Keyword ranking is one of the most overrated and misused metrics in SEO. Yes, tracking your positions is important, but placing too much emphasis on this metric is problematic. When it comes to SEO, what you measure gets managed. That means that focusing on the right metrics will help you generate results that have a business impact, rather than an ego boost.
So, let’s talk about the problem with obsessing over rank — and what metrics you’d be better off focusing on.
Measuring keyword ranking is easy to get sucked into because it’s so visible. When you type in the all-powerful keyword and see your listing there at the top, it feels good. The problem with putting too much emphasis on this metric is that the search results aren’t always consistent. Google’s results will vary based on a number of different criteria. Let’s look at the two most common.
As you can see, these two simple variables can drastically impact rankings. In order to get a 100 percent accurate idea of your aggregated rank, you would have to check, monitor and scan all of these inconsistencies across the web. While not an impossible task, it’s certainly difficult and time-consuming — and probably not an efficient use of your time.
In addition to being hard to accurately track, rankings are also not the best measure of success. In “The Art of SEO,” the authors write that “obsessing over rankings (rather than traffic) can result in poor strategic decisions.” So many people spend so much time obsessing over their search engine rankings that the other more important areas suffer. Just imagine the results if that time were spent creating an engaging piece of content that drove traffic and conversions.
The other issue is that a majority of searches are long-tail keywords and phrases. It’s estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the demand curve is made up of long-tail keywords. These terms are not only easier to rank for, but they also tend to drive very targeted traffic. Here are a few other great stats from a recent report done by Ahrefs:
So instead of obsessing about where you rank for the more competitive terms, focus on creating a strategy that encompasses a variety of powerful long-tail terms. This will lead to more targeted traffic from users who actually want to engage with you.
The goal of any SEO or marketing strategy should be to impact the bottom line. Targeted traffic is the key here, and it starts with keyword research. As I shared above, there is huge potential in targeting long-tail opportunities. These terms tend to be more specific and focused. Using these terms as your foundation, you can create and execute a strategy to drive more targeted visitors to your site. More targeted visitors usually translates into more conversions or transactions.
Today’s analytics tools can reveal powerful data on our users and how our sites are performing in search. Understanding where and how people find you online, as well as your traffic trend (up or down), is much more important than knowing where you rank. Google Analytics is free, so there is no excuse not to monitor your traffic. I recommend doing this at least weekly so you have a good understanding of where you stand and whether or not your efforts are working.
Sadly, not everyone takes advantage of these tools. While tracking traffic may not be as sexy as tracking rank, I can promise it’s much more lucrative in the long run. Many site owners and marketers would rather focus on the flashy metrics instead of the right ones, and I’ve got stats to back that up.
So instead of obsessing over metrics that have little significance, give yourself an edge by tracking what actually has an impact on your business. Spend time setting up conversion goals, and pay attention to what is driving traffic to your site. If you obsess over driving targeted traffic, you will always beat those who obsess over rank.