The Trouble with Rankings

Gyi Tsakalakis
August 29, 2013

It seems pretty straightforward: Rank highly in search engines, people contact you and sometimes hire you.

Which leads lawyers to hyper-focus on their rankings. I've previously posted about why spot-checking rankings and obsessing over ranking reports are largely a waste of time.

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


Moz: 6


SE Scout: 8


And here's a spot check:

seo for attorneys   Google Search

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.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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Bill Bean
9 years ago

Rankings are indicators not goals. Couldn't agree more.

While the complexity "rankings" is somewhat frustrating, I do see it as job security for those of us who know better than to rely on a tool. The hard part is getting the client to understand and appreciate (i.e. pay for it).

Gyi Tsakalakis
9 years ago
Reply to  Bill Bean

Hey Bill, thanks for stopping by. Yep, exactly. It's really tough to move some folks off of "rankanoia."

Neil Ferree
9 years ago

In the Army, it was called R.H.I.P. (rank has its privileges) Old school SEO is heavy on the ranking bit, and while pg1 ranking is a major goal, it doesn't pay the rent. Whereas, video views that leads to a subscriber and maybe a share of your video doesn't pay the rent either, but more valuable to most.

I recently connected my YT channel to the SumAll platform to have a handy path to see my top socials by user engagement and it looks promising.

Gyi Tsakalakis
9 years ago
Reply to  Neil Ferree

I'm always fascinated by how much money folks spend to get those perceived "top rankings" and then to see the traffic that's actually generated for those handful of terms versus "everything else."

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