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Rankings -- One More Time, Please


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#1 squidjam

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 12:06 PM

Would someone please clarify all the talk of "ranking" for me, one more time?

 

Jill, I learned from you first about how SERPs are relative and can depend on the computer you're on, what you've searched for before, your physical location and other things.

 

But I STILL see people who talk about where they rank for a particular keyword.

 

I see people teaching you how to write better for all the changes to Google, so that you will "rank better."

 

I read posts by people saying that they created a post yesterday or last week and it's "already ranking number 3 in Google"...or 1st or on page two or whatever.

 

Once and for all, I just want to feel like I'm straight on all this ranking stuff. I blow most of it off because of what I've learned here and from Jill.

 

1. Can you ever really know where you rank for a keyword? I suppose you can do a search in an incognito window in Chrome, but how reliable is that? And isn't it still relative?

 

2. Does it really matter in this day and age? Jill has taught me that really, you should look at your conversions and if your traffic is increasing, etc. Things like that.

 

3. In a related note, how is "keyword research" really much use anymore? Yes, you can get an idea of whether people are searching for something or not, but the typical way that people have taught others to do keyword research seems really antiquated at this point.

 

4. I've always looked at the overall search rankings for keywords that Google Analytics (GA) provided. Now that the "not provided" keywords are all we have, I know that you can still get the search queries data from within Google Webmaster Tools. I realize that nothing is totally accurate but this is better than nothing. Comments?

 

For instance, it's been standard for people to put a keyword in the title of the post. But Google frequently replaces the searched for keyword/term with synonyms, (something I witnessed just lately though I know isn't new) so that your keyword title is essentially useless on some level.

 

To me, it seems like there is just soooo much noise, and what I'm really starting to see is that most all of the noise is worthless.

 

I'm really beginning to just put blinders on and put earplugs in and concentrate on just writing engaging content that people want to link to or share on social media or comment on. That seems to be the reality and I think always has been, if I'm not mistaken. It's just that the changes Google has made and the rise of social media have made it obvious. No more games.  ;)

 

So Jill and anyone else...please set me straight once and for all so when I hear people talk about rankings I know the real skinny!  :)


Edited by squidjam, 01 October 2013 - 12:21 PM.


#2 copywriter

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 12:32 PM

You are correct.  The majority of the noise out there is (and always has been) just that... noise.  Yes, your ranking can rise and yes, there are ways to get it higher.  The gist of the "rankings are unreliable measures of success" is the "measures" part because, as you referenced, there are too many factors at play to be able to accurately measure where a page ranks in the SERPs. 

 

What you may see on your Google SERP could be entirely different than someone on the other side of the country who is not signed into Google or Gmail or YouTube, etc. and doesn't have the same personalize search settings you have.

 

Here's my take on your questions...

 

1. Can you ever really know where you rank for a keyword? I suppose you can do a search in an incognito window in Chrome, but how reliable is that? And isn't it still relative?

 

Everybody (as I said) won't see the same rankings in the same ways. There are too many individualized settings that can alter how search results appear for any given person on any given computer. But yes, you can see that you're doing better in position this week than you were last week.  Just don't depend on that "#1 spot" that you see, because someone else may not see it.

 

2. Does it really matter in this day and age? Jill has taught me that really, you should look at your conversions and if your traffic is increasing, etc. Things like that.

 

Correct. SEO is not the end goal.  Conversions are the end goal.  So, as you are writing for the engines (and yes, Google does need help from your copy to point them in the right direction) you - more importantly - need to appeal to humans first.  SEO can drive a bunch of traffic, but so can a dozen other things.

 

3. In a related note, how is "keyword research" really much use anymore? Yes, you can get an idea of whether people are searching for something or not, but the typical way that people have taught others to do keyword research seems really antiquated at this point.

 

I don't go nearly as deep into keyword research as I used to.  I use it for direction, to help me find niches, create content, etc.

 

4. I've always looked at the overall search rankings for keywords that Google Analytics (GA) provided. Now that the "not provided" keywords are all we have, I know that you can still get the search queries data from within Google Webmaster Tools. I realize that nothing is totally accurate but this is better than nothing. Comments?

