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So, let’s say you’ve followed every guide. You’ve published the best content, targeted perfect keywords, sorted your robots, maximised the meta and structured your data. It’s all under control.

How do you check whether it’s all working? Check the fabled, all-powerful Google rank, right?

Alas – despite what almost every website out there heavily alludes to – there isn’t one! As alluringly simple as it seems, the myth of climbing a singular rankings mountain is as misleading as it is pervasive. (Take it from Google themselves, who felt compelled to publish this article encouraging vigilance against bogus ‘SEO experts’ who pedal such myths. “No one can guarantee #1 ranking on Google, it states.”)

There are, however, LOADS of Google rankings. Rather than one rank to rule them all, there are, in fact, an infinite number of possible ranks, determined by each individual search at any given time. For this reason (and some others, which I’ll get into), checking SEO success certainly isn’t as simple as watching your site climb the fabled rankings to #01.

But, quite rightly, that “get-out” answer isn’t good enough. So if we can’t ask “what’s my Google rank?”, what can we ask?

Essentially, you need to figure out 2 things:

1 – What is the overall effect of all SEO activity I’m doing?
2 – What, specifically, is working best/worst?

Simple enough, but complicated by many factors:

  • SEO strategies involve absolutely loads of elements. It’s tricky to directly link cause and effect. If results improve, how can you tell whether it’s because of your content, your meta, your referral links, or anything else?
  • Search engine algorithms are top secret, and change regularly. We know the principles, but there’s a heavy dose of conjecture. This applies as much to ‘analysis’ as it does to the activity itself.
  • Algorithms are also getting increasingly complex, personalising results by location, device and even users’ search history. (This partly explains why there are billions of Google ranks, not just one.) How can we tell how our content is being filtered through all these lenses?
  • As with all marketing activity, you’re targetting humans. Humans are notoriously fickle and unpredictable.
  • It’s a competitive environment. Your competitors want their share of the pie, and are constantly changing their tactics too.
  • …and frankly, there’s so much advice, and so many tools aiming to answer these and more concerns, it can be difficult to know where to start, and avoid getting distracted by polished-looking graphs and data.

What seemed a simple couple of questions thereby becomes something of a minefield.

The key, though, is keeping those 2 questions in mind: you’re looking for the overall effect, and the specific effects of each element. By knowing what it is you’re looking for, you’ll keep focused.

So, starting with the simpler:

1 – What is the overall effect of all SEO activity?

  • Check both the percentage, and the total, incoming traffic to your site that is generated from search engines.
  • Track over time. Weekly, monthly, whatever suits, but regularly.
  • That’s it, done.

You’re doing SEO because you want more people to visit your site, right? Answering this first question is therefore your absolute ‘bottom line’. Everything else helps you achieve this goal. (This seems obvious, but as the data piles up, it’s easy to forget!)

Bearing that in mind at least enables you to address question 2 in perspective:

2 – What, specifically, is working best/worst?

…And I’ll come to that in Part 2!


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