- “Reputable SEO Firms Don’t Promise Guaranteed Search Engine Rankings” says SEOmoz.
- “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google” gloats Google.
- “There are no guarantees in SEO except change… and maybe Danny Sullivan.” SEOrefugee states.
But I laugh in the faces of all of them! I see my clients in the number one positions every day! Yup, I – am – the – master! Wait, what? You don’t have that on your screen? Those are personalized results? Oh…crap.
With the ever more frequent localized results and personalization in Google, it turns out that keyword rankings aren’t as easy to measure as they once were. What I see on my screen may not be what someone else sees on theirs. The days of judging the success of your SEO campaign simply by the amount of #1 rankings you have are long gone.
What types of things are we seeing in the search results?
Type in ‘Thai restaurant’ and tell me what you get. I bet it doesn’t look like this:
These results are customized for the Boston area (Note: ‘Customized for Boston Metro’) and while they aren’t perfect (Scottsdale, AZ?) they certainly are not what someone in Florida is seeing.
SERPs Based on Recent Searches
Let’s say I am looking for stationery but I am not sure what kind I want. I search for ‘stationery’:
I click on a few links, do another search, this time for ‘fine art stationery’. Still don’t find what I want so I search ‘Stationery’ again. I have new results:
While they aren’t drastically different imagine what they may look like over 5-10 searches (Note: ‘Customized based on recent search activity’).
Personalized Results (Logged In)
If you are logged into Google (be it for Adwords, Blogger, Gmail, anything), they are tracking what you search and where you go. After logging in, I try another search for ‘stationery’:
Well, I decide I don’t really care for the top two sites so I delete them from my results, I also really like American Stationery and Confetti Stationery so I move them up. Another search for ‘stationery’:
Well now these results are not much like my first search at all! But hey, my favorite result is now the #1 result (see, I told you we could guarantee them).
What does this mean?
There has been talk for quite a while now that rankings reports are dead. Whether or not you believe this, the bottom line is that while a #1 ranking is still a great thing to have, it certainly can not be what you measure your SEO success on. It also means that how users view your site is becoming much more important (more to come on that).