 

Can't answer that.  Jill?



#3 qwerty

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 01:19 PM

GA will still show you which keywords sent you traffic. It just won't be the keywords that sent you traffic from searches on Google. If 95% of your organic traffic is from Google, then the data you're getting on keywords driving traffic from Bing, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go, Blekko et al won't mean a lot, but IMO it's better than nothing (and happily, Google is only around 60% of my traffic).



#4 Jill

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 02:13 PM

 

To me, it seems like there is just soooo much noise, and what I'm really starting to see is that most all of the noise is worthless.

 

 

 

Bingo! Ignore it all (I do) and just keep doing what you're doing.



#5 chrishirst

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 04:39 PM

And of course, some people just never quite get it



#6 squidjam

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 08:59 AM

Thanks everyone for answering.

 

Karon and others: So can I *finally* ignore anyone who says that their site is ranked at #1 or #2 for a keyword on Google? I mean, this sort of thing has been around for SO long....people wanting to rank for a keyword, etc. or claim they do.

 

I still see people selling courses or "teaching" people online who go into Google and type in a keyword, find their site at, say, #1 or #2 or #3 and use that as evidence that whatever they're doing on their site is working because, hey...they're #2 on Google for that phrase!

 

I see people teaching internet marketing or affiliate marketing doing this ALL the time. All of them. They'll show you how they wrote an article to include phrases and links to the product they're promoting, then show you how that article they wrote is showing up great in Google. I've made comments to these people before that yes, of course their post is coming up high in results because they are on their computer, they search that phrase repeatedly (you could even see this from the google suggestions in the address bar), etc.

 

It seems to me the overall rankings that you can see in Webmaster Tools (and previously could see in Analytics) can give you a general, overall notion of where you're coming up in SERPs for various keyword phrases.

 

To me, it's all just general and approximate. You can use these numbers to get an idea of trends, etc. For instance, with my recent traffic drop (which I still haven't completely troubleshooted) I could see that in Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools that a keyword I had ranked on average at #1 I'm now ranking at about #7.

 

qwerty: You said "GA will still show you which keywords sent you traffic. It just won't be the keywords that sent you traffic from searches on Google."

 

If I understand what you're saying, GA is still showing keywords that sent traffic to the site, but they're excluding all searches done on Google. So the keywords are from searches anywhere else? Just checking.

 

Jill, I hear you! I'm realizing that most of what I've been exposed to for YEARS online is a bunch or garbage. I've been trying to sort thru it all for some time. But it IS hard to know how to prove or disprove most SEO stuff.

 

When I ignore all the experts and systems and just carry on with what I'm doing, don't think about keywords or optimizing or marketing...things seem to work out much better  :)

 

One other thing: What use is it to use an incognito window in Chrome for looking at rankings of keywords?

 

Won't this just give you a general idea as well?

 

Is one man's incognito window the same as another's? I can't imagine that I could do the same search in an incognito window as someone else, sitting in a different location, and come up with the same results.  ;)


Edited by squidjam, 02 October 2013 - 08:59 AM.


#7 copywriter

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 09:12 AM

Site pages do rank in Google.  I mean, just go to Google and type in a search phrase and there you'll see pages that all rank from #1 to whatever.

 

The deal with rankings is that they are not the same for everyone.  So, yes... a page can rank #1 in Google.  Will it show up as #1 on every computer across the country?  Probably not.  Can your do things to raise your rank... sure you can.  Happens every day.

 

Most people don't have the amount of knowledge you have and they actually DO think that everybody sees the exact same SERPs.

 

It is general and approximate.  It's a guideline. 

 

If what you are currently doing gets you qualified traffic from the search engines that converts... carry on!  :)



#8 chrishirst

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 09:14 AM

Karon and others: So can I *finally* ignore anyone who says that their site is ranked at #1 or #2 for a keyword on Google? I mean, this sort of thing has been around for SO long....people wanting to rank for a keyword, etc. or claim they do.

