Why #1 Rankings Shouldn’t Be the Goal Anymore

Do you really need to rank #1 to drive traffic?       organic ranking #1

Maybe you’ll condemn me for dishing up a bold title that seems to contradict SEO’s very roots.

I mean, how can the #1 spot on a Google search not be the goal with SEO?

Given the niche and the keywords, ranking #1 on Google strikes most people as the holy grail for traffic—and if you’ve done your homework, conversions.

But the fact is, in rapidly changing and constantly evolving search demography, #1 isn’t as magical as it was in the good old days of the Internet, when everything was much simpler.

Users are smarter because they’re accustomed to Google’s search results. Google is getting sharper with its knowledge base and query-answering capabilities.

Search is becoming a better and richer tool for users because they get answers instantly, sometimes without even needing to shift to other Google properties (such as maps, images, video search, etc.).

Then there’s the brand and authority that build around your website and how they define your relationship with Google and the users who find you.

This is why I think a case can be made that a #1 spot isn’t as valuable as it used to be.

But let me put the disclaimer in place right at the start: I don’t intend to preach that you shouldn’t aim for the #1 spot on Google for the keywords you target.

Rather, the idea is to focus on a variety of goals that surround this particular ambition which I would suggest are ultimately more important in these changing times.


ranking #1 in Google

Google dominates the search market because their motto is to give the user the most relevant search result(s).

In the course of this quest, Google has actually turned into a huge knowledge machine. It can do calculations, forecast weather, provide updated currency exchange rates, show you precise locations across the globe, and much more.

For a large cross-section of keywords, Google almost solves the search for users on its website all by itself (think of movie times, airfares, currency conversion, etc.). Interestingly, websites are still shown.

There’s still the SERP to play with, but the highest relevancy is the result that originates from its Knowledge Graph.

Google is continuously working to tweak and improve its knowledge graph. This means users will be less likely to want to visit the websites that are ranked below the information contained in the knowledge graph.

The knowledge graph contains web results too, but the ranking factors to this are controlled by Google and are, as yet, largely unknown.

Given the rise of the knowledge graph, and Google’s desire to improve and expand upon it, how much value will a #1 ranking hold in a year from now?

Two years? I’d argue that it will only decline.


User Demography #1: Google-Savvy Users

Since it’s no longer the late 90s or early 2000s, most users are Google-savvy now.

Since Google searching has become an everyday activity, many users have recognized that the world’s most popular search engine isn’t 100% accurate all the time, so the lower results are getting more attention than they used to.

Sure, the first page of search results gets many more times the views than the other pages, but the #1 ranking isn’t as important for users as it once was.

Even the slightly Google-savvy user understands there are more options than the #1 rank, and click-throughs are becoming, more often, based on the snippets (meta) that they see on the search results page.


User Demography #2: Varying Rankings by Country

There’s another interesting thing about search and rankings.

Although one of your properties may rank at the top (in Google US) for a particular set of keywords, the same usually isn’t the case in other countries.

This can be problematic when a large chunk of your traffic is supposed to come from countries outside the U.S. In an internet and economy that’s quickly becoming more global, this discrepancy will play a larger role in SEO.

Secondly, search results are known to vary widely depending on many other factors: whether you’re signed in, the preferences set in search, preferences set through Google+, and so on. This means a consistent #1 ranking is often an illusion.


User Intent

Ever heard webmasters complain that they rank on the top spot, but the conversions and click-through rates are pathetically low? I’ve heard quite a few people say this.

In my experience, it’s not so much about the keyword as it is about user intent.

You may rank highly for keywords that are specifically indicative of what the user wants, but if the content you provide is of little actionable value to users, conversion rate will be low.

“User intent” is a simple science, but it can be challenging to implement changes based on the concept.

In many cases, user intent can be a deal clincher for conversions based on organic search traffic.


Becoming an Authority Among Users vs. Google

Brand, authority, familiarity: these are things that have become more valued on the web. Let’s consider a real-world example: If you want to buy a gadget, you tend to think of outlets where you go to buy gadgets.

The web is becoming a familiar place for users: think of forums, websites with a strong readership, the emergence of blogging, etc.

Since content is the backbone of a good SEO strategy, it’s important to note that simply having a content-rich, high-ranking website doesn’t necessarily qualify you as an authority these days.

Users are more inclined to convert on websites they are familiar with, and ranking on top isn’t the only way to build authority.


So Where Does that Leave Us?

#1 is not the be-all and end-all, nor should it even be the goal.

Many think of it as a means to an end; but in reality, it should be treated as a byproduct (or a milestone) of your real goal: to increase revenue via website traffic.

Since that’s the case, it would be regressive to keep thinking in terms of #1.

