Bad Website Metrics get you bad behavior

Posted on August 13, 2014 in

If I could change one thing about our firm, it might be our name.  I’d love not to focus on “Rank” anymore. That might seem a bit odd for a PPC and SEO firm to say.  For years we’ve used rankings as a measurement of our efficacy.  It’s the brag that we make around the SEO campfire.  We rank first page for so and so money term is the brag of many of us. The reason that I dislike rank as a focus is the bad behavior that it breeds.  It forces SEO into a tactical support role to make a particular page rank for a particular term.

Bad Metrics

This creates a raft problems.   First, it creates a never ending list of impossible targets.  Since everyone searches differently, it’s a constant bombardment of “why don’t we rank for” what ever pet search phrase a person could use.  Solve for that and three more pop up.

Second, it’s a very tactical way to look at things.  A ranking is only as good as the number of searches for that term.  The worst offenders has to be localization stuffing.  By this I mean adding geographical terms to normal keywords.  This ignores the strong abilities that Google has developed in understanding localized intent, and thus modern SEO.  At best 50% of people in a town are going to add the specific location, and in some cases as few as 10% do.

Third, and most importantly, it leaves SEO as something that’s only responsible for things that happen on Google.  For me, SEO doesn’t end at the search results page.  It ends when a customer or lead is delivered.  This requires caring about relevance and user experience as much as any ranking.

Here’s a personal example of this:

I’m presently searching for a Subaru.  I live in Dallas, and Google knows this.  My search is “Subaru Dealers

Ignoring the local pack and the brand’s own listing, we get the following results:

subaru searchNote that everyone of these feels the need to add their location.  Only one of these is actually in Dallas, but there are two that seem to have called out Dallas specifically in the Title.  Looking deeper at the 3rd result would seem to be a good possibility.  It’s title is very directly “Subaru Dallas”.  Let’s take a look at where I land:


To start with the positive, they did include a map to their dealership, because I might need it.  It’s in a very distant suburb of Dallas, roughly 35 miles from downtown.

The copy on the page is annoyingly keyword stuffed, and features internal links which aren’t exactly easy to see.  The image is broken, and it’s just a wall of text.

How likely is it that I’ll click on the “learn more about us here” link buried in that garbage?  Hint: It’s not purple which is my followed link color.

Celebrating Success?

The SEO got the page to rank, so if that’s the success metric everyone can feel great.

It might even get traffic.  If that’s the metric, we should buy another round.  We’re 2/2

But if the metric is leads, the landing page and distance has annoyed me so much that I’m very unlikely to convert.  Cue the sad trombone.

Bad behavior here is very evident and it might have harmed the client more than helped.

Lest you think I’m forgiving the others, I’m not.  The Plano based location found the need to stuff all of the cites they serve into the title.  But at least they were honest about where they were located.  They even have a page that talks about why they’re worth the drive, with a link from the home page.

Bottom Line

The advice is simple.  Focus on the metrics that matter.  Use the other factors to diagnose problems, not reward results that don’t matter.



By Steve Hammer

Steve is the President of RankHammer. When he's not working with clients to grow online, he's probably looking for a great restaurant no one's heard of yet. He is fully Adwords Certified (Analytics, AdWords and Display) and a graduate of the Kellogg School of Management.

  • Lindsay Marder

    Hi Steve, is there an email you can be reached at?