Your Search Engine Rankings Don't Matter (& The Metrics That Do!)


It would be a lie to say I don't get excited when one of my client sites starts ranking on the first few pages for a major keyword. It feels like months of hard work is finally paying off, and that's awesome! But after a celebratory high-five with the next person I see in the hallway, it's time to settle down and get back to an unfriendly SEO reality: search engine rankings don't actually matter.

If you're looking at your website's success in terms of where you think your link is placing on the search engine results page, it's time to switch your perspective. Here's why:

1. Search Engine Results Are Personalized

Do you feel like Google has been stalking your internet activity? That's not paranoia. Not only is Google paying attention to what you and your friends are doing online, it's gathering that data and using it to decide what information to display to you.

That means search engine results are "personalized" for each user, and that makes results inconsistent. You can search the exact same term as the neighbour who steals your Wi-Fi and there's potential that you'll both come up with entirely different results. Basically, Google is trying to give you the best possible results based on your own web browsing history and social connections. It's this personalization that makes ranking perception inaccurate and a therefore unreliable metric to base success on.

But that's not all...

2. Ranking Doesn't Equal Leads & Vice-Versa

I'm going to propose two entirely different scenarios and let you choose which one you prefer, as a Sarasota real estate agent:

  • Your site ranks #3 for "Sarasota real estate" and you receive 400 new visits a day
  • Your site is nowhere to be seen with a search for "Sarasota real estate" and you receive 2400 new visits a day

We're not just talking theoretical scenarios here—this actually happens. Just recently, one of my fellow REW writers was working with Client A, who compared their site's ranking success to Client B's because B's was higher on the results page. The writer repeatedly tried to reassure Client A that everything was going well, but Client A kept insisting the writer find a way to outrank Client B. We always respect our clients privacy and that means the writer couldn't share a game-changing secret: Client A's site was getting significantly more leads. (Client B does not have an SEO project with us...!)

So, let's reflect. At the end of the day, do you want to see your site at the top of the results page or do you want to receive high quality leads you can convert? Our SEO team focuses on traffic and leads as metrics for success because they reflect the end goal of attracting new clients who can make you money. That's what matters.

The next time someone tries to impress you with their search engine rankings, ask them to show you their traffic and leads data instead!


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Great post, and it should be sent to all SEO clients. I know many readers might wonder how the site with "poorer rankings" is possibly getting more traffic. Perhaps a post about long tail SEO next? ;)


Thanks, Gerry! Great idea about a long tail SEO post. I'll see about tackling that next, when I have more time for blogging. :D


Thanks for the info Melissa. Being new to this its a good reminder to keep looking at it all indifferent ways. Our main rankings have been improving, but we do often get leads from some of our niche markets and neighborhoods. We spent a lot of time on individual neighbhorhoods and developments in our overall community. Which I think is what the long tail seo is? For example "condoname" condos for sale in "mls area", rather than "majorcityname" condos for sale. A lot of work to set it up, but seems to be found when people are looking for specific places.


Hi Sean,

That's correct! Long tail keywords are basically the longer keyword terms that tend to have fewer searches and therefore less competition. That means that people who do search those terms are more likely to trip across your site.

Community pages are the most common place we see long tail keywords on real estate websites, but there are lots of other examples too. Blog posts tend to do particularly well with long tail keywords, and so do informative content pages like relocation guides, or area promo pages like "Why live in Calgary" or "Top Attractions in Asheville, NC".

Invest My Way

Does this mean that the user needs to be signed in to a google account to affect their results though? In reality, what percentage of users will this relate to? Maybe 10%?



Not at all! Google uses the Google account if you're signed in and it uses cookies if you're not. Anyone using Google, period, is going to view personalized results by default. Users can turn this setting off but most people aren't going to.

You can read more about it here:

Anita Johnson

We may not be the top dog in our area but we have a lot of exposure off site and online which brings us traffic. The goal is conversion, not necessarily ranking although one can mean the other. Great post

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