 

These people are still living in the days of the Google 'Dance', when everybody saw the exact same results for around three weeks out of any four, then Google updated all their datacentres and pushed a new set of results out.



#9 squidjam

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 11:20 AM

I understand what you're saying Karon. Of course I understand that pages rank. It is all about pages, not just a "site."

 

Yes, I can type a phrase into a search engine and the results are going to pages of a site.

 

If a site page ranks in the #1 position for the term I'm searching for, it might not for someone else.

 

If I do a search using an incognito window, I'll likely get different results as well.

 

My results will also vary over time, so this week, I'll see different results than next week.

 

I can improve my rankings but how would I know? Would I keep typing in the same keyword phrase to check? If I do this in an incognito window, but I'm doing this frequently, won't my results still be skewed? Besides, something will change with Google or whatnot and my ranking will be up one day/week and down the other. So I'm really not sure how I would be sure that my rankings are improving for one keyword phrase. Nevermind trying to check several. Which is why I then go back and read Jill's article here:

http://www.highranki...ing-reports-347

 

When someone starts talking about rankings, it raises a red flag for me. When I see people teaching others how to get great rankings for a page on their site, I shake my head.

 

It irritates me that there are all these marketers out there making (apparently) tons of money teaching people bogus stuff.

 

Like you said, Jill: Tune it out and carry on.  :)



#10 qwerty

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 12:34 PM

I can improve my rankings but how would I know?

 

You can look in Webmaster Tools under Search Traffic > Search Queries and see (if Google is to believed when they tell us they aren't going to take this data away) not just which keywords sent you traffic, but how often your pages appeared for those queries, how many times they were clicked, the resulting clickthrough rate, and the (sort of) average ranking at which they appeared, and you can compare those figures over time to see if an improvement in average ranking led to an improvement in clickthrough rate.

 

And yes, I was referring in my earlier post to Google Analytics showing you keywords that brought you traffic from other search engines.



#11 Jill

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 12:57 PM

 

When I ignore all the experts and systems and just carry on with what I'm doing, don't think about keywords or optimizing or marketing...things seem to work out much better

 

 

 

Congratulations. You have become SEO enlightened! :wizard:

 

:clapping:  :yahoo:  :theswim:  



#12 copywriter

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 01:12 PM

Even Webmaster Tools isn't all that accurate.  It says I rank on average at position 3.6 or the keyword "marketing."  Not!

 


When someone starts talking about rankings, it raises a red flag for me. When I see people teaching others how to get great rankings for a page on their site, I shake my head.

 

It irritates me that there are all these marketers out there making (apparently) tons of money teaching people bogus stuff.

 

It shouldn't raise a red flag for you.  It is possible to raise your rank.  Jill teaches people how to get good rankings. She has a Lynda.com course that teaches SEO. She does corporate training on the subject all the time.  I teach people how to optimize their copy so they can get better rankings.  I've got courses. I do corporate training.

 

It's the person and material that should be questioned.  Not whether people can be taught to raise their search engine rankings. 



#13 Jill

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 04:20 PM

 

 Jill teaches people how to get good rankings. 

 

 

 

 

I don't actually. I teach people how to make their websites be the best they can be for their users and the search engines. 



#14 chrishirst

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 07:38 AM

The upshot is .... Ranking for the right words or phrases IS important, .....

 

 

 

 

.... It is the CHECKING for those rankings that is useless.

 

If your URLs get referrals from Search, .... They ARE getting 'ranked' and shown to users and THAT is all you need to look at.

 

If you are not getting search referrals, then you need to improve things.

 

Chasing and checking rankings for "my most important key words" YOU are limiting your chances of gaining conversions from Search.



#15 squidjam

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 12:20 PM

 

Congratulations. You have become SEO enlightened! :wizard:

 

:clapping:  :yahoo:  :theswim:  

 

Woo hoo!  :)

 

 

You can look in Webmaster Tools under Search Traffic > Search Queries and see (if Google is to believed when they tell us they aren't going to take this data away) not just which keywords sent you traffic, but how often your pages appeared for those queries, how many times they were clicked, the resulting clickthrough rate, and the (sort of) average ranking at which they appeared, and you can compare those figures over time to see if an improvement in average ranking led to an improvement in clickthrough rate.

