How NOT to Measure your Web Presence

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On April - 22 - 2013

I originally posted this Blog article on a couple of months ago. I was just talking with a client and the subject came up again. I think this one is worth posting again: 

With Google changing their algorithms like the rest of us change our underwear, what were once sound SEO techniques are now little more than a pipe dream for those of us in the industry. That includes YOUR in-house Digital Marketing team.

Traditionally it was all about page rank. Still a good indicator of your popularity and certainly an influence on your website traffic, it’s not in itself a goal with much significance any longer. Why? Because search engine ranking reports show only one view of the world. The reality is everyone sees something different for the same search. The two big offenders are:

Wild card #1: Personalized Search:

Suppose that you are an outdoorsman and frequent sites like Field & Stream and Now let’s suppose that I am a musician and often visit music sites like and

Now let’s suppose that we each search for the word “bass”. Is that the guitar or the fish? Well Google is going to show you (the sportsman) websites like and However Google is most likely going to show me (the musician) websites like and

Google knows your search history and wants to show you what they THINK you are looking for. So where does that leave your search ranking reports when different people may see different results regardless of where your report tells you that you rank?

Wild card #2: Local Search:

Just like the search engines try to outguess what we are looking for by our search history, they also assume that we are more interested in businesses that are local to our individual locations. Since they know where we are by the IP address of the Internet connection we are using, the search results are skewed to the location of the searcher, not the location of where the report is being generated from.

So, if I (the alleged musician) am searching for “guitar center” from my San Clemente CA location, I will see all the local stores around me. If you searched on the same thing from your (fill in the blank) location, you will see a completely different set of locations.

Google search results


So where does that leave your ranking reports?


Now that I’ve bashed page ranking reports, it’s time to confess that they are still an important part of our improvement strategy. They just shouldn’t be the goal any longer. As a Web Presence Optimization firm those reports are just for reverence. They are one of several different tools that should be used to measure performance.

What I believe is a more important measurement are the actual keywords that are actually driving traffic to your site. Search engines have become smart enough to rank good quality websites for keywords that aren’t even mentioned on the website because they understand what the website is all about. They understand the “Theme” of the website based on other related phrases that are used on individual pages and throughout the site.

Web presence optimization techniques are now more about organizing groups of related keywords into themes. If done properly, various combinations and synonyms of those phrases are going to start driving traffic. 

The example below shows that over a 30-day period we drove 3,142 visits to the website from 2,035 different keywords. I can tell you that we are NOT optimizing 2,035 different keywords. We are optimizing this private investigative website across specific themes like “cheating spouses” and “private detective”.

The end result? The website is drawing traffic for phrases such as: “signs your husband is cheating” “signs your wife is cheating” “signs your partner is cheating” etc.

So what’s more of an indicator of success; the fact that this website is currently ranking number 1 for “full service investigation” on Google, or the fact that they got many hundreds of actual targeted visitors with questionable marriages?

Advice for Business Owners: Your SEO team (In-House or a professional firm) should be using a variety of different criterion to measure success. The best indicator? If your phone isn’t ringing, something (or someone) is not working.

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