Can Losers Come First?
Tino Nombro, MD of Ambergreen, examines the changes in Google and the significance of not ranking first.
Sure they can. If you look at the online marketing world in terms of pure winners and losers, the winners are going to be those companies and websites that reach their goals. And since for the large majority of businesses their main objective is to generate revenue, conversions are ultimately the bottom line in measuring site performance.
Managers, marketers and even online experts sometimes get very hung up on search engine rankings. Even here at Ambergreen we still get the occasional call from the CEO of some big multinational who heard from his wife’s golf caddy that his company’s direct competitor is ranking first in search results while they are only in second or, God forbid, third.
Above: Tino Nombro, Ambergreen
But good online marketers will be able to take a look at the complete picture and understand that while top results in search engines are important (with 80% of people not getting beyond the first page), the top results are excellent in driving traffic, but not necessarily conversions. This is not to say that search engine results are insignificant…far from it. But we can say that there is an array of other factors that come into play and can have a far greater bearing on your site performance (i.e. conversions) than rank.
Elements such as page titles, meta- descriptions, competition, landing pages and a host of other on-site factors come into play. Relevant content, calls to action, internal and external taxonomy and page layout can all have as significant an effect on the rate of conversion as ranking, if not greater.
To keep up with these dynamic developments in the world of online marketing, Google recently implemented a change to their referring string, which tells search engines where traffic to your site is coming from and is a critical factor in your rankings on results. The change in the new referring URL is expected to be rolled out gradually and impact only organic search referrers. But it is indeed a significant and telling change from the global dominator of the search engine market.
Essentially, the change means that Google will now be passing ranking data through the referral string to your site. This in turn lets search engines take into consideration and understand the relationship between KPI’s on differently ranking sites. Does the fact that a site ranks in first three places mean that it has the most traffic? Maybe. But does it mean that it makes the most conversions? Absolutely not. Does a site with high traffic get a higher conversion ratio? Does the number six result actually have the highest average order value?
With the change implementation, all of these questions will become a part of how Google compares your website within its relevant environment and in relation to the competition. With this type of specific rank data, Google can accurately link individual keyword rank to performance, which is a significant change in understanding the true value of a keyword and indicating areas for possible improvement.
How can this change affect your SEO activities? While the transition to the new system will be gradual, it is probably a good idea to first realise that ranking is no longer (and actually has not been for a while) the best way to judge SEO results. It is critical to speak to your online marketing firm and find the opportunities to better understand the elements that truly impact conversions on your site. A strategic approach to SEO activities is still key to making the most out of your online marketing budget and maximising conversions and site ROI.