Rankings are like a personalized popularity contest. Photo by @Doug88888

In our last post, we began to mull over a few of the reasons why you shouldn't be using search engine rankings as the key performance indicator to measure the success of your SEO efforts. To recap, the first three of these reasons were:

1) The multitude and pace of algorithm changes, updates and modifications

2) The fact that personalization and local search have become key determining factors of search results

3) It is a very risky, one-dimensional strategy

Picking up where we left off, here are another 4 reasons that demonstrate why a focus on website rankings is not the best way to gauge the performance of your SEO efforts.

4) Google Penalties

If you focus solely on rankings, you are leaving yourself highly susceptible to Google penalties.

When the end goal is search engine rankings, this goal is often set out with a "by any means necessary" attitude. What this does is encourage the employment of risky tactics in order to accomplish the singular goal of ranking higher on SERPs.

When you use risky tactics, the chances of getting hit with a Google penalty are that much higher - and recovering from one of these penalties is a long, arduous endeavor.

5) Short Term Vs. Long Term Goals

A very harmful aspect of measuring success based exclusively on search engine rankings is that it is short-sighted.

Companies tend to focus on short term practices like link building instead of long term success strategies, such as the creation of high-quality, relevant content.

Focusing on the latter allows you to not only attract the right visitors to your website, but also take advantage of the cumulative benefits that come with a large repertoire of content. High-quality, unique content will elicit higher traffic results than will link-building.

6) Ignoring Easier, Bigger Wins

There are much easier, more accessible wins available that companies often overlook when they focus solely on search engine rankings.

For example, website optimization, building conversion paths or beefing up CTAs could result in returns that far exceed what increases in rankings may provide.

Ignoring these tactics is a huge oversight because companies are missing out on a wealth of opportunities.

7) Rankings Scams

It's important to note that companies cannot control search engine rankings, they can only affect them. A strong-arm tactic used by less reputable SEO agencies to sell customers on their services is guaranteeing rankings for various terms. But many of these terms have no search volume, meaning they are both very easy to rank for and of no value because nobody is searching for them. If someone promises your rankings, do not go into business with them - they will charge you for services that will add no SEO value.


In the end, search engine rankings are simply not a good way to evaluate your SEO efforts. They only reflect a specific point in time and do nothing to ensure sustainable, long-term success. If you really want to refine your SEO strategy, you should focus on using methods that will increase your brand's long term performance online.