SEO & Content Marketing Hub

Punchy, to the point advice on key topics.

Keyword Rankings

Reading Time: 5 minutes What are keyword rankings? Keyword rankings in SEO are the rankings in search engine results…

Written by Joe Robison
Last updated 1 year ago

Reading Time: 5 minutes

What are keyword rankings?

Keyword rankings in SEO are the rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) for target keywords that you’re tracking. Most of the time these rankings are Google Rankings, as they have 90% share of most markets.

Are keyword rankings important?

Keyword rankings are at the core of SEO.

It depends on many things. Modern SEO professionals will often respond that keyword rankings are but one of many metrics to track with SEO. Whereas, historically SEOs were often mostly focused on keyword rankings.

The industry has changed over time to better show the entire spectrum of how SEO impacts the business. While keyword rankings are largely de-emphasized, they still play a critical role.

I look at keyword rankings as a good leading performance indicator, but not the final one.

If you have great keyword rankings, but really bad landing pages, a bad brand and poor product-market-fit, it’s unlikely they will do much for you, and may be a distraction while you need to fix your brand.

On the flipside, there may be a local personal injury law firm, where the difference between ranking #1 and #3 for their top money-making keyword could be the difference of millions per year.

Are they important for SEO?

Keyword rankings are very popular KPIs for SEO efforts.

Ultimately, before you can have organic traffic, you must have a keyword ranking. There are tons of caveats here with local search, image search, large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and Bard, but at the end of the day, before organic traffic happens there has to be a ranking.

The ranking is the bottleneck. It’s what happens mid-journey. If you rank for a keyword with no volume and no ultimate revenue impact, a ranking can be a useless distraction. But for powerful keywords, the keyword ranking is the users first step as a portal to your website. Everything happens from there.

SEOs use rankings as a way to capture demand that exists, and more rarely to generate demand. As an early goal, and as a starting goal. Some SEOs are rankings-driven, some SEOs are business and revenue-driven. Where they fall on the spectrum demonstrates how much emphasis is put on keyword rankings.

Do most businesses track them as a KPI or a data point?

Some businesses monitor keyword rankings as a key performance indicator (KPI) or data point. They provide a quantifiable measure of success, allowing you to evaluate your SEO strategies and course-correct as needed.

Where does it fall in the priority list for executives and directors? That depends on your market, business model, maturity, and team.

Does a CEO of a small company need to worry about these?

As a CEO of a small company, keyword rankings may not be at the forefront of your priorities. However, they should not be neglected. When your business grows, your online presence must expand in tandem. By understanding and leveraging keyword rankings, you’ll ensure sustainable growth and a strong foundation for future success.

What about a mid-market company?

For mid-market companies, keyword rankings are essential. Competing in the digital sphere demands a robust SEO strategy, and keyword rankings are the cornerstone of that strategy. They directly impact brand visibility, consumer engagement, and revenue generation.

Fortune 500 company?

Keyword rankings are just as crucial for Fortune 500 companies. As industry leaders, maintaining and optimizing their online presence is a must. Keyword rankings form the foundation of a solid SEO strategy, enabling these companies to stay ahead of their competitors and continue to grow.

Should a Startup care about keyword rankings?

Startups, too, must recognize the value of keyword rankings. They can serve as a launchpad for your brand, propelling you to new heights and accelerating growth. Startups with a strong SEO strategy, built on keyword rankings, are more likely to survive and thrive in a competitive market.

What do people get wrong?

A common misconception is that keyword rankings are the end goal. In reality, they are a means to an end. It’s the organic traffic, conversions, and revenue that truly matter. Focus on providing valuable content and a seamless user experience to fully capitalize on your keyword rankings.

How often should you track?

Tracking keyword rankings should be an ongoing process. Monitoring them on a weekly or monthly basis enables you to identify trends, measure progress, and respond to changes in search engine algorithms or user behavior.

How many should you have?

The number of keywords you should track varies based on your industry, competition, and business objectives. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, it’s crucial to prioritize your efforts, and this is where the 80/20 rule applies: focus on the 20% of keywords that will yield 80% of the results.

How does the 80/20 rule apply?

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, posits that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the context of keyword rankings, this means concentrating your efforts on the 20% of keywords that deliver 80% of the desired results, such as organic traffic and conversions. By identifying and focusing on high-impact keywords, you can allocate your resources efficiently and maximize your return on investment.

There are some companies, like local law firms, where one single keyword can be a game changer.

There are other companies, like Pinterest, Etsy, and Amazon, that are built on millions of different keywords.

What successful mature tech companies were built on SEO and keyword tracking?

  • Amazon
  • Ebay
  • Pinterest
  • Etsy
  • Zillow
  • Redfin
  • NerdWallet

Which weren’t built largely on SEO keyword rankings?

  • Spotify – product-centric
  • Facebook – word of mouth from friends
  • Apple – PR & product
  • Tesla – Word of mouth, PR, and product

What tools should you use to track?

Ahrefs is the most popular rank tracker as part of a larger suite of SEO tools, and the one I use.

Enterprise-level rank trackers should look into Nozzle.

Tracking Keywords for Brand Visibility

Keyword rankings can be a strong representation of your brand’s visibility.

SEOs tend to undersell the value of rank tracking, and brand rank tracking.

Certain fashion brands would likely pay thousands per month just to have a simple report of how their brand is rising or falling in Google Search Volume per month.

A simple one-page report for the CEO would go a long way. If provided by a 3rd party, this could help keep the internal team focused on the big goals and have a layer of accountability from outside counsel.

Keyword Rankings and Stock Predictions

It’s floated every so often in the world of SEO if stocks can be predicted by keyword rankings? Usually a young gun coming in, or seasoned executive learning about the concept for the first time immediately jumps to that prediction.

In a world of quants and hedge funds, you can be sure if it was a strong signal, they’d be all over it. Renaissance Technologies may be piping in an SEMrush API to their models, or they may ignore it.

It can certainly be a part of a larger research system, and it’s more likely than not to correlate with some other factors like brand awareness and ecommerce sales. All models are wrong, some are useful, and keyword may be useful in some models.

Did you find this article helpful?


Leave a Reply

Similar Articles
Machine Learning & Ranking Factors

Reading Time: 3 minutes One of Google’s massive innovations in it’s search engine over the years was leveraging machine…

What Are the Most Important Ranking Factors in SEO?

Reading Time: 2 minutes There are hundreds of factors that determine if you’ll rank well in search results. But…