Ranking #1 on Google is Overrated
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Ranking #1 on Google is Overrated


We studied the top-ranking pages for 100,000
keywords and found that the top-ranking page gets the most search traffic only 49% of the time. So is ranking #1 on Google just a vanity metric? I mean, isn’t your job as an SEO, blogger,
or content marketer to generate top ranking results so you can get organic traffic? More importantly, what are you going to say
to your clients when all they seem to care about is ranking #1 for their desired keyword? Well today, I’m going to break down the
data and give you actionable tips on what you should start focusing on right now. More importantly, you’ll learn how to increase
organic traffic even when you’re not ranking #1. Stay tuned. [music] What’s up SEOs? Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that
helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors, and dominate your niche. First and foremost, I don’t want you to think
that I’m not saying to go for position 1. That’s obviously a great achievement. But I want to argue that it’s not the most
important KPI you should use to measure your SEO success. A better indication of a successful SEO campaign
is total search traffic a page gets. Now, before we dig into the data and some
actionable takeaways, I want you to leave a comment and let me know which KPI you use to measure “success” in SEO. So is your main metric ranking position,
traffic, or something else, anything goes. Now let’s dig into the results of our study
and some actionable tips to drive more search traffic to your pages. So in our study, we took over 100,000 non‐branded search queries with at least 1,000 monthly searches in the US. We then pulled the top ranking pages for each query and the total monthly US search traffic each page gets. Finally, we calculated how often the top ranking
page gets the most search traffic. And according to our data, over half of the
#1 ranking pages did not generate the most search traffic out of the top 10 results. And the simple reason is because of the depth
and breadth of a topic. For example, if we search for “keyword research”
in Keywords Explorer, you’ll see that it gets around 12,000 monthly searches
in the US. Now, if we scroll down to the top 10 ranking pages,
you’ll see a couple of interesting things. First, you’ll see that even though Ahrefs
blog is ranking in the third position, we get significantly more traffic than the top
2 ranking results. And if you look further down, you’ll see
a result from Google that’s getting significantly more traffic than any of the top ranking pages. So what gives? Well, there are a couple basic things to consider. First: the top ranking page won’t necessarily
rank for the most keywords. If you look at result #8, you’ll see that
they rank for more keywords than any other page in the top 10. Second is the position of all keywords a page ranks for. For example, you could rank for a million
keywords, but if all of them are ranking in position 100, you probably won’t get any clicks, meaning traffic. Bottomline: if you want to generate more search traffic without necessarily ranking #1 for your target query, you should aim to cover the topic
in as much depth as possible. But rather than leaving you with some
vague advice like “cover the topic” or something arbitrary like “write at least 2000 words,” let’s dive into some actionable techniques you can use to actually put this in action. The first thing you can do is use keyword
modifiers that do not change search intent. Now, there are two parts to this statement
that you might not be familiar with. First are keyword modifiers, which are add-ons
to a base keyword. This might be “best,” the current year, “how to,” or anything else you would add on to a “main” keyword. The second part is search intent. And this basically means the reason behind
a searcher’s query. And Google is good at determining that for
you. For example, if you look at the top ranking
pages for the keyword, “lose weight,” you’ll see that the search results are dominated by
“how to” guides. So Google is showing you that in order to rank,
you’ll need to create informational content rather than a landing page, tool,
product page, or something else. A way to quickly and accurately tackle both
of these is in Keywords Explorer. So I’ll search for my base keyword, “lose weight.” Then I’ll go to the Phrase match report,
which lists all keywords that contain our target keywords in the same order. At this point, we just want to perform a quick scan of these 3 columns: Keyword, Search volume, and Parent topic. The first two are self-explanatory, but the Parent topic
is a pretty unique feature we have in Keywords Explorer. To identify Parent topic we take the #1 ranking page
for the keyword and look for the best keyword that this page ranks for. So in this case, we can see that targeting
the phrase, “how to lose weight,” can also result in rankings for all of these other keywords too. And for good measure, you can click on the
SERP dropdown to analyze the total traffic for the top 10 results for each of these queries
as well as search intent. On the other hand, you’ll see this keyword,
“how many calories to lose weight,” which has a different Parent topic. So to me, it shows that this is a different
topic and would require a separate page. So use keyword modifiers in your title, URL,
and throughout your content where relevant. The second thing is to do a content gap analysis
at the page level. The most common way SEOs do a content gap
analysis is to find keywords that your competitors websites rank for, where yours doesn’t. But when you do a page level content gap analysis,
you can find subtopics that you might have missed. To get started, search for your target keyword
in Keywords Explorer. Then scroll to the bottom of the page to see
the top 10 ranking results. And since the results all appear to have the
same search intent, we know that we should probably create a guide
on this topic. So I’ll copy the top 3 results in my text editor. Now, since I don’t actually have a post on
this topic, let’s pretend that our web page is this one that doesn’t get a ton of search traffic or rank for a whole lot of keywords comparatively speaking. Next, I’ll take this URL and put it into Site Explorer. From here, we want to go to the Content Gap tool. Finally, I’ll paste in the top 3 ranking pages
in the top section. Now what this is saying is, show us keywords
that any of these pages are ranking for, where at least one of the pages ranks in the top 10,
but our URL doesn’t rank at all in the top 100. Before I run the search, I’m going to make
sure the last option is set to “Prefix” so we’re going to do an apples to apples comparison
at the page level rather than domain. And if we run the search, you’ll see a huge
list of keywords worth investigating. Now we can just skim through the keywords and look for subtopics to add to our content. This one is a perfect example where we could
add a section on 40-liter backpacks which seems to be a popular query. The next thing you can do to get more organic traffic is match search intent for your target keyword better than your competitors. It’s best I lead with proof of concept. Last year, we were analyzing our pages and
found that we weren’t ranking in the top 3 for our target keyword, “backlink checker.” We added internal links, did outreach, and
optimized the page to be lightning fast. But for whatever reason, our rankings and traffic
stayed stagnant. Since you are now a master of analyzing search intent, check out the top 5 ranking pages and tell me
what you notice. They are all free tools. So we updated the page and added a free version
of our backlink checker tool. And the result? A significant increase in search traffic. A significant increase in organic keyword rankings. And the number one ranking spot for our
target keyword. But hey. I get it. We’re a software company and you might not be.
So a tool may not work for you. Here’s one more example. A few years ago, we created an epic study
around on-page SEO ranking factors. And we even earned links from over
400 unique websites. Now, despite having a ton of quality links, our
rankings were declining over time and we got stuck around position 40 for our target keyword, “on page SEO.” And again, search intent was the culprit. Google clearly shows that people want how-to
guides when searching for this keyword. So we turned that data study into a guide and almost instantaneously jumped from
position 40 to the top 5. And can you guess what else happened? Both our organic traffic and number of organic
keyword rankings skyrocketed. Now two important takeaways. #1. If you want to get traffic from Google, then
you need to match search intent. Otherwise your pages will likely be nowhere
to be found. And #2. Search intent can change. I’ve seen cases where the majority of search
results show informational content. But then all of a sudden, the results change
to product and category pages. So if you see ranking drops all of a sudden
at the page level, then it’s worth checking to ensure your page matches search intent. Alright! If you have search intent down and you’ve
covered the topic in depth, the last thing you’ll want to consider is building more quality links to the page. In another video, I covered how to rank for
thousands of keywords in Google. Long story short, after studying 3 million
searches, we found that backlinks do help a page rank for more keywords. Rather than getting into various link building strategies, I’ll leave links for you in the description to show you how to scale your link building and create these so-called ‘authority’ pages. Now I’d love to hear your take on this topic. Do you think that ranking #1 in Google should
still be your main goal for SEO? Leave a comment below and if you enjoyed this
video, make sure to like, share and subscribe for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. So keep grinding away, and I’ll see you
in the next tutorial.