Maybe it sounds a little radical, but here’s my advice: give up going after a #1 search ranking as a goal. Instead, regard it as just an indication that you’re headed in the right direction.

Over to you…

Do you think that #1 organic rankings is still the ULTIMATE thing to aim for, especially now that Google is constantly tweaking their algorithms? Please leave a comment to share your view. Thank you.

95 thoughts on “Why #1 Rankings Shouldn’t Be the Goal Anymore”

  1. Hey jayson
    Thanks for sharing this well described post. I always love to read those post which give all the needed information. and this post is of that kind. This post is helped me to enhance my knowledge.

  2. Hey Michael,
    While I agree that getting the number 1 position isn’t the ultimate goal (there are more important things like conversion rate and revenue), it’s still a really helpful position for websites.

  3. Worthless effort to achieve the #1 ranking in SERP, if you don’t have traffic with your webpage, of course it’s depend upon your keywords (how search volume with). More important it’s how your page content is, write like the way both search engine and visitors love the page.

  4. Your brand’s website and online presence needs to align around targeted customer intent(s) not traditional keywords focused optimization. What does this mean for your 2013 strategy? Focus toward tactics that will play to Google’s more complex side: mapping queries to actions, intent research, and aligned content creation.

  5. By using semantic markup, this modification is made seamless and automatic for the online retailer, turning content into a format that search engines simply lap up. And because it helps Google and their ilk deliver a richer experience to their users, your content will be rewarded by higher ranking, and earn greater trust.

  6. Google’s recent behavior forging into topic discovery, implementing the knowledge graph and offering their authorship program in combination with the Panda and Penguin updates, illustrates a strong resolve for quality information. This series of moves should remove garbage websites from their SERP’s and reward original content creators and additional bump in search ranking for those who also participate in the larger social conversation (G , Wikipedia, etc.). All things considered, I don’t see the growth of domains changing, when you consider how low the barriers to entry for creating a domain are and seemingly that trend is continuing with additional distribution options. All in all Google’s recent moves will shape the internet in many subtle ways including forcing advertisers and publishers to create more value (original content) for search users to find them.

  7. It’s true, in a quest to obtain #1 rankings, people forget that they should be writing for their readers before they write for google’s crawlers. Thanks for bringing this point up, Jayson.

  8. Nice write up 🙂 yes, I agree with most of the points that page 1 Google ranking are not important today, People are so savvy that they move beyond page 5 also. What only matters is quality content.

  9. “Brand, authority, familiarity: these are things that have become more valued on the web. Let’s consider a real-world example: If you want to buy a gadget, you tend to think of outlets where you go to buy gadgets.”yeah !! this is right!!

  10. Interesting and educative post. Qualitative and unique content gets better hit. Title of the content should be such that it attracts the reader. But do you think that article writing still serves the purpose as brilliantly as it used to ?

  11. You are right. As for me, i dont disturb myself with being on number one or two on SERP. What am focusing on is content marketing through guest posting in other high ranking blogs. AM also trying to make sure i update my blog with quality content daily.
    Thanks for sharing.

  12. This is really informative Jayson. You simply exposed me to a totally different perception on ranking. I really love your articles, thanks once more.

  13. I never given importance to ranking in search engines. I keep on doing blogging, writing content for readers to come to my site. Moreover due to latest updated from Google Content is given importance than other SEO processes

  14. Before reading this article, I thought Google page rank was the ultimate goal. Now, I’m not so sure. I now have a different perspective, like, writing content that will interest readers, and encourage them to keep coming back. In this sense, I suppose the SEO will take care of itself. I hope so, because i don’t like submitting my sites to directories. Am I correct in assuming this?

    • Making your first time reader a disciple who supports, advocates, promotes and believes in you is what really matters. And that’s what content marketing does for you. Traditional advertising doesn’t encourage relationship building.

      As for directory submissions, I think that there are good and sites where you can submit your blog for maximum traffic and links. Just be careful not to trade links for any reason. Thanks for your comment.

  15. My blog is only 1 month old and I have #1 position with the keywords “Install Apps to Kindle fire without Wifi”. But I could not be in the first 10 pages with the keyword “Tips Of Tech” which is my targeted keyword and Title of my blog, and my URL. Can you tell me what the problem is.

    • Remember, your entire title is not a keyword or phrase that your target audience is typing in Google. Use Google keywords tool to research what people are searching for in your field and write about them. Then optimize in-house and go out in search of quality backlinks.

  16. My blog is still under construction, but I have three years of experience with the internet and when it comes to getting quality traffic, a #1 position on google may not always be the answer. In my view I think that quality content is what you should focus on, SEO may then come in. Because people don’t just click the link of a site on google because it is there, they read the two lines of your recent post. Humans are not machines so when they don’t see any proof that you’ll give then what they need, they skip to the next link and the process repeats itself.

