How Can I Get My Client to Stop Obsessing About Keyword Rankings?

We’ve all heard the old saying “The customer is always right.” Much of the service industry is preoccupied with keeping clients happy and giving them what they want. But in complex technology-based services, we know all too well that sometimes the client’s expectations are not in line with their own best interests. That is especially the case when it comes to SEO. It’s our job to educate our clients so that we can do what’s best for them.

For example, it’s only natural that clients are still obsessed over search rankings. For years, search results were the same regardless of your geo-location, your past search history or your social media preferences. It was also true that searches were less “unique,” and also shorter, meaning that it was much more likely that ranking for short-ish, core industry terms would equate to increased revenue. We in the industry know that although SEO is as important as it ever was, rankings aren’t as important as they once were.

Here are some issues to bring up to your clients to get them to stop focusing on search rankings.

Personalization and Localization

Google has taken great strides to move toward personalized search engine results. This is particularly true when users log into any Google services such as Google+, Gmail, Google Docs or Google Calendar.

On January 10, Google announced it’s biggest push yet toward personalized search, called “Search Plus for Your World.” These changes will not only increase the level of personalization in organic search, but also rank Google+ pages higher in SERPs. It’s important to make your client aware that the days of standardized SERPs are over.

To illustrate this point I had my coworker, in the next room search Google for “Evidence Based Marketing”—our marketing blog. Here is what her SERPs looked like:

Evidence BAsed Marketing Search

Compare this to my search results when signed into Google+:

Not only do the search queries display DemandResults CEO Howard Brown’s Google+ activity, but the search results are actually different. The fourth result is different, showing our infographic instead of a marketing article.

Google+ personalizes search to the extent that I have different SERPs as a coworker sitting 30 feet away. Factor location into the equation and there are even more permutations. The first result in my search for the root term “jobs” is the classified section of my local newspaper, The Los Angeles Times.

Local Search Results

Compliance Issues

Another reason that your clients should not obsess over keyword rankings is that too much manipulation can cause a major risk. Sure there are black hat SEO firms who promise 1,000 links. Google is constantly updating their algorithms to punish businesses using black hat SEO tactics.

In 2011, a number of large companies were publicly busted by Google for trying to manipulate their search rankings to achieve front-page organic status. Not only were these companies publicly disgraced, but they lost millions of dollars in revenue. Among the companies busted were JC Penny, Forbes and

Make sure your clients are aware that organic rankings need to increase organically. SEO is a long-term process that can, over time, generate revenue for your clients. But if clients are too focused on achieving a high rankings too quickly, they might find themselves chided by Google.

Changing User Behaviors

As we mentioned, searches are getting more unique. In fact, 20-25% of the search queries that Google sees each day haven’t been searched before. Keyword searches are getting progressively longer.  This is due to the fact that root queries tend to just generate a barrage of ads. This has taught users to be more specific with their search queries.

But specific queries can actually be leveraged by brands. For example, if your client is selling door hardware, a highly competitive head term like “door hardware” may not generate as many leads and conversions as a long tail term such as “custom oil rubbed bronze door hardware.”

You should show your clients that while ranking for head terms may drive traffic, they might not be as good for ROI as long tail terms. The point being, your clients should focus more on conversions and lead generation than keyword rankings.

So does this mean that keyword rankings as a metric is dead? No, SEOs should still track keyword metrics internally. However, as SEOs, we should get our clients focused on what matters most: ROI.

The best way to segment organic search’s impact on leads, conversions and revenue is through CRM integration. Tools like SEO for Salesforce can help you generate revenue-based SEO reports that will help your clients focus on metrics that matter.

This is the third entry to our series on SEO reporting. For more information about SEO reporting check out: 

What Metrics Should I Include in My SEO Reports?

4 Advanced SEO Reporting Metrics That Matter



About Jesse Davis

Jesse Davis is a content marketing copywriter at DemandResults. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in history. In his free time, he blogs, writes fiction, plays guitar and spends far too much time on social media sites.

2 Responses to “How Can I Get My Client to Stop Obsessing About Keyword Rankings?”

  1. The days of standardized SERPs are over. Focus more on ROI and less on keyword rankings!

  2. SEO reporting tips: How to get your client to care less about keyword rankings and focus more on ROI!

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