Written By: Adam Dince
Organic Search Rankings Not Important?
For a few years now, many in the search marketing community have de-emphasized the importance of SEO rankings reports. Many of these folks predicted the end of visibility reporting was near and that in the future, rankings wouldn’t matter because the proof of a successful SEO engagement is in the performance data.
While I’ve agreed that on-site performance is ultimately the bottom-line, I completely disagreed with the notion that rankings reports weren’t important to show clients. Visibility reporting goes way beyond clicks and conversions. Being visible in organic search results leads to many things such as increased brand awareness and brand reach.
And ultimately, if you’re not ranking, you’re not going to get the clicks and conversions needed to show an improved bottom-line.
Furthermore, in order to succeed in organic search results, you must understand who your competitors are and how they affect the relevant keyword landscape. Keyword rankings and competitive keyword rankings reports are the best way to narrow in on who your true competition is.
So, my POV is that SEO keyword rankings reports are extremely important now and will be in the future.
Google Starts To Limit Organic Search Performance Data
On October 18th, 2011—Google announced that it would be encrypting query data coming from users either signed in to Google or searching from the secured (SSL) version of Google. To get more insight on this change, please read my article “Encryptiongate – Google Strikes Again!”.
Ultimately, what this means is that Google is moving towards a future state where organic search performance data will be strictly limited and this will have serious implications to how organic search success is reported to clients.
Because performance data for organic search may be significantly impacted in the future, it’s important to start being proactive and thinking of ways to justify the value of SEO.
Visibility Reporting Will Be Key To Showing Results
With the future of organic search referral data in question, one way for SEOs to show the impact of an SEO engagement will be to map keyword rankings to overall organic search aggregate performance.
Being able to tie improvements in rankings to SEO implementation, while then measuring lift in organic search visits, page views, conversions, conversion rates, etc… will be integral to proving the efficacy of an SEO campaign.
But Doesn’t Personalized Search Results Affect The Validity of Rankings Reports?
Google’s personalized search results do minimally affect each user’s search experience. However, I don’t believe that the impact of personalized search is enough to make rankings reports unreliable. As a best practice, I do recommend including a footnote in your rankings reports that states search results may appear different to users with personalized search enabled.
Side note: My next blog post will be on how to influence personalized search, so sign up for my RSS feed if you’d like to get it delivered to your news reader Adam Dince’s RSS Feed.
How To Remove Your Personalized Search Influence from SEO Rankings Reports
A solid way to ensure that your personalized search results do not interfere with your rankings reports is to have your rank checker tool on a computer that has no Google toolbar installed and ensure that the Web history has been disabled within the browser.
SEO rankings reports are important now and will be even more important in the future. It may be smart to start thinking about the future and direction of reporting and begin to acclimate clients now. Google has a tendency to change things without warning, and often it leaves us strategists in a reactive mode. If we can get ahead of the curve and be prepared for what’s to come, we’ll not only gain the confidence of our clients—but also ourselves.