I’ve never been a proponent of manual rank checking (I’ve also called this “canned ranking checks”) as a reliable KPI for Search Marketing success, but with the “upgrades” to Google results in the form of personalization, my recommendation is that all manual rank checking be discontinued.
As Conrad Saam noted in SearchEngineLand last month in Excuse Me While I Have A Ranking Report Rant , ranking reports “convey progress while hiding failure. They distract from business goals and promote the misallocation of resources.” Personalization is one of the major factors as to why ranking reports are essentially a waste of time.
At SEMPDX’s SearchFest 2011 last week, Chris Sherman stated that personalization of results in Google is now the default. There is no way to completely turn off personalization and 60% of the results in SERPs are based on your secret Google “profile” based on your location, your search history, etc. You can’t get a “clean” ranking report anymore, so I recommend retiring this KPI.
Not showing up in SERPs is always a concern, but unless you can exactly recreate the experience of your potential audience in your own search results, your real and actionable data is in referrals to your site from Google. This is basic SEO, the goal of Search marketing is not #1 results in the SERPs; the goal is driving traffic from search engines to your site and gaining an audience of users with optimized content relevant to their searches.