I had a call with a potential client not that long ago and we were discussing her long term SEO goals. She told me her number one goal was to get better rankings for the broad keywords they were targeting.
When we spoke, the company was stuck on page 3 of Google and couldn’t seem to break free; she wanted to know what my company could do to help her get to the top of page 1. I flat out told her, “Don’t worry so much about where your site ranks. Your real long term goal should be visitor growth.”
She was completely floored by that statement. Many site owners and business managers are.
It might seem strange to hear that coming from an SEO professional. Ranking doesn’t matter? What the heck is this guy talking about? Isn’t that the whole point of SEO!? I’m not saying that ranking well isn’t important. There are dozens of reports outlining the percentage of clicks a site is likely to get based on where it falls in the SERP and I can’t argue with the numbers. What I am saying is that site owners shouldn’t become fixated on where their site is ranking because it will cost you the rest of your SEO.
The search results are personalized!
I can guarantee you that if I was to search for “pizza” on my work computer and then on my home computer, the two results pages would be completely different. This is because the search engines are focusing more and more on personalized search results. For instance, if you search for something while logged into your Gmail account, Google is going to remember and track your search behavior. The more times you search the more information it gathers about you and the more personalized it will try to make the search results based on your past search behavior. Bing and Facebook have a partnership where, if you are logged into your Facebook account, Bing will pull up results that your Facebook friends have liked and shared. What might be on page 3 when you aren’t logged into Facebook is suddenly on page 1!
Lesson to be learned: Personalized search results mean your site might rank differently for different people. Therefore it isn’t a 100% accurate measurement of success.
Short term gain in rank usually means black hat SEO is afoot
Let’s say you hired an SEO firm or consultant, told them you wanted to rank on the first page in Google and they guaranteed it would happen inside of a month (even though Google says no SEO firm can promise that). Let’s assume they deliver on their promise and everyone is happy. I’m sorry to say your happiness is going to be short lived. SEO is an incredibly long term process, and even though I have seen websites gain substantial amounts of traffic and jump in the rankings in a relatively short period of time (depending on the industry and level of competition), overnight gains are usually the result of black hat SEO and are only temporary. You might be able to ride the wave for a few months, but the minute you stop paying that SEO firm your rankings drop as fast as they appeared. The worst case scenario is that the search engines flag your site for SEO and remove it from the SEPR entirely!
Lesson to be learned: Fixating on rank will lead to bad decisions that hurt your brand in the long run.
Ranking well is only one piece of the SEO puzzle. When site owners take such a narrow approach to their SEO they are actually limiting the long term potential of their campaign. Yes, a good SEO campaign should help your site move up the SERP, but it can do so much more than that if you just let it!
About the Author: Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, a full-service web marketing and Boston SEO company. He also publishers the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, so check his website to subscribe.