Historically, creating SEO reports that focus on rankings and their fluctuations have been the gold standard for SEO consultants and agencies.
This article will explain a number of reasons why these metrics alone are practically useless, and how to address search performance in a more meaningful way.
What are “SEO rankings” and how are they gathered?
SEO Rankings display the keywords that your SEO campaign is targeting, and their relative position in Google’s search results, ie Positions #1-10 are on the first page of Google, #11-20 on the second page of Google etc.
How are Rankings gathered?
A rank checker (aka rank tracker) periodically scrapes Google’s search engine results pages to find the position and ranking page for the keyword in the search results.
Many SEO agencies limit the number of keywords tracked for your website, as automated tracking of rankings costs money, via higher subscription costs for SEO software.
What’s wrong with rank tracking?
Many site owners are concerned with so called “vanity” metrics. These include ranking for “best xxx in city”, the number of keywords on the first page, or the number of keywords in #1.
What’s wrong with that?!
Although the keywords are ranking in a high search position, there is no guarantee they drive any clicks to your website, let alone leads or sales.
Why don’t #1 rankings always drive clicks? There are several reasons this might be the case, including:
- Low/no search volume- ranking #1 for a keyword with no searches a month is useless. Even ranking #1 for a keyword with 10 searches a month, may at best bring in 3 visitors a month to your website, as the average Click Through Rate of #1 is ~30%.
- Poor click through rate (CTR)- click through rate can be defined as the number of searchers who click your search result, divided by the number of times that search result was displayed in their view.
A poor click through rate is often caused by a mismatch between targeted keyword and Meta Information
As per the below, although this search term “remove negative links sydney” ranks relatively well, no one is clicking the search result:
That is because when a user searches for “remove negative links Sydney”, the below search result doesn’t satisfy them:
This CTR issue could probably be rectified by optimising the below three elements to satisfy the searcher (if that were a service we wanted to promote):
- Search intent of queries- even though your keyword is ranking high, and the search volume is also high, it may be ranking for a keyword that is top of the funnel and won’t necessarily drive leads and sales.
A good example is “running shoes”. This search term is very much at the top of the funnel, and searchers will be using this keyword to research the different types and brands of running shoes, rather than when they are actually ready to buy running shoes from your online store.
As such, ranking high for keywords with poor search intent is unlikely to drive sales for your business
Tracking Google Search clicks
Tracking Search Engine Results Page clicks from Google search is a far more useful metric than rankings.
That’s because these clicks are searchers that are genuinely interested in your search results and have taken action to actually click them. This data is also 100% accurate, as it comes from Google search console.
How to track clicks?
Login to Google Search Console.
Navigate to “performance” and ensure at least the “Total clicks” and “Average Position” fields are selected:
But wait, didn’t you say rankings aren’t important? I did.
Rankings (aka positions) are still important to track. That is because a keyword whose average position is >20 (page 3+ of Google) means the keyword is unlikely get enough impressions or visibility for searchers to click.
In Google Search Console performance report, click the filter (top right), click position and set it to smaller than 21:
This will list all keywords that have an average position on page 1 or 2 of Google.
What do I recommend?
A hybrid approach. Start tracking clicks for your keywords, so you can identify which keywords are the most important for bringing traffic to your website.
Also use rank tracking software or request reports to gather complementary data to help SEO decision making, including:
- Keyword Rankings
- Keyword difference/fluctuations
- Number of (estimated) searches for keywords
This SEO report provides the best of both worlds! it collects keyword clicks, thus helping to identify the most important keywords for your site, but also it reports on fluctuations of rankings (so you can correlate this with the fluctuations in clicks) as well as the estimated number of searches for each keyword.