Google’s Tops Search Query – Time to Panic

Share on Facebook1Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Digg thisEmail this to someone

Google recently updated GWT with more data for top search queries. This lead to a lot of SEO consultants throwing themselves off a cliff, declaring, keyword rank no longer matters. Personalised search is now rendering these stats useless.

This was after Spinn ran a very good article on the value of keyword rankings. There is some great feedback in that post. Where your keywords rank IS still important or else there would be little point in keyword research, market research, competitor research etc. Also keyword rank reports do still hold some value. Mayabe not if just presented on their own, I would recommend using a Web Analytics tool for the core part of the reporting. But keyword increases can still show “cause & effect” i.e. you did such and such over the past month and your general keyword placement is now x.

But, back to the post. I have noticed some really odd things in Google over the past 2/3 months. This is with my own eyes, and not reading others SEO blogs, where most SEO’s opinions are formed. I was going to write a post on this and if Google was split testing the SERPs, when SEOWizz beat me to punch with “The End of Google Rankings As We Know It“. This is of course, wild speculation, but backed up by results similar to mine. It would also make sense (in a wild speculation sense), if Google are going to rely more on analytical data, then why not rotate the SERP’s a little and base rankings on those with the best metrics. Do I have any hard evidence of this – Of course NOT …

If the GWT data is accurate for accounts I work on. Then data being shown for generic keywords has very little in common with keyword rankings (that 3 tools I use). It does correlate to Google Analytics. I had been scratching my head looking at traffic in Google Analytics, trying to figure out why high volume keywords were returning very little traffic. Most people would put this down to the huge amount of variants present in search now i.e. GEO Targeting & Personalised search, so let’s get into Personalised search a little more.

Personalise Me Baby !

As I work in the SEO field and blog, my first reaction upon seeing the new data in GWT was to rant & rave about personalised search. How it was killing my rankings, affecting usability, only invented to increase Google’s PPC revenue and generally piss me off. But, I managed to pull myself back from the keyboard and gently told myself, it’s a big world we live in. I had no data to back up my theories. My analysis was based on real world data, but only my data. This is something we tend to forget in the SEO world, just because we think something, doesn’t make it real. I headed over to SEO Dojo to get an opinion from the guys in there, who are a bunch of really smart guys and girls. The following are some extracts from them:


David Harry

David (theGypsy) is a really smart guy and has done actual testing on Psearch, yes, he hasn’t just fabricated some results and then spun them out into a shock blog post. The post is for forum members only, so better join up to read it …,com_kunena/Itemid,65/catid,32/func,view/id,2309/lang,en/#2309

Thomas Fjordside –  (

“Personally I don’t have that many problems with getting people to understand that the results will vary, depending on many different factors.

Now some will have problems with reporting results, but I tend to use different metrics. And you could easily report rankings anyway. Just make sure that they know results will vary.”

Federico Munoa – (Posicionamiento y SEO)

“The way I see it, I think most SEOs won´t do anything regarding P-search until they see a noticeable fluctuation regarding their site data (traffic, bounce rates, etc) and not having a clue of what happened.”

“For small ecommerce sites I this this could be huge. Since the last Google “Brand” update we all know how difficult is to compete for those top serps with the giants within the industry, however I think this could bring a new element to the competition.”

DazzlinDonna – (

“I think the easiest way to describe the impact of personalization to clients is to show them the variances in rankings within the new Google Webmaster Tools top search queries section. Because they’ve expanded this data, it’s pretty clear that one phrase can rank in various positions, and that lends itself to explaining how different personalized factors can influence that variation. It’s the perfect opportunity to help them understand that creating a positive influence on users can affect their personalized results in later queries.”

Barry Adams Northern Ireland Web Design

“So far I’m getting a lot of mixed signals re: Personalized Search. Some anecdotal evidence suggests it may not have any significant impact at all, while others claim rankings are all over the place for different users.

What it means for my clients is that it’s becoming more important to have that top ranking slot, as it means you’ll get the most clicks, which (should) result in a consistently higher rank on personalised SERPs.”


So is it time to panic ? Well, the online work is changing fast. A year or so ago, Social Media (Social Search) was going to kill off traditional SEO (even though the same standard practices apply in doing keyword research for your social content. We also have personalised search, geo targeting and whatever other variants Google can throw at us. My experience at the moment is keyword positions are moving quite a bit. The new data in GWT would back this up. But it’s important we, as an SEO community, don’t use personal experiences to create a blanket view of one topic. There could be hundreds of reasons for every search result, so there is never any harm in getting a second opinion.

Looking for SEO Services or Link Building ServicesContact Me

About Kieran Flanagan

Online Marketer who implements both inbound and paid strategies to help companies grow internationally. Lover of content marketing, SEO, analytics, CRO and strategy. A highly motivated marketing geek high on data crack.

  • Nice analysis and I appreciate the mention. I have to be honest when I first saw the GWT keyword tool it made me slightly upset as it adds more confusion and uncertainty to an already difficult industry. However when I really thought about it, what difference does it really make? The only SEO's this will effect is those that base success on rankings alone. I actually like the new split testing approach, however as you say it's not been confirmed. I swapped a few emails with Rand at SEOmoz this weekend and he doesn't agree with the 'rotational rankings' theory and from their point of view the SERPS seem pretty steady, I don't agree personally as I have seen the same inconsistant results on as I have on .

    Let's face it, SEO is always changing whether it's how we report or the processes we use, thats what keeps us all in the industry eager to learn more.



  • Giza

    Interesting…I am curious can you relate to my experience: I do a lot of research on daily basis. What I have noticed recently and it begins to annoy me, which is only my gut feeling stuff I “see” when I work: the more I search on specific subjects the more google responds to me with the same results it has responded to me in the past. So my first search results are broad and all is great, however once I put my foot prints on google, google seems to follow them back…and I feel like I am catching on my own tail! Does it make sense to you? Also, when I try to search the same topic on different pc – search results are different. Seems to me like google “adjusts” to what a given user or a PC is searching in google and “suggests” the results that the person has looked up in the past. In some cases it is beneficial I am sure – however when I am trying to broaden my knowledge by more searching on a topic – I feel like google is fighting against me by wasting my time and energy by suggesting me to look at the stuff I have already looked in the past. Now – maybe I am just getting tired? What do you think? I wish there was a button on google: “Do not show me pages I have already seen in last *** period” . That would help a lot!! Thanks.