Does Your Organic Rank Matter?

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Time for me to ruffle some SEO feathers again! Today I decided to download my stats from Google Search Console and really do some digging on the traffic that I’m getting from organic search. Martech Zone ranks incredibly high on a number of keywords with dozens of #1 ranks on highly competitive, high volume keywords. We all know that the higher the rank, the higher the click-through rate on a search engine results page. But does that matter in the bigger picture?

Don’t discount your overall organic search traffic from keywords you don’t rank on or that have low search volumes. On our marketing blog, 72% of our organic traffic comes from entries that are not even on page 1! Even more interesting is that we get more traffic from a rank of 8 than we do on a rank of 1!

I realize this sounds blasphemous, but you really need to think about this as you’re looking at a content marketing strategy. Is it more important to invest in ranking on high volume, highly competitive keywords? This can be timely and expensive. Or, could you invest time in effort in providing a variety of content on longer-tail keywords that aren’t that competitive but are highly relevant to your organization?

To be honest, we’ve chosen the latter. I used to think that ranking #1 was critical to our success. But I’ve since found that putting more energy into great content was gaining us more attention overall. The stats don’t lie… while the click-through rate on a search engine result page may increase substantially as you get to the #1 spot, our traffic based on ranking doesn’t matter nearly as much. We know we can get into great results with great content… why not simply work on that and increase our organic traffic with relevant, quality content instead of shooting for a bullseye every time?

Do your own evaluation of your organic ranking. Where is most of your traffic coming from? Even better question, where is most of your business coming from? My guess is that it’s coming from a variety of long-tail, relevant searches. Prove me wrong! 🙂

Final Thoughts

I’m not totally dismissing ranking high on highly competitive terms. It’s a great indication of authority and can drive a lot of traffic. As well, ranking high on some keywords seems to correlate with ranking high on lots of related keywords. The combination can drive a ton of traffic. I’m simply advocating a balanced approach. Instead of trying to get a homerun with every at-bat, it’s good every once in a while to just try and get on base!

Update: After sharing this post, I found that I’m not the only one who has noticed this Chase Traffic, Not Rankings.


  1. 1

    This was a really good post Doug. Men lie, Women lie, Numbers don’t. So from your numbers, I’d say you’re spot on — and more importantly, non-consumer-facing companies should consider this approach. I’m coming into the office a couple days next week and working — I’d love to dig deeper on this. (PS: I’m 2 weeks into learning on Somebodies decided to learn to write his own code. Let Mr. Coley know! He’ll get a kick out of it! HA

  2. 2
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    So did this content have adwords connected with it as well? In other words were you getting paid traffic from adwords and the organic listing was visible. I think adwords performs better when their is a corresponding organic listing visible. Given the choice people will click the premium add (when the other is visible) this causes adwords to be the traffic source and the numbers will paint organic as looking unimportant but the truth is the CTR would have been lower without those organic placements.
    Great thought inspiring post.

  4. 5

    Doug, your last bit of advice, chase traffic, not rankings is exactly what most people do not get. Sometimes I think it is because rankings are easy, traffic is hard and conversions, be it ad clicks, leads or sales is even harder.

  5. 6

    Hi Doug, I liked this post but I had a comment regarding your definition of SERP rankings for this article. If your position is that Google SERP personalization has made a common definition of Google “ranking” irrelevant, what definition of ranking are you using for this study? In other words, you’re making a claim that 72% of your traffic is coming from keywords you don’t even rank for on the 1st page of Google SERPs,  but if everyone’s personalized, who’s Google SERPs are you talking about? *Someone* is finding your blog for those keywords, right? And the chances that they’re searching on Page 2,3,4 etc of the Google SERPs are low. So for them, you ARE ranking on the 1st page, otherwise they probably wouldn’t find you in the great numbers you’re talking about. 

    • 7

      Actually, that’s not the case Tod.  As the article shows, the majority of the search traffic I’m getting is  NOT coming from my placement on the first page.  My point isn’t that ranking is NOT important…. my point is that RELEVANCE is much more important THAN ranking.  If you focus your content and write great content, people will find you.  Regardless of rank.

      We are also seeing this with our clients.  High volume, high ranking keywords are driving some traffic but not conversions.  Conversions are coming from highly relevant pages and posts from long-tail keywords are from SERP placements outside of the first page.  Again, relevance over rank.

  6. 8

    Doug, your article was very clear that 72% of your traffic is NOT coming from queries where you rank on Page 1 of the SERPs. My question is more around the concept of “ranking” in the age of SERP personalization.  72% of your organic search traffic found you…somehow. How are they finding you if you’re not ranking on Page 1 for those queries?  Has SERP personalization come so far that everyone’s Page 1 is so very different?

    • 9

      To an extent… Some of our clients are seeing half of visits from personalized search. But this isn’t personalized search… This data came from Webmasters. This is people that ARE clicking past page 1 looking for a RELEVANT result.
      Douglas Karr

      • 10

        I always was under the impression that when people don’t find what they want on Page 1, they simply re-query, asking the question in a different way, rather than going to Page 2. That’s what I’ve always heard and in fact that’s what I always do.  If what you’re saying is true, people’s search behavior is changing quite radically. 

        • 11

          Tod – that’s definitely how I do searches. But it never ceases to amaze me how other people search.  For example: Many, many, many people type entire sentences into search engines rather than just a few keywords.  We’ve worked with our clients on developing FAQs that capture a ton of searches.  Who knew?!

  7. 12

    Doug, I really like the article. My mantra has always been customers first content second. If your content is appealing to your customers they will always find you.

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    Most of my traffic comes from pillar posts that I’ve written years ago. The long tail provides me with a regular stream of traffic day after day. The term “pillar post” has been somewhat abused over time. When I say “pillar post” I mean writing bonafied original content that is relevant to my site niche and fills a real need to the community. Not just curating content like some do. Being the first to fill that need established my content with Googebot as THE authority on the topic. 

    Good post Doug.


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