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Bruce Clay killed ranking reports! Or did he?

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 19 November 2008 14:51

I tell ya… this is a whacky business we are in (those in SEO at least) – Not so long ago the spectre that is the death of ranking reports raised it’s conventionally wise head – which we poo poo’d here in this space for a few reasons.

A little history…

Back in August, when last we noted this anomaly, this was born; the Evolution of SEO
Which, while acknowledging the need for geo-targeting and analytics, we put forth the theory that all is not lost (just evolved)… and even took some flak for that position.

But that wasn’t enough so some volunteers pitched in and we realized, ‘Yes Virginia, rankings DO matter’ and also outlined some take-away’s from the (limited) study. The next round of these, a more expanded research session, starts next week and we’ll see where it leads.

Who killed ranking reports?

Now, there is no way I am delusional, nor in denial. One thing I am known for is being a recovering personalized search addict and have covered it extensively as with other behavioural metrics that search engines use these days. This is about having the tightest grasp on the art of SEO as one possibly can, not about fantastical statements.

This is where the rubber really does hit the road my fine reader; the death of ranking reports is premature and over-stated. What research we have done shows that behavioural metrics (SERP interactions, query revisions) and geo-location factors are having as much of an effect on re-rankings as personalization does in many query spaces.

BUT… and it’s a HUGE one, it is not some massive flux that serves drastically different results to different users. This simply is not evident as things are far more subtle than that (download the entire Google re-ranking study).

No, this isn’t 2004 and new tactics are required and new valuations of indicators such as rankings are warranted. This is a given – but it may be premature to throw the baby out with the bath water. I advise you do some of your own research with as many people in your target demographic to establish mean average rankings for core terms and see for your self.

Before you run around spreading new myths… take a look for yourself. That’s all I ask…


The latest

Here’s Bruce Clay talking about the ‘Death of Ranking Reports
Here’s Matt not altogether agreeing by saying rankings aren't as importance as they once were

If Bruce has actually done some detailed research into SERP re-ranking and personalization; I’d love to see it. If not, then I am left with the research we’ve been doing. This shows that there are certainly re-ranking mechanisms at play, just not rampant.

He does discuss geo-location issues, which is something we’ve known for a while as he does analytics (we all know my obsession with analytics for SEO). There is much I do agree with… it’s simply this talk of rampantly diverse SERPs that negate the value of (mean) rankings. We haven’t seen this (at this point in the research).

Even the gang at SEW decided to jump on the bandwagon but this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve chastised the fine folks at SEW of late for sensationalism.

What should U do?

I would be sure to try and isolate local servers/data centers to where your SEO efforts are aimed. Even go to the extent of having some locals search some terms for you. Either way, seek out a mean average and think more in terms of ‘above the fold’ for mean averages.

Ranking analysis still holds an obvious role in the SEO process, it’s simply not as obvious and likely less of a metric than in the past – on life support – not dead.





0 # TheMadHat 2008-11-19 16:44
Trending trending and more trending. High level views are more important in rankings, but they certainly still matter.
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0 # Dave 2008-11-19 20:19
Hey Aaron...whaddup brother hat?

I am all about the analytics, conversions... the deeper personalization implications, but I just smelled a little FUD in the waters...

At least we started isolating some parameters and researching. How else to we know anything?

As a patent hound I was early in talking about effects relating to behavioral metrics, but testing to date shows it's less of a Titanic and more of the SS Minnow to date...

If BC, SEW have research data.. I'd be thriled to do some analysis and share what we're working on. Yes, personalization offers re-ranking challenges as would future social searching implementations .. but for now, there is still a place for mean ranking values in a given targeted geo location.

See? Still on about it.... sigh...
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0 # Feydakin 2008-11-20 07:44
I think it's funny how much press this is getting this time around.. I seem to remember writing a guest post for you 6 months or so ago discussing how conversion rates are one of the most important metrics you can track.. Yet it got little attention back then..

Maybe I should have said ranking is dead..
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0 # Dave 2008-11-20 08:02
Well that's cause we're 'infamous' he he...

I am always leary of giving too much stock in conversion rates as a heavy KPI for SEO... unless one has the power to affect change (but that's beyond the scope of SEO)

Now, comparing search traffic conversion rates with those of other traffic sources.. can yeild some data. But if over-all conversions are low, as is search traffic conversions... there may be problems OTHER than the quality of the traffic a campaign is bringing in...

And yes, you should have gone big and called 'something' dead as it's a great version of push marketing... he he... or is that FUD? I get confused ;0)
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0 # Jun 2008-11-21 00:09
Any update on your Guide to PS? T'was a very good read, but 10 months old already. maybe time for more rant from the Gypsy? B)
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+1 # Dave 2008-11-21 07:41
Well, I did do more posts on PS and even a research paper... guess it's time to update it huh? Sigh.... making me work bro... totally wrong.... he he
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+1 # David 2008-11-21 20:36
My clients still request weekly/monthly reports on their rankings, and prospective clients still want to know where they are current ranked and how they improve their rank. I still run ranking queries on my own business and check this against spikes in my analytics data.

Until this changes, i think ranking still matters to many clients.

The best thing i love is when your ranking report doesn't account for personalised search and they see better results locally because of personalised search. I report that they are ranked by the uninfluenced version of #5, but they are happy because on their search they see that they are #1.
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0 # Jun 2008-11-23 22:28
With the arrival of the SearchWiki, an update of the PS research paper is inevitable... so work work work :evil: then me will read read read and learn learn learn B)
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