Rankings in SEO refers to a website’s position in the search engine results page. There are various ranking factors that influence whether a website appears higher on the SERP based on the content relevance to the search term, or the quality of backlinks pointing to the page.
Different search engines – different rankings
A website or URL’s ranking for keywords or keyword combinations varies from search engine to search engine. A domain may rank for a certain keyword in the top 3 on Bing, but not even be on the first page of the Google search results for the same keyword. Of course, the same is true of all search engines – Bing, Google, Yahoo and every other search engine uses its own method for calculating rankings and therefore ranks websites differently.
Rankings can also vary when using different language or country versions of the same search engine, such as Google. A search analysis Software like the Searchmetrics Suite is a good way of gaining insight into and tracking ranking differences across search engines.
Good rankings are a good source of traffic
The point of good rankings in the search results is to gain as much traffic as possible from the organic search channel. The higher up a page ranks in the results for a search query, the higher the chance is that the searcher will click on this result. This explains the direct connection between high rankings and increased traffic.
This relationship between rankings and clicks (and traffic) is strongest amongst the top 3 search results. However, changing layout of the search results pages is constantly changing, with the inclusion of Google’s Knowledge Graph data and the integration of Universal Search elements (SERP Features) like videos, maps and Google Shopping ads. These developments can mean that the top 3 organic rankings are no longer the 3 best positions on the SERP. This has been demonstrated in heatmap and eye-tracking tests.
What can influence my rankings?
Search engine optimization is a method for sustainably influences search engine rankings. Google and other search engines calculate their search results for keywords using highly complex algorithms. The individual ranking factors and their weighting within the ranking calculation are well-guarded intellectual property that belongs to the search engines and is not publicly disclosed.
The following factors are assumed to be closely connected to rankings:
- number of backlinks
- sitemap and internal linking
- usage of keywords in text elements like meta titles, meta descriptions, text etc.
- term optimization of content, based on comparison with other documents on the same topic (proof and relevant terms, topic/content clusters, WDF*IDF)
- URL structure
- trust assigned to the page
- page load time (site speed)
- time on site and bounce rate (here: how long a visitor spends on the page before they return to the SERP)
- CTR in the SERPs, i.e. how often searchers click on the result
- and presumably many other factors like page traffic, authorship, how up-to-date a page is
Rankings as part of an SEO Audit and Performance Monitoring
Ultimately, rankings are the proof that search engine optimization has – or has not – been successful. For this reason, rankings for keywords defined as relevant should be regularly monitored as part of the SEO auditing process. Using a fixed keyword set comprising relevant terms is also an effective method of monitoring rankings.
This is an important task because ranking losses enable conclusions to be drawn regarding a page’s quality. At the same time, ranking gains also act as evidence of well-performed, successful optimization. If a website suffers a drop in rankings for particular keywords, then this is a signal to SEOs and webmasters that they should react.
Reacting to issues that arise is, on its own, insufficient. For a website to be sustainably successful, it requires constant work and attention. Even if important rankings seem stable today, this can quickly change in the short term, particularly when dealing with highly competitive keywords.
Learn more about rankings and the factors that influence them in our whitepaper.