by Joy Hawkins
When I came up with the first template for our monthly SEO reports for Sterling Sky, I made a very firm decision that I didn’t want to have rank tracking as a part of them. We use 4 different rank trackers here internally (BrightLocal, Places Scout, Whitespark, Local Falcon) and I find them immensely helpful for helping diagnose issues. However, I have a very strong opinion that ranking reports should not be something that is used when reporting monthly to clients. Recently, one of our clients asked why and I thought this would make a great article topic.
“I’m a bit confused on the fact that none of your other clients are looking for increase in ranking and maybe I’m missing something important here…for organic traffic, is there anything in search other than rank that increases leads? […] I guess it’s just the only metric that I know of to try to stack ourselves up against our competitors”.
So why don’t we send clients monthly ranking reports? Here is the answer that I sent Brent.
First is because rank tracking isn’t accurate. Google’s search results are highly personalized based on the location of the user and their previous browsing history. For example, you have probably visited your competitor’s sites quite frequently and therefore you’re going to see them higher in the search results compared to someone who hasn’t visited them recently. Your location also a huge impact on what you see. I picked just 4 different points from this grid to highlight this for “bear river insurance”. You’ll see that not only are the results different, but the pages on your 2 sites that rank for that query also aren’t even the same.
Second, we couldn’t possibly track all the keywords that bring in traffic. In the last 12 months, Google tracked clicks from 169 different keywords on one site and 163 keywords on the other. Imagine how hard it would be to track all those from dozens of different locations. Like you, we do keep a close tab on the ones that are searched highest, but they are definitely not the way to measure everything we’re working on. One of our strategies is to continue to get you ranked for different keywords that you don’t already rank for. “Bear River Insurance” accounted for 0.4% of your clicks on the one site in the last 12 months and 9% on the other.
Third, we don’t strictly spend time on things that increase ranking. For example, we have been doing various experiments to see how we can increase click-through-rate for search results you already rank for. Things like schema or Google Posts don’t impact your ranking but can increase the amount of traffic you get from Google. Also, the time we spend managing your Google Ads & Bing Ads account have no impact on your ranking either.
There are a ton of moving pieces here so our goal is to do the strategies we see producing results and report back on how that is impacting your lead volume over time.
In summary, I think every Local SEO agency should have rank trackers and I actually advocate for having multiple. However, I don’t think they should be a KPI or the main thing you are looking at when measuring success and reporting back on the work you do. What should you measure? Leads. Here is a snapshot of how we break it down on reports: