Why rank is ridiculous and visibility is vital.

rank is ridiculousThis may go against perceived wisdom but it really is true that rank is ridiculous and visibility is vital. The two are not the same although if your website is highly visible it will likely rank well too.

So why am I saying that rank is ridiculous? Because search is personalised. ┬áThat’s not all though. The web is the largest data archive in the world and growing at an exponential rate with over a billion websites, some of which will have one page and others will have a thousand. Can you imagine how many web pages that makes? If you want to watch in real time as websites come on line then you can. It’s quite mesmerising.

It’s also one of the reasons that rank as a measure of SEO success is ridiculous in this day and age. The most important reason though is that search is highly personalised now. Search engines know where you are in the world and know that if you search for a restaurant or repair shop, you probably want it close to where you live.

Search is Local

As mobile searches have now overtaken desktop searches, search engines know within meters of where you are and so can judge which local businesses are closest to you. Locality used to be measured (by Google) by how close a business was to the geographic centre of an area. With the explosion of smartphones and mobile tech like tablets and game consoles, that’s changed. Now, locality is measured by how close a business is to the physical position of the person searching.

Search Is Personalised

That’s not the only way search is personalised though. Your search history will affect what sites you get shown in search results. As will what you do on those sites, keep ignoring a site and it will show less and less. Interact with a site and you might see it more often. What about your friends? do they have an effect on your search results? Well, think about how much information Google has, does it seem likely that it would ignore something like that? After all, if your friends have similar interests, then it’s possible you’d like sites that they like, isn’t it?

You also have to think about how people now search for things, they may not go to the search engine, they may search on a site like Yelp or Facebook. If you’re not visible on those sites, it doesn’t really matter if you’re on page one of Google. If people aren’t searching via a search engine, you need to be visible where they are searching.

Even Google itself doesn’t give a fixed rank in Search Console it gives an average rank based on where you appeared in the results at different times.

Too many times when I speak to potential clients, they ask me to guarantee page one rank, not only page one but number one on page one. Now, whilst I completely understand why they would want that, I have to explain that no one, and I do mean no one, can guarantee that.

Just think about it for one moment, how many pages are there? How many of them compete directly with you? If you sell products, Amazon is one of your biggest competitors along with Ebay. They have the authority to rank top of page one for almost anything. So how can you, as a small local business compete with the likes of Amazon and Ebay? By being very visible on all the sites that people use to find products and services. People will shout out on social media, asking for recommendations. They’ll go to question and answer sites like Quora or yahoo Answers. If you’re there, they will find you.

Visibility Not Rank

A final word on keyword ranking. Vanity keywords, those that are the premium ‘seed’ keywords for an entire industry. If you’re a book shop, you may want to rank for ‘books’ but it’s such a competitive word that it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. Not only that, it’s a waste of your marketing efforts and budget. Because most of them won’t be viable as customers. Unless you sell rare and difficult to find books, you’re not going to compete with Amazon or Google Books. In fact I just did a search for books and got;

About 2,620,000,000 results (0.55 seconds)

Google Books ranked first, followed by Amazon and WH Smith (a British based book and news chain). So a local book shop stands no chance. This goes for almost any industry. then think about this, only around 30% of all searches are for these types of common keywords, the rest are what we call long tailed keywords. As an example “Best bookshop in Llandrindod Wells” would probably get a bookshop ranked.

I actually know there’s a bookshop there and so did the search, sure enough it came up, in fact it was the only result with their Facebook page coming up top and their maps page prominent. So visibility not rank is what you need because that visibility will help you rank!