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Recently Google started blocking several of the big-name rank checking software used by many in the SEO industry. This, of course, sparked the debate on whether SEO firms should be bothering with providing ranking reports to their clients. I have to say, I’m conflicted on that issue.
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from BeantownSEO 2266 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Is that sarcasm I sense rainforestguru?

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from Jill 2266 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I’m really glad this discussion is becoming more public and that Google is finally doing something about the automated reports (again).The more public the issue becomes, the easier it will be for those of you who have trouble educating your clients about the less than useful nature of ranking reports, to convince them of this fact.While I understand that most good SEO firms measure the good stuff along with their ranking reports, we all know that many more SEO companies don’t. While I’d love to run ranking reports and just leave it at that (like we did in the old days) that won’t cut it anymore. The more conversations and education that happens around this topic will force more SEO companies to HAVE to start measuring what really matters, which I’m sure many of the "bad" firms will not want to do. It’s a lot more work and it can be difficult.  It’s especially difficult to be held responsible for traffic/conversions/sales rather than rankings which is why so many are resistant to give up their precious ranking reports.But it has to be done if we are to move forward as an industry and be taken seriously, in my opinion. I was resistant to this about 3 years ago as well, but finally gave in and realized going cold turkey with rankings reports was the best thing that could have ever happened for my clients.I have to say that I can barely remember the time when good ole WPG would pop up on my computer each night to do its thang. Was definitely a looooooooong, loooooooooong time ago.

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from peterryan 2266 Days ago #
Votes: 4

Though I obviously understand that rankings mean nothing with out conversion, etc etc, I believe ranking reports are still essential to what we do.  Because we know the approximate search numbers for certain queries, we certainly have goals we are trying to reach, and it is a good thing to benchmark those goals as we progress.By tracking these rankings on a regular basis, we can also begin to see the REAL relationship between rankings and visitors/conversions for a specific client and industry.  I believe that this is the BEST client education, and SEO education for that matter.   We know that we are optimizing for specific keyphrases, so why not provide reports on that progress?  Sometimes it is the only tangible way of showing progress, especially for highly competitive spaces.  Traffic will not increase by much when moving from position 50 to 41, but it sure makes a difference to the client, knowing that we are making progress.I welcome other thoughts on this, but I fail to see how dropping ranking reports would be a bonus.  In fact, it seems like an easy way to put off having to show any real progress for months at a time.  Good SEO’s should be able to show you where you started, where you are, and where you are headed.  With only the help of analytics, the "where you are" can be pretty ambiguous. 

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from Jeremy 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Ranking reports are little more than a distraction. As a client I don’t care where I rank for what term, I care how much qualified natural search traffic my site gets. I don’t care if it comes from 1 qualified term in position 3 or 1,000 qualified terms in positions 1 - 500.Now as a search marketer I see the value in ranking reports for testing and trendwatching but don’t send them to my clients. There are lots of ways to demonstrate the value you bring to the table without ranking reports.

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from St0n3y 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Sometimes it’s not about educating the client, but about the client being willing to accept the education being provided. I’ve got client’s that I’ve been trying to educate for years on this. I point them to whatever resources I can find on the topic but it’s hard to argue with, "we get a lot less sales since our ranking dropped."Jill, like you i’ve contemplatd going "cold turkey" on the reports, and maybe this will be the lynchpin, but I dread the sudden unawareness that’ll come as the result. Of course I also realize that most clients do their own form of ranking checks on a daily basis. Sure, we could do without the reports, but it sure does help with trend tracking.

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from Jill 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 1

To reiterate, I have nothing against looking at rankings when done in conjunction with metrics that supply the bottom line.It’s when a company *only* does ranking reports and isn’t measuring the other stuff where it becomes a problem. There is, of course, a correlation between high rankings for good keyword phrases and traffic and conversions. But you have to make that correlation for the information to be important and useful.

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from peterryan 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Agreed.  I guess I just think that "correlation" can be an important thing for everyone to be aware of.  I think we’re all on the same page here.