 

And yes, I was referring in my earlier post to Google Analytics showing you keywords that brought you traffic from other search engines.

 

I understand your first point qwerty and I have been doing that. But I also get the feeling that you need to take these numbers with a grain of salt. You can see trends, however.

 

On the other point, let me see if I have this straight:

1. If I look at Traffic Sources - Overview in GA, and look at keywords, in the number one spot, I see "not provided" accounts for 54.48% of my traffic. Is everything reported as "not provided" all searches done in Google?

 

Then in the second position, I see an actual keyword, (the next highest source of traffic) which brings 11.19% of traffic. Is this keyword from all searches other than Google?

 

2. If I then look at Traffic Sources - All Traffic, I can see the percent of traffic that came from search engines, facebook, etc. (I know that's not a question)  lol

 

 

Even Webmaster Tools isn't all that accurate.  It says I rank on average at position 3.6 or the keyword "marketing."  Not!

 

 

 

It shouldn't raise a red flag for you.  It is possible to raise your rank.  Jill teaches people how to get good rankings. She has a Lynda.com course that teaches SEO. She does corporate training on the subject all the time.  I teach people how to optimize their copy so they can get better rankings.  I've got courses. I do corporate training.

 

It's the person and material that should be questioned.  Not whether people can be taught to raise their search engine rankings. 

 

Karon, how do you tell people how to check to see if their rankings have improved? Do you have them look in Webmaster Tools and track things over time? How do they have any proof that their rankings have improved?

 

Webmaster Tools isn't that accurate but can it give an accurate general trend? Is there anything that is accurate? (No. ;) )

 

See, the thing I'm getting at with this post is that I have seen for eons people demonstrating how their tweaks to sites or how the set up a site or how they optimize their site makes their site rank better and usually those people are going over to their browser and typing in a keyword phrase and showing you how they are at #3 (or whatever). My point with this post is that that whole approach is misleading. And they're usually misleading newbies and/or people they're trying to teach internet marketing/affiliate marketing to.

 

The upshot is .... Ranking for the right words or phrases IS important, .....

 

 

 

 

.... It is the CHECKING for those rankings that is useless.

 

If your URLs get referrals from Search, .... They ARE getting 'ranked' and shown to users and THAT is all you need to look at.

 

If you are not getting search referrals, then you need to improve things.

 

Chasing and checking rankings for "my most important key words" YOU are limiting your chances of gaining conversions from Search.

 

I understand what you're saying chrishirst. If I'm seeing referrals for search my content is ranked. So that's good.

 

But what about all the "I rank #3 for this keyword" sort of claim? My point is, isn't that bogus? You could say that, on average, in Google Webmaster Tools, it reports that, on average, I rank a #3 for this keyword. But...like I've said before, I think all those numbers are just approximate. Doesn't seem like there is really anything you can point to.

 

I understand what you're saying about running ranking reports but there are still people out there doing it and selling software to people that supposes to show such ranking. And that's why I'm trying to get the real skinny on it all  ;)

 

Web development clients always toss out things like "We want to rank #1 on Google" (to which I always asked "For what? Pink widgets? Purple grapes?") or they will want to rank #1 for something specific to their business, like "florida real estate." 

 

But I think what you're saying chris is what Jill has said: concentrate on conversions, how the site is doing. Don't concentrate on rankings.

 

Where I get stuck I think is because the average person doesn't understand the whole rankings being relative, etc. thing. Hard to explain to them,

 

 

 

 

I don't actually. I teach people how to make their websites be the best they can be for their users and the search engines. 

 

Yep. I expected you to respond to that. I know that you don't teach ranking. Remember you stating that numerous times.  ;)

 

So can anyone say "I rank at X position for this keyword"? My answer would be no, because things change, searches are relative. But you can point to traffic, number of Facebook followers, Twitter, newsletter subscribers...things like that.

 

I think I getting it. I just like to feel like I know what the heck is going on  ;)  Getting there! Sometimes I think I get more than I realize.






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