part of their role is outranking their opponents for their top industry terms. Personalisation and all that stuff aside, there's a reality here that a vast majority of SEO's are checking ranking positions daily for competitive, high volume terms.

There's also the notion of checking search engine visibility across a wide range of keywords in your head, torso and tail to understand the overall health of a site. That methodology can be extremely powerful as a general performance check, especially in comparison to other sites in the same category. Totall appreciate Google Local results ect are starting to cause issues with this but those results are not everywhere.

So - not disagreeing with anyone here but sometimes the SEO people are just as bad as the clients for being hooked on rankings :-)



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Desphinn from Badams 1490 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Playing devil's advocate here:

Personalised search is not as big as you'd assume. As far as we can tell at this stage, the effect of personalised search on rankings is minimal. For most queries different users still see the same SERPs.

SERPs are fairly constant over short amounts of time, such as a week. Additionally (barring penalties) a site ranking #2 won't suddenly drop to #8 overnight.

Ranking does translate in to traffic. The top spots above the fold get the clicks.

So all in all I think rankings are still a good metric. Sure, they're not the be-all, end-all of SEO accountability. But they certainly deserve a good spot on any SEO report.



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from ZackHanebrink 1490 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Yep, good post. Rankings can be a reliable metric as long as it goes hand in hand with your KPI. If you sitting nice for a “money term” then I think it is a valuable metric. But it is only a relevant metric if the keyword converts.



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from JBrash 1486 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I'm with Desphinn on this one. The guy that said before he refuses to provide ranking reports to his clients is silly. Personalized search only applies to items that are exactly that - personalized and localized. Items that are more generic CLEARLY don't personalize - and items you've never searched for before - aka a fresh search are not always personalized. Go google "bows" - #1 result is mathewsinc.com - a site I had the pleasure of doing some work on. It's #1 throughout the world - not just "personalized".

All the people saying traffic and click through rates are better indicators are missing the point. SEO is not about traffic - nobody controls and forces people to click a given link. SEO is simply the art / methods of getting a website SEARCH ENGINE optimized. What does that mean? Well search engines return the most relevent result to a given search term by definition - so to optimize your site for search engines by definition means to ensure your site is a returned in high regard result for the appropriate search terms. Beyond that isn't SEO any more - it's marketing. If your pages aren't converting consider a redesign - that's not SEO, that's basic page metrics and proper marketing and web design. An SEOs job is not to design web pages (unless for reason to help the page rank higher), but rather to ensure they are making a website rank highly for its search terms.

The SEO industry as a whole is forgetting it's place and goals as an SEO - there is a difference between SEM and SEO.



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from Krumpet 1469 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Badams - if you don't think sites can move from #2 to #8 in a day, you are wrong. It all depends on how competitive the industry is. Head over to the downloadable gaming industry (Popcap, Big Fish, GOG, etc.) and you'll see how quickly things change.

As for the article, I completely agree with JBrash on this one. Once you're off the search engine, it isn't SEO anymore...it's Marketing.



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