Search Engine Optimisation is important, but whilst it is an essential part of the website management process, it is equally as important to make sure that you aren’t losing sleep over keyword rankings. Getting blanket top of the page coverage for non-branded keywords is a nigh on impossible task, and whilst doing everything you can to make sure you are doing as well as possible is healthy, you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on ‘top of the page every time, for everything’ results for a number of reasons:
There are a number of different factors that will go into what appears at the top of the page at any one time, and nothing to suggest that results will consistently be the same. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Google can, and will, show results based on location and user behaviour.
Firstly, your search results will be tailored to the location from which you are searching, meaning that if you search for a location generic keyword such as ‘restaurants’, or ‘coffee shops’, Google will prioritise businesses that are closer over those that are further away. Search in London, you might get one set of results, search for the same keyword in Huddersfield, you might get a completely different set.
Local SEO is a completely different kettle of fish, with its own set of rules and success metrics. Adding a location based keyword into the fray can produce an even more mixed bag of results, but again, it may not be worth driving yourself crazy over, as there are other factors at play here.
Google also knows you better than you know yourself and through the information gathered on your search engine behaviour they will work to tailor SERPs to prioritise the results it feels are most relevant to you as a user. If you are using a Google account during your search, your browser history and navigation data will be collated to change the outcome of future searches. This makes things particularly unreliable when it comes to knowing exactly how well you are ranking for specific keywords.
The only way to truly identify how you appear on SERPs in every eventuality is to investigate every single variable, and that is simply too time and energy consuming to be effective. Reinvesting that time and energy into producing regular, high-quality content is not only far more effective use of your time, but it will have a far more profound effect on your overall SEO rankings.
Whilst keyword rankings can be an unreliable measure of success, it is also important to bear in mind that spending too much time fighting your way to the top of an SERP could mean that other elements of your online presence suffer. Working on your website functionality, creating content and engaging your audience is equally as important as showing up in the first place, otherwise you will only drive users away once they get there.
Keyword rank tracking can become even more unreliable when using short phrase or single word keywords. According to a recent survey by Ahrefs, 70-80% of Google searches include 3 or more words. In the USA, only 2.8% of Google searches include only one-word keywords. This suggests that if you’re spending time tracking your business against 1-2 word queries, you may not be getting the most realistic insight into your SERP performance after all.
Invest your time in solid keyword research, using tools such as Google Analytics, on a regular basis. Find out exactly how your users are finding you, as well as where and when. This insight can be far more useful than rank tracking, and the most important thing is that you know the information is reliable, as it represents actual search data.