The Dramatic Evolution of Keyword Tracking

The world of rankings has been changing drastically.  In the recent past, the vast majority of keyword rankings/SERPs were identical for everyone who did the same search, regardless of who did the search, where they were located, what device or account they used, or any other factor.  Over the past several years this obviously has changed, but in 2012 the changes became even more dramatic.  In fact, the old methodology of keyword tracking has become  much more challenging than ever to definitively determine how well your brand ranks for any given search especially when using your own individual search history as the guide.  However, rankings are still useful information, and can still be influenced successfully.

First, it’s important to consider why users’ search results and keyword rankings are becoming so much more varied.  Some influential factors include:

  • User Location:  Search engines now often order ranking results based on a determination of relevance that stems from the physical location of the user.
  • User Device:  Results also generally differ depending on whether searches originate on desktops/laptops, tablets, or mobile phones.
  • Personalization Efforts:  Search engines can factor in data on users’ behavior and search history to skew results in another effort at providing more relevant SERPs.
  • Increased Rate of SERP Changes:  In general, there is an increased rate of changes in keyword rankings across the board, over periods as short as 24 hours.

It is still possible, and useful, to get an overview of the results that searches generate without any of the above factors included.  These “unbiased” rankings can provide a solid idea of what many users will see and can help answer the following strategic questions:

  • Are SEO efforts having an overall positive, neutral, or negative effect on rankings?
  • What is the influence of SEO efforts on a specific search page?
  • What could be causing a gain or loss in traffic?
  • How are rankings and traffic linked; are higher rankings leading to higher traffic?
  • What are the results for keywords not typically affected by geographic or other personalization biases?

Though it is important to understand that rankings are not a perfect tool, with thoughtful consideration and analysis, they still can play an essential role in informing SEO strategy.

To learn more about how we are navigating the ever-evolving SERP landscape to advance our clients’ goals, please contact us.