By Interactive Strategies
Jan 26, 2012

Are ranking reports no longer as useful as we once thought?

Remember the good old days? When simple ranking software could be used to see an accurate representation of a site’s positioning for any given keyword?  We relied on these reports to tell us with certainty whether a site ranked or not (or not as well as it could) for high-priority focus areas.

But now, with the help of Google’s personalized search and the recent incorporation of Google Plus in the search engine results page (SERP), what I may see in the Google search results for a search query will differ from what you see.

Although handy for users, personalized search is effectively a game changer for search engine optimization processes. Without the confidence brought by position reporting, we’re left evaluating organic traffic as a whole (with something  like Google Analytics) to monitor increases/decreases in referrals, which will tell us in a round-about way how well our site is positioned  in Google.

There have always been many pieces to the algorithm mystery that is Google search engine rankings, and personalized search adds yet another dimension to it that we must learn how to accommodate. So far we do know the following:

  • Google’s personalized search customizes your search results based on past search activity over the last 180 days through a cookie in your browser.
  • Local search results will differ based on the location you have set.
  • “Search Plus” will pull in results and suggestions from Google Plus. (Better make sure your company has a Google Plus profile.)
  • Google will show you sites shared or +1 by your Google Plus connections.
  • Of course if you scour the Internet you’ll find tips and tricks for getting around personalized search results... But, how can you be sure your audience is doing the same?

As marketers we must learn how to adapt to the ever-changing world of SEO, while finding a place for our tried-and-true-methods. I recently read an article that gives a strong argument as to why positioning reports are “dead,” and while I’m seeing the decrease in their value as I find new ways to understand a site’s positioning, I still find them somewhat useful. They may not depict the most accurate ongoing data, but when you are trying to get a better understanding of a client’s starting point (their rankings prior to optimizing the site) I think they get the job done (for now). 

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