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Is Ranking a Reliable Reporting Metric?

SEO ranking is an aspect of SEO reporting that professionals find difficult to explain to their clients. A common question that an
affordable SEO company gets to hear is “Why isn’t your reported ranking matching with what I see online?” This happens because there are several factors that influence SEO.

Top position is something that has long been the metric and goal around which SEO reports are based on. But now it’s time to reconsider their roles, pondering on how much important ranking actually is and whether they are actually a feasible Key Performance Indicator (KPI).

Ranking and its Role

Just like we must not focus on any one SEO metric to gauge the success or failure of a search engine optimizing campaign, similarly ranking, undoubtedly, can be a feasible KPI only if it is presented as a part of comprehensive analysis of multiple key metrics with reports and data. With rankings, you can get more information than what you see immediately.

The main goal of ranking is to influence traffic. The higher the rank, the higher is the traffic. However, this is not a sure-shot success formula for an affordable SEO company as there are certain factors that influence this too, like the unique search volume that each keyword brings in and the roll-out of Google’s knowledge graph.

Rating go much beyond this correlation in the sense that it increases the rate of conversion by suggesting that Google is more assured about websites that rank higher. For example, if you want to buy something online, it is likely for you to buy it from a site that appears in the first page of Google’s SERPs than that which appears in a much later page, even if the latter offers it at a much lower price. This is because you feel that a site that has a better rank is more trustworthy than the one that ranks lower.

Measuring ranking as an absolute scale is a difficult job as it is influenced by several factors like browsing history, location, whether the user is logged in or not etc. In order to understand how to use ranking as KPI, we need to look at how rankings differ from one user to another.

Location influences ranking

If a user searches Palo Alto in California, the search engine will possibly show results near his location rather than in Las Vegas on
the basis of his IP address.

Personalized search influences ranking

A user’s social network can influence search results. While Bing lets its users know if others in their social network have visited a recommended page, Google alerts its users when they are connected to someone through Google+ that is linked to a certain website or a piece of content. Google says that the personalized pages can be viewed only by particular people.

Search queries influence rankings

Webmaster tools and Google Analytics take into account the keywords used by users in a search query. Search strings that are very specific often display sites differently in search results. SEO companies have to make generalizations about rankings of often used keyword phrases as not every search query is made known to the public.

As users get smarter with searching, specific searches will produce finer results. Two users may be searching for the same keyword but the ranking of the site can differ between them.

So, can a SEO company report its clients depending on ranking?

Well yes but only when an affordable SEO company presents it along with other metrics like bounce rate, organic search traffic, CTR, revenue from organic search etc.

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