Why SEO keyword ranking is not always a good thing


25-04-2016 08:04:06

Why SEO keyword ranking is not always a good thing

When I was working as a freelance web developer, I often got requests from clients who wanted me to make their website rank at the top of Google for a certain keyword.

For example; a client who owned a high-end men’s shoe shop in London wanted their website to rank at the top of google for the keyword “shoes”.

Whilst this might seem like a fairly logical idea, initially ranking highly for this keyword would have been very costly, and in the end, it would have done more harm than good to his ranking performance.

The reasons why are fairly logical if you think about it.

The cost

For a start, there will be a huge amount of competition from other shoe stores, not only in London, but worldwide, that also want to rank highly for this keyword.  

This means, I would have had to spend a lot of time and money on getting the website to that cherished number one spot, or failing that, purchase ad space which again, would cost a fortune due to the competition.

The performance

Now, let’s imagine that I had actually achieved this insane goal of ranking at “Numero Uno” in Google for the term “shoes”. Would that be such a good thing anyway?

Well, no; and I will explain why.
Reason 1

For a start, the way we use search engines has changed a lot over the years. Gone are the days when users would type a single word like “shoes” into a search engine.

What is far more likely is that they will search for a specific type of shoe (e.g. “brown leather loafers”), because they know that otherwise they will be bombarded with irrelevant data, and finding what they want will be much more difficult.

So, by ranking highly for the term “shoes”, you aren’t getting any traffic from people using these longer, more specific keyword phrases.
Reason 2

Secondly, the less specific the keyword is, the more likely it is that the user is in a very early stage of the buying cycle.

And that makes sense, because anyone searching for “shoes”, doesn’t have a clear idea of what they want, or they’d be searching for something more specific.

So, these users also aren’t as valuable as those searching for more specific terms.

Reason 3

Finally, if you rank highly for shoes, everyone from everywhere who typed in “shoes” to Google will click on your site.

You don’t actually want this, because the Bounce Rate (i.e. the amount of users leaving your homepage as soon as they land on it) will be astronomical, sending your site’s initial good ranking into a tailspin, meaning all that time and effort put in to get the high ranking would be lost!


In our example scenario of the London shoe shop, it would be a much better idea to try to rank highly for keywords that the site actually delivers on – for example; “men’s shoes London”, or even “men’s black leather Ted Baker shoes” if that is one of the lines they stock.

Using this method, you are much more likely to get visitors on your site who will actually make a purchase, and your site will organically rise in the search engine rankings.

It all boils down to this – the content on your website should be relevant to the keywords you rank for. It’s as simple as that!

By Aidan McNally, Digital Project Manager