43 Comments

  • JoeLaw02

    I look at search traffic as a kpi but also check rankings twice a week to see if actions taken are bringing positive results.

  • rony sisodia

    Being a news website our major chunk of everyday traffic comes from top stories slider on Google. It really keeps everyday traffic going. But because of some reason we are not showing up that often on top stories, specially for mobile devices. Also I have not been able to successfully do site audit as after a week of running audit it is not completed.
    Some of the other issues are also specific to online news industry. That's why I have requested specific video for that topic. Eagerly waiting for it.

  • Sam Samo

    Hi Sam oh, I see in my search console that, for the same page I got different metrics. Example: mysite de/page1 get 500 clicks and mysite de/page1.html get other 100 clicks?! Why google see the same one as 2 different pages?! One with “.html” and one without! Or what is that mean?

    And I track my ranking, and I see that for some pages, some keywords rank for with “.html”, and some for without it? is that normal?!

  • Sudar Vannan

    The ultimate goal for every marketer is to get more page views & conversions. I run a digital marketing agency (a year old) & ranking in 3rd positions on a google search result for the keyword " Digital marketing agency in Chennai". While checking with Ahref's tool I found website ranking on 6th, 7th is getting more traffic compared to the top 3 positions website.

  • Your News Ticker Central

    Organic Search traffic, as a kpi since a site ranks for far more keywords than you are tracking n targeting. If a client still insists on ranking then choose keywords where the site does not rank at all, it might show results plus you are adding more keyword ranking opportunities than previously available.