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from Halfdeck 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Ranking reports are like watching the ups and downs of the number of home runs in a game instead of players focusing on playing their hearts out and winning the game. People cling to ranking reports I guess becase a big chunk of online marketing is intangeable (e.g. vertical authority) with many factors outside of a company’s direct control, but ranking reports at the end of the day is just a safety blanket for clients to hold on to. Nothing more. It can waste valuable time especially if a company knee jerk reacts to every little ranking shift, asking consultants about possible penalities, reinclusion requests, on-page over optimization review, etc, etc etc. Some SEOs might not mind the workload but not my cup of tea.

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from foreignthinker 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 1

<div>If we know that a particular KW phrase search and relevant copy converts well, and independent research has shown that the majority of searchers give up after the second page, and in fact the closer we get to the top position on the first page qualified traffic increases, why wouldn’t measurement of our efforts to move clients up in the ranking be relevant? In fact, doesn’t identification of a high ranking but non-converting KW phrase also provide supporting evidence to focus efforts on lower ranking better converting search phrases?  What SEO or client has not had the experience of learning a KW phrase they thought would convert well was near useless after climbing in the ranking?</div><div></div><div>While I can certainly understand looking down the nose and dismissal of SEO practitioners who consider a ranking report the only measurement of success, if one has set a goal, surely measuring progress toward that goal is both worthwhile and informative. And if ranking reports have a limited ROI, isn’t that all the more reason to automate it rather than putting valuable hours into developing them manually?</div>

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from Halfdeck 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

"What SEO or client has not had the experience of learning a KW phrase they thought would convert well was near useless after climbing in the ranking?"A PPC campaign would make experiences like that unnecessary especially in cases where there’s not much delay between visit and conversion. research."why wouldn’t measurement of our efforts to move clients up in the ranking be relevant"It would be relevant if you’re managing a CMS shopping cart site but it would be less relevant when managing a site like SEJournal, for example, where signals of authority, visibility, RSS subscribers, daily traffic, and revenue/day are stronger singals than ranking metrics over time for [seo blog], for example."I can certainly understand looking down the nose and dismissal"I think this has less to do with looking down the nose and more to do with frustration with clients that think SEO is just about ranking #1 for terms X,Y,Z and panic every time they go from #2 to #3. If ranking #1 for a term is the primary goal of your SEO campaign, by all means run ranking reports. But these days there are bigger fish to fry than just nailing rankings and watching the money roll in. The road isn’t A->B its more like A->B->C->Y->Z where its more productive to watch what’s happening at A->B (e.g. number of blog posts published/week, responses to those posts), than Y->Z (site went from #2 to #1 for [blue widget]).The biggest danger with fixating on rankings is that clients will waste time reacting to ranking shifts when they should just be thinking about the next creative blog post or whatever that gets people’s attention and deliver exceptional value.

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from St0n3y 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

halfdeck, I think your home run analogy is a good one. Truth is, you don’t have to have a home run to win a game... and you can even lose having gotten a few. But that doesn’t stop players from trying to hit the home runs, or counting them when they do, especially if there are runs batted in (conversions?) So while rankings don’t win the game, for many clients its an important part of it. Not saying that they should focus on that more than winning, that’s just silly, but the statistical value of the rankings is an important part of the overall understanding of the playing field.

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from hugoguzman 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

The blogger mentions it briefly, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much attention:The main problem with ranking reports is that they don’t necessarily reflect a true "ranking" especially in Google. Because of multiple data centers, geotargeting, etc...most search results vary from day to day. Moreover, unless rankings are tracked daily, they offer only a slice of the overall ranking trend.There various other statistical shortcomings that we can get into if anyone is interested (such as the fact that universal search elements often skew the value of a top 10 result by pushing natural results further down the page) but this aforementioned element I mentioned above devalues ranking reports enough to make them little more than an afterthought in the grand scheme of analytics and reporting.And if you’re an SEO shop, you have to factor in the opportunity cost of running and analyzing the reports, both internally and with the client.My question is always regarding how your time is better spent: an hour analyzing rankings or an hour spent building content, building links, analyzing analytics data, etc...Viewed in this light, ranking reports become that much more insignificant.

