The debate continues on SEM forums and blogs over whether ranking reports serve a useful purpose in SEO or not. Ian McAnerin has a great post in his McAnerin Muse blog in defense (or defence, if you’re Canadian like Ian) of ranking reports. He rightly points out that “rankings don’t matter – it’s visitors and sales. How very convenient. It sounds great. Very forward-thinking and modern. Except it’s wrong. Why? Because there is no context.”
My sentiments exactly. I absolutely agree, as I’ve said before, that rankings in and of themselves are unimportant. What good is a top ranking if you’re not getting any visitors or conversions from it? And what good is ranking well for a super-long-tail term that no one is searching for?
However, if you’re doing SEO for a client, the hope is that you’ve done your research and identified key high-volume terms for which your client is not currently ranking well and is not getting conversions on that term. Logically, you’ll focus SEO efforts on increasing rankings for those terms, with the goal of getting converting traffic.
With skill, and a bit of luck, you succeed – and your client will start getting traffic and conversions. Now, you need to demonstrate that hey, I did my job – you went from ranking #51 to ranking #3 – and look at all the sales you’ve gotten as a result! But how do you prove that the rankings increased?
You either check every phrase manually (the thought of which gives me a stomachache), or you use a rank checker. And, as Ian points out, “The next step is to blend your rankings and other external data with your analytics.” This is exactly what we’re doing at our agency – using ranking reports in combination with visitor and conversion data to demonstrate the full effect of a successful SEO effort. Without this context, you can’t prove that the improvement is due to SEO. And if a client is paying you to do SEO, you’d better be proving to them that they’re getting their money’s worth.
So what are the options in the absence of Web Position et al? Are you manually checking rankings? Have you found another tool that works? Comment and let me know!