    However, in the above example, the traffic numbers are obvious estimates n not nearly as actuals received on Google Analytics. Maybe an explanation of this difference in Ahrefs traffic n actually received traffic can be the next video.

    Also a suggestion is to have a standard organic ctr tool in general may be.

  • Milan Novotný

    Great video with actionable tips 🙂 We use as kpi estimated traffic value , we are also tracking in analytics how organic traffic is participating on conversions.

  • Milan Novotný

    I would also like to ask, sam oh mentioned in one video that positions in google search console are average and therefore not accurate. Why is it so?

  • Mark Elliott MCIM

    Great Video! It really lays open the facts behind the 'myth' or frankly the 'mistruth' that is shared by (unscrupulous) SEO companies e.g. "That we can get you to No1 on Google" for say £300. That omits that 'being No1' is the wrong KPI and meaningless unless:

    – Clicks result that drive –>
    –> Relevant traffic that –>
    –> Connects content to <–> searchers intent

    In a far less eloquent way than your good self I presented to a Group of London based businesses last week to help demonstrate, with a case study example of an SEM with small traffic volume. The talk overall was called

    "Is Your Business Being Held to Ransom?"

    The section relating specifically to "Being No.1 On Google =Business TRUE/FALSE" is here (LinkedIn SlideShare):

    https://www.slideshare.net/mrbunglejungle/purchasing-marketing-is-your-business-being-held-to-ransom/7?src=clipshare

  • Bostjan Tanko

    Totally agree with you Sam. People focus to much on being no.1 so much they are forgetting other nuggets you have stated!

  • Ускорение Сайта loading.express

    Зачем дергается ракурс так. Сделали бы переход между кадрами хотя бы. Смотреть очень некомфортно.

  • Usman Akram

    My answer to the Question you asked in the start would be "Search Traffic". After all Traffuc is the ultimate Goal even if you are trying to improve rankings. So why not use it as a metric to measure the your site's performance?

  • uzeir dalip

    traffic/conversions is main kpi…plz add a cheaper lite user plan to ahrefs. I only use a tool once every couple of weeks

  • Donderjager

    I learn a lot from your videos. Thanks for that.

    Question: do you have a store where you sell Aherfs merchandise like your t-shirt?

  • clara albert

    Hello, sam oh that's a great video but one question raises in my mind you wouldn't use any paid advertising before your content got ranked? because I've seen in search explorer you are targeted united states for paid advertising and 55.3% of traffic is your paid advertising.

  • Yunus Shaikh

    Hay sam I wanted to ask you , how much I can trust on Ahref keyword planner data,

    Last week I am doing KW research for indian Kurtis,top and bottom,

    And top SERP is full of competition with, amazon,flipkart,reliance trends,myntra , shopper stop,

    I decided few keyword with competition of 2 or 3 KW difficulty

    But when I put those keyword in google KW planner data ita really shocking

    Those 2 or 3 % of keyword difficulty converted in 1k to 10 k with high competition

    So can you explain this,

  • Vanshanu Raj

    I have a website which has better DA PA and alexa rank, why can't i rank better please guide me for this

  • Rijo Abraham

    Hi sam,
    Its been a while. My question for tip#2 is what if our website is not even in top 50 but we think we have covered all sub topics?

    I’m guessing age and backlinks are then the only way to get more exposure, right?

  • Anas Tela

    Hi same can you make a video of if page ranks for example 500 keywords like this page https://batteriesshack.com/services/iphone-repair-2 how do you benefit or the 500 keywords or better way to say how do you make those kws rank higher thanks in advanced.

  • Tom Brennan

    I totally agree with everything in this video. My point of view, and one that I try and re-educate my clients on, is that using rankings as the measure of marketing success is extremely limiting. Rankings change due to factors beyond our control; algorithms, location of searcher, personalised or un-personalised browsing, even time of day impacts search results.
    I'd rather look at organic traffic as a KPI, but measure success on what that traffic did to provide revenue and/or leads for my clients.
    Ranking should be used to analyse performance of pages and websites, and to keep tabs on any algorithm updates, but seeing as we can only ever track a small fraction of all searches, it's way too blinkered to measure success on this volatile metric. Plus you can't say with any degree of certainty what traffic is delivered to your website by ranking in first position for any search term, that's why Google rolled out (not provided), and that's a good thing in my book as it means as marketers we have to focus on providing content which matches user intent, rather than trying to game the system which doesn't benefit anyone other than website owners who can boast a short lived top ranking position.
    Cheers for the content Sam, keep it up.

  • NewtonBaba

    One question

    If I were to get a backlink from a website in my niche, should I get it on my homepage or a specific page??

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