Why Rank Checking Is Not Critical (at least for me)

Recently, I was talking with Graywolf about rank checking, a topic that we disagree on.  Personally, I really enjoy debating business topics.  It helps me to see different ways of thinking.  I figured I would share my rant *cough* I mean debate points with you.

  1. Google personalizes all serps.
    It is common for two different users to see different websites ranking #1.  Google displays search rankings based on previous searches, user activity and many other factors.  It is common for New York City people to see rankings that favor local websites.  With all of this personalization, it is hard to figure out accurate rankings for your website.
  2. Google throttles rankings. 
    Depending on the time of and day, Google may show different websites ranking at the top.  If I check my rankings at 6am and Google throttles my rankings between 9am and 5pm, then the data I gathered at 6am is useless since most visitors are not even awake at 6am.
  3. Google’s universal serps makes ranking data inaccurate. 
    Google has integrated local listings, news headlines, videos and much more into their serps.  Sometimes these integrated boxes appear above all rankings; other times they appear in the middle of the serps.  So you may rank #1 with a Google local onebox appearing below you or you may rank #1 with 10 local listings appearing before you.  That is a big difference.
  4. Automated rank checkers are unreliable.
    Google does not like automated rank checkers and therefore does not make it easy for them to operate.  I tip my hat to the many smart developers of automated rank checkers who do an incredible job of fixing bugs and overcoming issues.  They do a great job.  Unfortunately, it is the nature of the beast that there are still constant issues that make it difficult to measure rankings properly and have 100% accuracy.
  5. Rookie webmasters check rankings for wrong keywords. 
    A pet peeve of mine is when clients brag about having #1 rankings but then say they have no traffic.  This is because not all keywords are equal.  Some keywords can drive a lot of traffic.  Other keywords can drive sales.  On rare occasions, you can find a keyword that drives high traffic & sales.  Look at these keyword examples:
  • “personalized cancer” – no traffic & no sales
  • “free wordpress” – high traffic & poor conversions
  • “buy thesis theme” – low traffic & high conversions
  • “buy wordpress theme” – high traffic & high conversions

Let me take a minute here and clarify some stuff.  I am not saying you should never check rankings or that there is zero value in checking rankings.  I am saying that to me the value of checking rankings has greatly decreased over the last 10 years.

There are only so many hours in a day, and I need to prioritize how many hours I am going to spend on generating quality content, building backlinks, improving site usability, upgrading website security, boosting site speed and working on all of the many other pieces that go into running a successful website.  So I rarely spend time on checking rankings.

What do I do instead?  I prefer to monitor my analytics.  By monitoring my traffic, I can immediately see if  search engine referrals decrease.  If there is a decrease, I can drill down to see which keywords are sending less traffic and then I can go to work on fixing the situation.  By monitoring my analytics, I can better watch over my entire conversion pipeline.  That is something that rank checking cannot do.  Rank checking will not tell me if I am getting traffic but have a high bounce rate, which could be caused by poor usability or other site issues.

In my humble opinion, accurate ranking data is a very slippery fish to chase after and it’s not normally necessary since my analytics provide me with a much larger net of information that can help me make decisions that I would otherwise have made using incomplete ranking data.

I hope you enjoyed my crazy rant 🙂

photo credit: Shutterstock/Brian Jackson

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