It seems pretty straightforward: Rank highly in search engines, people contact you and sometimes hire you.
It's not that rankings don't matter. Of course they do. It's just that rankings ≠ traffic ≠ inquiries ≠ clients.
One of the major problems with hyper-focusing on specific rankings on a daily basis is the accuracy of ranking reporting tools. Here's a recent example for our website.
Query: SEO for Atorneys
Raven (Avg. Position GWMT): 10.3
AWR with Proxy Server: Previously 8, Not Found
SE Scout: 8
And here's a spot check:
What's the deal?
It's important to recognize what causes these differences.
First is SERP flux. The results, especially recently, fluctuate a lot. So, depending on when the tool takes its "snapshot" of results, it's likely that you'll see differences.
Second is the way the tools take their snapshot. The very nature of scraping results lends itself to potential differences depending on how the results are being scraped (think IP addresses, local results, universal results).
Finally, it's worth noting that GWMT average position isn't even a scraped result. It's calculated in an entirely different way. So it's really apples and oranges.
The bottom line is that each of these rank data sets is worth consideration. But if you hyper-focus and regularly spot-check ranking reports, you'll drive yourself (and your SEO) insane.
On the other hand, if you monitor general trends, and tie them to strategic and tactical decisions, rankings can be used as a general guidepost. Especially for terms that you're tying to traffic, inquiries and new business.
Which brings us to the main point: Use rankings to inform, but not as goals in and of themselves.
After all, rankings don't pay the rent, clients do.
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