bad-rankIf you read this heading a second time wondering why being #1 on Google could be a bad thing, you have read it correctly.

Every day, organizations turn to SEO companies to manage the search engine optimization of their website and the first statement they make is, “we want to be number one on Google”.  As an SEO agent or consultant, you obviously want to tell your client no problem and give them the reassurance they will be right up there but your answer should be along the lines of, “for what search term do you want to be number one?” Every time you ask your clients this question, the odds are good that they don’t have the answer or if they do, are they necessarily the right terms to be ranking for?

The point is, being number one for the wrong search terms is worthless and can even be detrimental to the marketing of your business. Let’s bear in mind that the client is in business to make money or they may have other goals which could include online PR, lead generation, branding and more. The bottom line is, if they are ranking for the wrong search terms, it could negatively impact their business objectives and ultimately, their success.

Ask and You Shall Receive

The first question any SEO company should be asking their client is, ‘what are your business objectives?’ If the aim of the business is to generate leads, then we need to establish what search terms will produce those leads. If the client wants more sales, well it goes without saying that we need to know which terms will produce these sales.

There is an old adage that says that if you throw enough mud against a wall, some of it will stick and the same goes for search engine optimization. The difference here, however, is that we don’t want ‘some’ mud to stick. Instead, we want laser targeted keywords that meet the client’s objectives to stick.

Number 1 Doesn’t Mean Number Right

As an SEO company in Austin, we often come into contact with firms seeking our assistance with their SEO. Our task usually starts with us picking up the pieces and sorting through the mess of a previous SEO agency or consultant. What is interesting though and something we see all too often is that most of these companies’ websites are optimized for the wrong search terms.  In many cases, these clients are on page one of the major search engines and they do get loads of traffic but the conversions are simply not there. The bottom line is that their return on investment (ROI) on their SEO is negative.  If you were to ask the previous SEO agency to explain what had happened, they will tell you that they successfully got the company ranking on page one but that due to the poor products and services offered by the company, the ROI was non-existent.

Keywords Are Key

If you look around the Internet, there is a general myth about keyword research.  You can find many articles that tell you to head on over to the Google Keyword Planner, put in some terms and see where there is volume. Then you are instructed to find long tail versions, exact match etc. The reality is, if it were this easy to find the right keywords for your website, everyone would be doing it and SEO agencies would not exist.

More importantly, we need to know which keywords produce the desired results. Unfortunately, SEO is not an overnight process so trying to optimize for a specific term or terms, only to find out months later that they are not the right ones, will force you to undo what you have done and then try to re-rank. This process is often time consuming, costly and it sometimes simply doesn’t work out.

A handy technique to save time and money in the long run is to use paid search as an SEO tool. Now, you are probably wondering why we have switched from organic traffic to paid traffic. Well, the fact is, we are not switching. A paid campaign can be switched on and off fairly quickly and this gives you the ability to measure and to test which keywords actually produce the desired results. You don’t need to be a PPC guru or to spend weeks or months optimizing a paid campaign but certainly don’t cut corners or your data will be unreliable.

It is vital to collect this keyword data and if you are an internet marketing agency, work with your client to get their funnel and user experience optimized in the process.  Once you have the required data in hand of which terms actually work and produce the desired results, you can then really focus your SEO efforts.  You will probably find some great long tail terms in the process that work and this will definitely make the task to crack page one rankings a whole lot easier.

In a nutshell, when we tell you that ranking #1 on Google could be a bad thing, what we are trying to say is that if you are ranking at the top for all the wrong keywords, your SEO has failed. You could compare this to coming first in a marathon but not winning the prize. All that effort with no return, it isn’t worth it, right?

By Techwacky

Editor-in-Chef of