Posted on September 19, 2011

De-Mystifying the Quarterly Reports: How To Interpret Your SEO Keywords Rankings Report

It’s that time again! The Quarterly Reports are going out, and many people are receiving them and going “What on earth do all these numbers and symbols mean?” During the last round of Quarterlies, I wrote an article on how to interpret your Google Analytics Reports and now it’s time to follow up with one on your SEO Keywords Rankings Reports. I promise, this one is wayyyy easier than your Analytics Dashboard!

Skip past our nice logo at the top and down to the five columns. You’ll see: Keyword, Google, +/-, Bing, and +/-.

The Keyword column lists all of the keywords being tracked.

Where did this list come from, some of you ask? This is the list that was worked out between your practice and Glacial, and are the ones that your site is optimized to rank for.

Often, the next question is: Are those the only words I’m ranking for?? And the answer is no. You literally rank for thousands and thousands of words. Whatever text is on your site gets indexed by Google. However, your keywords list (hopefully) targets the ones with enough search volume to drive traffic to your site.

So, is it possible to track the rankings of words that haven’t been optimized on the site? This is a great question, and it allows me to again point out that your site is optimized for an average of two powerful keywords per page, however you rank for thousands of others simply by default. Therefore, yes, we can absolutely monitor certain terms just to keep an eye on the trending patterns. Why? Well mostly just because I’m a word-nerd, but occasionally it really does give me insight into trending patterns that help me offer you suggestions for content writing and routine maintenance.

The Google and Bing Columns are, as you have guessed, the two search engines that we track.

What about Yahoo? Yahoo was actually bought out by Microsoft (Bing) in 2009 so Yahoo and Bing are one and the same.

Why are my results so different in the Google column than the Bing column? I love this question! Ok so first off, Google still dominates the market and therefore we are mainly concerned with the results in that column. Originally, the SEO geeks here at Glacial were speculating that the reason for the Bing results lagging so far behind Google’s is that Bing had developed their own proprietary algorithms. We’ve been experimenting with different things to see if we could crack any sort of clues as to what Bing would evaluate in making their ranking determinations….and while that makes us sound kind of smart, in reality we have been defeated by simple technological darwinism. What does that mean? Well in the past few months we’ve noticed giant leaps, sometimes 20 to 30 places in one quarter, in the Bing columns for the sites that we have not even been experimenting on… so while we had some fun trying to figure out a secret algorithm, it appears that Bing has just plain figured out some of Google’s and is now employing them in their evaluations. If you can’t beat Google… just copy them.

The +/- Columns are simply the number of positions that your listings have gained/lost since the previous report run.

What are “positions”? (see below: Numbers and Not Found).

Is the Green + or the Red – the good one? I’m convinced that Golf and dieting are the only times that lower numbers are better. So we always love to see the Green + on the rise.

When should I be concerned about the Red – positionings then? Every Quarter, for every client, we see normal fluctuations of 1 to 3 points for the core keywords. When the numbers are fluctuating more than that, we begin to take notice, and that’s when I start by reviewing all of the On-Page SEO coding for any gaps, and from there I go into a clinical On-Page and Off-Page “Trauma Assessment” style evaluation. This is a primary example of why Glacial Multimedia has consultations built into their SEO maintenance. SEO isn’t a one-time-thing where once the On-Page coding is complete, your keywords will remain #1 forever. With Google’s own Matt Cutts telling us that they make an average of 400 algorithm changes per year, it’s no wonder that the rankings fluctuate. Just as an example, I had one client who wanted to shift focus away from LASIK and onto his Optical Shop. I made a few very minor changes to the coding and within two weeks, all of his LASIK terms had dropped 20 positions while the newly optimized Optometry terms were still struggling out of the gates.

Numbers 1-30 and “Not Found” are the nitty gritty of the SEO Keywords Rankings Reports, and give us your exact position for that keyword combination.

What does “Not Found” mean? Glacial Multimedia drills down to the third page of search engine results, so if a keyword is listed under Google or Bing as “Not Found,” it means that that term is not ranking within the first three pages of search results.

If my keyword is listed as 17, does that mean I’m on the 17th page of the search results?? No. The average number of listings that show up on each page of Google is about 10. So numbers 1-10 would be first page results, 11-20 are second page, and 21-30 are third page. For example, if your term “cataract surgery boston” is #4 on Google and #16 on Bing, that would mean you’re the fourth organic listing down on the first page of Google, and the sixth organic listing down on the second page of Bing.

Wait, you said I’m #4 on the first page, why am I all the way at the bottom? SEO deals within the realm of organic (natural, or unpaid) listings. When you look at the first page of Google, you’ll often see the search results at the top, highlighted in yellow, followed by Google Places search results with the little red balloons next to them. These are both *paid campaigns: Google Adwords, or Pay Per Click ads at the top, and Local Search or Local SEO in the middle. Just below those are where the organic listings begin.

*Just as a side note, yes, Glacial does offer both Adwords / Pay Per Click campaign management, as well as Local Search SEO / Google Places campaigns.

And that, in a nutshell, is how to read your SEO Keywords Rankings Report! See? It wasn’t so bad after all 🙂