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from foreignthinker 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

 I am not suggesting or advocating fixation on any metric.  The SEO industry as a whole is guilty of fixating clients’ attention on ranking. Industry thought leaders still regularly publish summaries of leading factors affecting ranking, they publish books about success through prominence in the search engines and some have blogs and companies named for high rankings (no offense intended Jill).  Why then wouldn’t clients with thirty other marketing initiatives, multiple sites to manage and a dozen other offline and online tools competing for cognitive space come away with the conclusion that rankings are a key SEO metric? The signal to noise ratio of Rankings to other factors is way too high. Respectfully halfdeck, I could find a half dozen articles that take the factors you listed in your second to last paragraph and link them to gaining rank and do not even mention conversion.     The problem is not the client, the problem is the industry’s inability to plainly restate the goal is Conversion Optimization not search engine optimization, and that while higher rankings are an important variable due to the inherent traffic that comes with them, rankings in themselves are not a measure of success. Take next week’s SES agenda for example, there is only one session that even has the word conversion in its title.     The flip side of this "rankings reports are pointless" argument, is that I have not met an SEO professional willing to state that rankings are irrelevant to optimizing the total number of conversions. 

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from HamletBatista 2265 Days ago #
Votes: 0

"To reiterate, I have nothing against looking at rankings when done in conjunction with metrics that supply the bottom line."I appears we are all looking at the same page but from different angles :-) It’s hard to argue that rankings are not important, but at the end of the day they need to result in a more tangible metric that affects the bottom line.I don’t think we need to see SEO and conversion rate optimization as the same. I see them as separate concerns: traffic and conversions. But, conversion rates can be indirectly affected by the choice of keywords of the person doing SEO. 

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from Halfdeck 2264 Days ago #
Votes: 0

"I have not met an SEO professional willing to state that rankings are irrelevant to optimizing the total number of conversions."Because that wouldn’t be true. Ranking is a cog in the machine, just like PageRank is a dominant variable in Google’s algos. The question is where is the ROI?If a site’s conversions and traffic tripled due to ad banners placed on several prominant sites but ranking for [blue widget] stayed the same, is the marketing campaign a failure? Should a real estate site not advertise on Craiglist, for example, because while doing so may increase sales, it doesn’t improve rankings? Should a client not bother interacting on forums with nofollowed sig links because doing so won’t increase anchor text or link juice?"So while rankings don’t win the game, for many clients its an important part of it."Sure, for many clients they’re important. At the same time, some of those clients are the ones who will tell you "I don’t want to put up a blog because that won’t help me go from #3 to #2" or "I don’t care about becoming my vertical’s authority site. I just want to rank one spot higher for [blue widget]. Why can’t we just run a link swap with site X or do whatever’s working for my competitor?"Wining the game may be about nailing the #1 spot for some, but that’s the kind of sites I walk away from. I’m only interested in helping sites that are destined to become the best in their niche.And what do you do exactly when a client calls you up and says WTH happened to my ranking?When -6 glitch hit one of my clients, I wound up spending hours reading tea leaves. The client wastedhis money and my time turning the site upside down against my good judgement and trying fruitlessly to resolve a possible penalty. A few weeks later, Matt Cutts admitted the -6 thing was a glitch and things went back to normal. That’s not how I want to pass my time no matter how much money I get paid.I believe that campaigns that focus on input variables (e.g. number of blog post published/week) are far more powerful than those defined primarily by output metrics that you cannot directly control.

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from DarkMatter 2264 Days ago #
Votes: 1

all of the objections I see to rank reports seem to be about clients getting too focused on them, losing sight of what is really important. but don’t discount their value when used appropriately.I work in house for a company and I use automated rank reports once every month. No one looks at them but me. I am able to use them effectively to identify pages that are just short of top rankings and give them a little extra push to the front page. I only check ranks for terms that are already sending me some traffic, so it’s a lot more manageable than a huge time consuming rank report. If I don’t see a surge in sales for pages that are ranked, I can try different keywords.rankings are not a part of my progress reports, only traffic and sales.

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