Why do some SEOs spend so much time checking and worrying about global rankings? I read and hear constantly from different SEOs where their current pet terms are ranking, their badges of honor if you will. We go through insane efforts to depersonalize search results to check rankings and SERP displays. But why?
Here’s a bold statement: Our job is not to watch rankings! Our job is to build businesses by ethical and organic means!
So why do we care?
Unfortunately clients (or bosses for the in-house folk) will often ask for keyword rankings as a main KPI (key performance indicator) to justify the expense of our work.
This is a failure on our part. Part of our job should be to educate clients and bosses what the ultimate goal of our work is: to build businesses.
Here is what SEO/inbound marketing talk usually translates to in the vast majority of the articles I see shared online:
But what about all of this? (this is Rand’s slide that I think is phenomenal):
These are what we need to be moving our clients and/or bosses towards!
So what do we do? What if our boss and/or client wants global rankings to be reported on? Let’s explore a few tools you can use, and then some strategies for educating clients and bosses.
A few tools
Some very good tools exist that you can use to get rankings at the beginning of a project:
Checking rankings and creating benchmarks is absolutely necessary at the beginning of a project. After this, though, we need a different approach.
Tools for weekly tracking
Now we turn to the easy part. We get to automate and forget about rankings until our next report.
A few tools exist that do this well. They include:
- SEOmoz’s campaigns (available through a Pro account for $99/month);
- Advanced Web Rankings (costs anywhere from $99 for a web-hosted solution to $599 for a self-hosted web version); and
- Authority Labs ($24/month-$450/month)
Take your pick, but I use the SEOmoz Pro campaigns because you also get access to all the Pro tools, including integration with Analytics.
SEOmoz will also email you a weekly report with rankings changes across the search engines that you specify. You will also see the traffic that the keyword drove to your site.
This is all you need for rankings reports, I think. I have heard of some people using Google Docs Excel sheets to automatically check ranks and email you with key changes. This would work well if you need it, but I bet most of us don’t need this sophistication.
Changing Minds, Affecting Change
Now that we’ve got a working method for automatically tracking rankings, let’s look at changing expectations.
How do we change built-in ideas of what should be reported to bosses and/or clients? Approaches might differ a bit, but some similarities exist.
1) Show the metrics that you know matter. What metrics are these? The metrics I like to report on include overall traffic and referring sites. If an ecommerce or lead generation site, report on transaction amounts and/or leads. Sometimes I will report rankings+traffic+conversion rates for stellar keywords. In short, reports for different types of sites require different reports.
2) Use data to prove your point. Say your boss has some pet keywords that he/she wants to rank for. You get the rankings high (say, 3). They think that by getting the word to #1, you are going to triple website traffic and thus are going to drive a lot more business. You know this is not true. So why not show them some CTR studies + traffic volume (from the Adwords Keyword Tool) and show them exactly what will happen? Then you can explain competitiveness of the keyword (using SEOmoz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool) and ask them (nicely) if they think it would be a good use of your time to focus on this keyword.
3) Use Analytics to show the amount of time on site for visitors and the number of pages they visited, if this is a KPI. You can also now track +1 social engagement through Analytics, and services such as Topsy can show tweets. Or you can use Google Docs and the Moz API to gather this info.
A few book resources about influencing change
Good articles and books to read include