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The Myth of Ranking Number 1 on Google

by Patrick Delehanty 07 Sep, 2017

How Can I Rank Number One On Google

There’s a common misconception about SEO for those unfamiliar with the service and how it works. Usually, when one says or hears the letters “S-E-O” they think, “Oh, you get people to rank number 1 on Google” or they reach out saying “I want to rank number 1 on Google, make it happen”. While, yes, the goal of SEO is to increase the organic visibility of your website for relevant key searches, ranking number 1 consistently across all Google searches is usually a damn near impossible feat.

Why? Google’s main purpose is to provide a high quality, relevant search experience to every one of it’s users. To do this, Google collects a huge amount of data about those using its website and products, returning a personalized experience based on their engagement.The end result of collecting this data is called “personalized search” and it’s sole purpose is to continually increase the relevancy of a particular user’s search experience.

What this now means is that striving for the number 1 position in Google on all searches is no longer realistic, because results, and how they rank, are based on the individual searching and how they have previously engaged with the content in Google’s search results. This means that your SEO strategy needs to focus on satisfying your users, not ranking number 1.

To build on this, here’s why “ranking number 1 on Google” is a myth...


Google and other search engines can pinpoint your location based on your IP address, as well as your GPS location. This means that when you search for certain services or products in your area, Google will return results based on your location.

For instance, here’s what appears when I search “best pizza” from my desk in Chicago…

Now, when I change my location and search “best pizza” in San Francisco…

Even when I search “top rated heart hospital”, which can be considered a national or global search, here’s what I see in Chicago…

And here’s what I see in San Francisco…

What this means is that we need to consider where users are and our service areas as a business. Are we local, national or global? Each geographical area calls for a different approach to SEO, but if you are focused on targeting your campaign and audience properly, you can ensure that you are gaining organic visibility across all relevant areas.

Check out our blog post on how you can optimize for local SEO.


Depending on the type of device you are searching on, meaning a desktop, smartphone, or tablet, the results you receive from Google will be different.

Here are my results when I search "bowling" on my desktop...

And here are my results on my smartphone...

Now, this could be for any number of reasons including promixity to the bowling alley itself, but more often than not, it's based on the mobile friendliness of the website and how it meets Google's best practices. More searches are happening on mobile these days (around 60% actually) and Google invests a lot of effort into providing quality mobile search results. It's important that when you're optimizing or building a website, that you focus on providing a great mobile user experience. Doing so will help increase your organic visibility on mobile, where more and more searches are happening.

Check out our blog post on Google’s mobile friendly update.


Search History 

Google and other search engines pay attention to your previous searches and how you interacted with your results. They do this by keeping track of your clicks on particular results, and use past searches to determine which results (and result types - transactional, navigation, or informational) will be most useful to you. This means that results in your searches could be heavily skewed to particular brands or services, depending on the search you are conducting and how often you conduct similar searches.

To get a more honest view of search engine results and the key queries most relevant to you and your industry, clear your cache, open a different browser, try StartPage.com, or go incognito (Chrome / Safari / Mozilla - if you are using IE, shame on you, stop it) and conduct a search. Chances are your results will be very different.


So, What Should You Focus On? 

Think about the reason you want to “rank number 1 on Google” and what the ultimate purpose is for you. Is it more traffic? More leads or revenue? I’m willing to bet it’s one of those two reasons. Accomplishing these two goals comes down to relevancy and a great user experience. Having a professional SEO audit your website and SEO marketing efforts, while creating a comprehensive strategy moving forward in the process, will greatly enhance your organic visibility and result in more qualified traffic to your website. From there, having a great website design that is not only focused on your users, but built to convert, will increase your sales or leads and bring your marketing efforts full circle. 

Lastly, when a SEO or digital marketing agency tells you that they can "get you to rank number 1 in Google", they are selling you snake oil and they should be avoided at all costs. This is an incredibly irresponsible promise to make and is a waste of both your time and budget. This is the biggest red flag you can have and when you hear it, simply end the conversation and move on.

Since 2003, Marcel Digital has been at the forefront of SEO and the algorithms that define it. We're constantly experimenting and testing our ideas, bringing about the best organic search results for our clients in the process. If you have questions or concerns about your current campaign, and would like to talk to a member of our team of expertsfeel free to reach out! We're always standing by and happy to have a discussion!


Patrick Delehanty - Marketing Manager, Marcel Digital

Patrick Delehanty

Patrick Delehanty has as much knowledge in the digital space as he has beard hairs. He is the highest endorsed member of Moz and a contributor to Business 2 Community.

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