The goal of a website is to help humans use your site to take an action. The website may inform people where your business is and how to contact you, it may have a goal to create leads via registration, it may actually sell a product on the internet, or have another goal completely. The website should be built around creating a desired result for whatever the goal is. Rankings are not a result and should never be your goal. Because rankings are personalized, it is impossible to know what your baseline is, and even if you could know whether you had #1 rankings for all your favorite keywords, high rankings don’t translate into visits. Rankings are meaningless in 2013 and should not be considered a metric, much less a KPI.
Ranking is not a KPI
If you are working on marketing or optimizing a website and you become obsessed with the results of your tactics and start believing that your tactics are your KPIs, then you are doing it wrong. Consider this a gentle intervention for rank checkers (I know how it is, I used to be a rank checker myself). SEO/SEM applies digital tactics to the website, that website should be part of a much larger content marketing strategy, which is in itself a smaller part of the overall marketing effort of a company. The goal of marketing yourself or your business with a website is not #1 rankings, so the goal of SEO should not be to get #1 rankings, or even to get massive traffic from Google — the goal of SEO is to support the wider marketing goals of your personal brand or business.
Google gives you the #1 results you asked for
Keep in mind when you are tempted to report #1 rankings as a success metric (and it is so tempting because it looks so good in a powerpoint) that Google is probably serving you your favorite web page as #1 because you keep searching for it and keep clicking on it. But if you present this to your exec and he or she has not been obsessively searching and clicking on that same keyword and URL, you may have some explaining to do when the executive does not get that great looking #1 result.
Ranking does not exist
Manual Rank checking does not exist anymore as anything more than a way to spot check what Google is serving you in your personalized results. Your results have been personalized for years, as I noted in this 2011 post Manual Rank Checking in the era of Google Personalization. This has not changed.
Jill Whalen explains very clearly and much more in depth Why Running Ranking Reports Is a Fool’s Errand. Even if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, scan through the bolded text. All this is true.
Auto rank checking violates Google’s TOS
And automated rank checking is also useless and is a violation of Google’s TOS and can get your IP blocked. This has been the case for many years — I know this because I dabbled in automated rank checking tools in my early wild years of SEO and Google blocked my IP. But I made a recovery and vowed never to rank-check again. And as Jill Whalen reveals in her post, Google may even be looking into penalizing the web sites of companies who do automated testing. So not just your IP, but your actual web site could get dinged if you are autorank checking.
But even if you could get a true ranking report for your site and know to the minute what your rank in the SERPs are for all keywords for your URLs, what does it get you? Nothing. Rankings do not equal visits and even visits do not always equal success. Before you rank check again, stop and think about the goals of the business and then step away from the Google.