“You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” Remember this old Carly Simon tune? Maybe. Maybe not. I am dating myself a bit here, and I know that many in the SEO/ SEM industry may be too young to remember this hit.
How does vanity come into search engine marketing? It is most typically a factor in search engine optimization and the ubiquitous search engine position report. We all know the drill; get a list of keywords and see how high up your site is listed in the major search engines. Seeing a top spot is always a blast. “Wow, that’s me up there” or “See, we got your site to the top, wasn’t it worth hiring us?” Plainly, checking your rankings is often a drill that accomplishes little other than feeling good about being well positioned.
The rubber meets the road when those terms that are well positioned also lead to new business, sales leads, improved branding and the like. When you are well positioned for a keyword that no one searches for, or for one that is way off target, it does little to help your business even though it may feel great.
Are search engine position reports useless? Position reports themselves are limited in their ability to tell you how effective your SEO efforts have been. You must have other detailed analytics to truly measure whether your efforts and/ or investment in SEO is paying off. You need to know which of your keywords are driving traffic and conversions. You need to know which search engines are sending this traffic. Search engine positions reports can’t tell you all of this.
Should we just forget search engine position reports then? No. We need these reports to paint a complete picture of SEO efforts. They can be useful in helping you figure out which page on your site is favored by the search engines for various keywords. You can use position reports to track the competitors in your space. They are worth keeping around, but please stop giving them more importance than they need.
If you are using position reports as your only means of proving SEO success, then you are “so vain” and this song probably is about you. Give these reports their proper place and surround them with the other data you need.