Fixating On Rank Can Actually Hurt Your SEO!


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This is a guest post by Nick Stamoulis. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I had a call with a potential client not that long ago and we were discussing her long term SEO goals. She told me her number one goal was to get better rankings for the broad keywords they were targeting.

When we spoke, the company was stuck on page 3 of Google and couldn’t seem to break free; she wanted to know what my company could do to help her get to the top of page 1. I flat out told her, “Don’t worry so much about where your site ranks. Your real long term goal should be visitor growth.”

She was completely floored by that statement. Many site owners and business managers are.

It might seem strange to hear that coming from an SEO professional. Ranking doesn’t matter? What the heck is this guy talking about? Isn’t that the whole point of SEO!? I’m not saying that ranking well isn’t important. There are dozens of reports outlining the percentage of clicks a site is likely to get based on where it falls in the SERP and I can’t argue with the numbers. What I am saying is that site owners shouldn’t become fixated on where their site is ranking because it will cost you the rest of your SEO.

The search results are personalized!

I can guarantee you that if I was to search for “pizza” on my work computer and then on my home computer, the two results pages would be completely different. This is because the search engines are focusing more and more on personalized search results. For instance, if you search for something while logged into your Gmail account, Google is going to remember and track your search behavior. The more times you search the more information it gathers about you and the more personalized it will try to make the search results based on your past search behavior. Bing and Facebook have a partnership where, if you are logged into your Facebook account, Bing will pull up results that your Facebook friends have liked and shared. What might be on page 3 when you aren’t logged into Facebook is suddenly on page 1!

Lesson to be learned: Personalized search results mean your site might rank differently for different people. Therefore it isn’t a 100% accurate measurement of success.

Short term gain in rank usually means black hat SEO is afoot

Let’s say you hired an SEO firm or consultant, told them you wanted to rank on the first page in Google and they guaranteed it would happen inside of a month (even though Google says no SEO firm can promise that). Let’s assume they deliver on their promise and everyone is happy. I’m sorry to say your happiness is going to be short lived. SEO is an incredibly long term process, and even though I have seen websites gain substantial amounts of traffic and jump in the rankings in a relatively short period of time (depending on the industry and level of competition), overnight gains are usually the result of black hat SEO and are only temporary. You might be able to ride the wave for a few months, but the minute you stop paying that SEO firm your rankings drop as fast as they appeared. The worst case scenario is that the search engines flag your site for SEO and remove it from the SEPR entirely!

Lesson to be learned: Fixating on rank will lead to bad decisions that hurt your brand in the long run.

Ranking well is only one piece of the SEO puzzle. When site owners take such a narrow approach to their SEO they are actually limiting the long term potential of their campaign. Yes, a good SEO campaign should help your site move up the SERP, but it can do so much more than that if you just let it!

About the Author: Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, a full-service web marketing and Boston SEO company. He also publishers the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, so check his website to subscribe.

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10 Responses to “Fixating On Rank Can Actually Hurt Your SEO!”

  • Michael

    This is a great post Nick and is totally true. I’ve been very guilty myself in the past in being obsessed with my ranking and not getting more visitors to my pages. It seemed pointless. Your ranking means nothing without more visitors. Visitors = money. That is where it is at!

  • Extreme John

    I agree with you here. Short term gain in rank is good but the longer it maintains its rank, the better. And how this works will depend on how many strategies we use to optimize our sites. Good engagement with customers and readers create a quality site which builds good reputation and this is a start of a consistent ranking.

  • Brian

    I agree with most of what you’re saying, but also pretty strongly disagree with your core premise.

    There is a lot more than rankings to a website strategy; however, *SEO* is — by very definition — about rankings.

    It’s great if an SEO firm is also going to suggest other optimizations to the site to improve usability or generate referral traffic and a lot of SEO tactics are very similar to PR tactics and have benefits beyond just ranking. But at it’s heart SEO is, after all, search engine optimization. And I would not be happy with an SEO company who wasn’t concerned about rankings.

  • Dan Thorley

    I have to admit, I used to think in exactly the same way as your client. I guess a lot of people still focus on page rank. I absolutely agree with your thoughts. If you concerntrate on increasing the number of vistitors coming to your site, then this will show the search engines that it is a popular source of information in that niche, and you will most likely benefit indirectly with a higher page rank as a bonus.

  • Ken


    Great discussion. And Nick…this was a great post. As a new blogger I am often frustrated by the “what am I doing wrong” question when in actuality (to my understanding) that is tightly focused with good content and a real plan and goal in mind then the true aim should be to get traffic and then work on improving conversion. Right?

    There are a lot of crappy sites getting ranked well that I just click out of as soon as I get there. I don’t want that. I’d rather have only a few people show up and actively engage, revisit and feel like a part of the site rather than just a visitor.

    Anyway…I’m still learning but would say that I highly favor Nick’s and y’alls POV on this subject.


  • Steve


    You made an astounding point about “personalized” SERP’s. The PR IS way “over-ranked.”

    No pun intended…

  • Daniel

    Great topic for discussion, Nick.

    This is a subject that could roll for literally dozens of pages, and sadly it would still not be anywhere close to a resolution.

    I think most people can become obsessive as far as when they are hoping to achieve decent rankings for quality keyword terms(Not to mention PR and Alexa rankings, though totally different they are also obsessed over).

    Most people would probably prefer targeted traffic to their sites.

    As the commenter above states, arriving at #1 can be not of much use if achieved through Broad(ish) terms that are not aimed at a specific person(Buyer, reader).

    The way you describe how our searches become personalized over time, makes a lot of sense.

    Nick, I think my understanding of Black Hat SEO must have been a little underdone.

    I actually thought that hiring SEO experts to aid in lifting a sites ranking, was considered above board(If using the usual optimization SEO Methods).

    I guessed it was just a money issue, basically the more Mullah a site splashes out, the greater the amount of Ranking and site Optimization improvements could be attained.

    As far as skewed(Inaccurate) search term results, I had an article post written in relation to this, some time ago.

    People need to clean out a number of influencing factors(Certain software do this) to obtain accurate ranking results(For their site pages).

  • Management Direct

    Hi Nick, I have read many of your posts via bizsugar and enjoyed them. Particularly like this advice. If only more would listen. The commenter above has missed the fact that you mention fixation on a group of broad terms. Arrival at top rankings can even be disappointing when broad terms bring traffic that converts poorly. People should stay away from any promises which concentrate on rankings and look for companies who pledge to work to increase traffic and sales in a quantifiable and sustainable way. Anyway thanks for the post. I have tweeted it and am sure our readers will find it useful. Brian

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Grant, I think Nick is talking about fixating on the ranking of a single keyword.

  • Grant Hughes

    “Ranking well is only one piece of the SEO puzzle”

    Only one piece? Search engine optimization is all about ranking better, being found and getting organic traffic. What are the other pieces?

Comments are closed.