The search engine world is an ever evolving system. The days in which we were able to set a group of 10 keywords for a client and push the site in those areas, are sadly over. Yet more often than not rankings are one of the focal points in any new client discussion. Meetings often include discussions about “I want to rank in the top 5 for [insert keyword] within X months”. Again, back in the day this was something that could be entertained and would be a viable option for success and return on investment. In the modern SEO world though, it’s no longer viable, and here’s why:
Changes to Google’s Algorithm
Algorithm changes are at the foundation of any recent change in the SEO world. Since the implementation of Panda and Penguin and the 100s of iterations since, the ranking landscape has changed. In the modern SEO world we have to deal with the likes of personalisation, local search, device personalisation and a plethora of other systems which make rankings hard to pin down and also hard to track.
For example, Google Pigeon, another bird based update, changed how Google handles people searching in particular localities. Instead of rankings being the same across the UK for example, rankings are now more tailored to specific locations. If you were to search “builder’s merchant” and you were in Manchester, a Manchester based builder’s merchant would rank higher, making a lot of short tail keywords much more locally focused.
Google is hiding the data
More and more, Google is restricting how much data we have access to as SEO professionals. First the dreaded “not provided” came into effect, blocking a lot of keyword data in Analytics. This data gave us a clear indication of which keywords worked and which didn’t. This made it much easier to correlate keywords with conversion and an overall return on investment. Not provided removed all of that and made us rely on what group of pages were performing well. For example if you had a page on Timber for Sale. If that page was seeing an increase in people landing and converting, its fair to assume a keyword within that ballpark was helping. However, it’s no longer possible to know the exact keyword, thus making rankings less accurate.
Rank Tracking is inaccurate
Recently Google has taken another swipe at the SEO world by restricting access to their ranking API. What this means is that software platforms that used to be able to track keywords across Google, are now struggling. Keyword ranking data is become less accurate (outside of manually checking each keyword). The issues have even led to several software companies discontinuing their ranking platforms. Without the ability to accurately track keyword rankings, it makes sense to focus on more solid KPIs and have keyword rankings as a secondary indicator of success.
Rankings should be part of your overall indication of performance, but by no means should it be the focus of a campaign. Accuracy is everything for a client, and rankings are no longer accurate. Traffic increases, conversion improvements and user engagement are examples of the most important KPIs for a site, not where you are for vanity short tail keywords.
Be smart with your analysis and dig deeper to give your clients more value than a ranking table.