Many of you may have an interest in SEO because you (or your boss) did a search for a phrase at Google that you believed your website should show up for, and then didn't see it anywhere. While that's a possible indication that you may need some SEO work done on your site, it's not the best way to determine this.
If you only checked one phrase in Google, it may not truly be one that is targeted towards what you offer on your website, and therefore you don't need to show up in Google for it. SEO is about optimizing for keywords that are highly relevant to what you offer on your website, not ones that are somewhat related. Be sure to honestly evaluate the keyword phrases you want Google to show your site for, and choose those that are highly specific to what you offer.
Even after you've chosen lots of relevant keyword phrases and optimized your site accordingly, be careful of measuring your success by the search results you see at Google. Rankings are no longer constant, nor have they been for many years. For instance, you can check your rankings one minute, and then check again some time later and see different results. In other words, rankings are always in flux.
Not only that, but the search results are very often targeted to where you're located. This means that someone doing a search from one area of the country (or the world) will often see results that are very different from what you might see in your part of the world.
On top of that, everyone gets their own personalized search results. This happens whether or not you're logged into any Google product these days. Google tries to show you what they think you might want based on past searches you may have made or other things that they think you might be interested in. This means that when you do a search at Google and see your own site show in a high position, others might not see it at all — for the very same search terms!
But more than anything else, trying to figure where your site ranks for your optimized keyword phrases, even if it could be done, still doesn't equal targeted visitors. While you may have done your best to find the most relevant keywords for your site, you may still have chosen ones that nobody actually uses at Google, making your website optimization efforts a waste of time. You may even see your site showing up at #1 for lots of those phrases, but so what? It doesn't mean squat if nobody ends up at your website through them.
If rankings don't matter, what does?
What matters is whether or not you're getting targeted visitors to your site. But even that is just a start. Unless your site only makes money through how many visitors and page views it has, then what really matters is conversions and sales. Those are the real bottom line for most websites. Your website is not there to just look pretty and rank highly in the search engines. It's there to market your business in one way or the other.
All of this is a long way of telling you that you need to move your focus away from where your website shows up in Google for a handful of keyword phrases, and start measuring your conversions and sales. You'll know if your SEO is working when your phone calls, newsletter sign-ups, leads, Twitter and Facebook followers, website visitors, and sales all start increasing. Those are the things you need to be measuring in order to see if your SEO is working overall.
As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.
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