  17. I am feeling that Google is providing me visitors from keywords in which I am not ranking well. I think Google really respects original high quality content and sending visitors to my blog; because of it’s originality.

  18. You have Perfectly explained about the real facts behind ranking.Excellent your tricks.. Your article helps me.I’m begin to learning seo, and I get a lot of information from your website, Thank you for your sharing

  19. Hello Micheal, yet again a master piece. Love your guts to write against the flow. When people are desperately looking for being No.1, this post holds back all the strings. And yes, though on No.1, we really can be certain about the conversion. 🙂

    • Actually, I didn’t write the post myself. This controversial but informative post is from Jayson. He’s done a great justice to this topic that everyone is desperately seeking after. Good to have you here once again Tajo.

  20. Thank you so much for great post.. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to several friends also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you for your effort in clarifying the importance of SEO rankings, and not just #1 position. I’m truly grateful.

  21. In my believes to rank for the first place is so interesting. By the way I would like to thank you so much about this website and SEO topics you share all the time. It is very interesting and it provides us an important ideas. thanks for sharing!…

  22. i think that this things is changed now to the best. even that this a good way that makes us knowing how to rank . thanks for share. to rank from the first until the end is different and difficult in the same time ,too. and this required a great effort.

  23. In my opinion if we do the blogging at it’s right way then everything else will follow us. Blogging must be do by passion. You have well explained about the real facts behind ranking. I keep looking up to you for more SEO posts.

  24. Thanks for the excellent post. I was able to get this to work fairly easily. I think you’ve made some truly interesting points. Not too many people would actually think about this the way you just did. Really great stuff here.Very helpful!

  25. very interesting website. i like this article so much because it is so informed and so interesting. i learn more from this blog thanks so much for share. keep it up!. this is the first time for me i enter to this website and i will do that for many time.

  26. Website ranking is getting easier but #1 is still tedious. I prefer to rank on top 10, with a great title which can improve click through rates. It is a good and amazing website and I’m very happy to use your content marketing tips.

  27. #1 rankings is too competitive and I don’t think it’s worth all the hard work. I see that when you rank #2 or #3, the traffic would also be much. Thank you Michael

  28. Hi,
    This blog is really interesting that why we need to target 1 ranking in SEO,What are the first things to be followed and all.
    Thanking you

  29. Excellent post. You really dialed that in. It’s the simple principles that worked for people that have already been where we are heading and desire to be that we should pay close attention to.Thanks for keeping it real and I always look forward to your next post!

  30. Yes, it’s correct that ranking doesn’t always matter. Very nice article on blogging. I am newbie and always in a hunt to learn more from articles. Thank you very much!

  31. Ranking is no longer stable. Bloggers are even confused on what to do to please Google. What i can say to you is just thanks so much for this information. thanks for sharing those important ideas with us. I really do need more traffic and would apply your tips.

  32. Hi Jason, Building a list is absolutely relevant as aiming to hit number one on google, except you want to say organic ranking are no longer important. Which to me is fallacy. The aim to me should be the incorporation of SEO alongside compelling content.

    This is because looking at organic search, factors such as meta data snippets which goggle use to rank pages are still relevant today. When you consider sites which have well optimised snippet data, you would find out there is a correlation between the snippet data and ranking high on the search engine.

    In conclusion, while list building is important organic search is going to always remain as long as people would continue to key in keywords

  33. great post thank you for sharing such kind of information
    thank you very much for your very useful information for me and I was amazed by the article that you create is ..
    Thank you very much ..

  34. I’ve already touched on the importance of local search in Mistake #2. Another key aspect of going local is claiming your local listing on Google Plus, Yahoo, Bing and Yellow Pages. Google recently replaced Google Places with the new Google+ Local pages. If you already have a page on Google Places, you can easily switch using Yext’s step-by-step guide.

  35. Quality content all the way! I’m in the fortunate position where I only started out blogging late 2011; google algorithms subsequently did not affect me too much. It quickly became clear only quality content will stand the test of time…and google I guess!

    nodular acne

  36. I’ve noticed that SERPs are different per country, which is a bot annoying when I try to reproduce any search query – system tells me i am 5th but on .co.uk I am 105th 😉
    best regards!

    • You’re right Siegfried. Webpage rankings are no longer stable. I think that what matters the most is engaging content that brings the reader back and get them subscribed on your email list.

  37. Exactly. I don’t give rankings too much importance. I just keep blogging for passion. Always believe that quality content would drive in loyal readers. Thanks for sharing!

Comments are closed.