YMMV: Chasing the Dragon of Keyword Ranking

Google bubble

Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you?​​

“I searched senior living and my town and our community came up as the third listing, not the first!”

“Why I am doing so great in certain keyword rankings, but I’m lower in the listing in others?”

“We’ve paid to put all these keywords in our website and our advertisements, but we’re still not #1 when we search for them. What gives?”

It’s absolutely a reasonable expectation. When you hire a company to help with your SEO and increase click-throughs, conversions and move-ins, you want to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. Which means that, when you’re trying to come up in the rankings using certain keywords, you may be confused or even a little peeved that your community isn’t coming up as the very first ranking. What gives, indeed.

The answer is: YMMV.

YMMV stands for “your mileage may vary,” and it’s Internet vernacular that’s used to mean “results are different for every person.” That’s literally the case with keyword rankings. The actual results will be different for each individual person, even if they’re typing the exact same words into the search engine. 

Search engines like Google use algorithms to give you search results that are customized to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re signed in to a particular service or if you’re browsing the web in incognito mode. What comes up for you will be based on a variety of different factors, like where you’re located, what things you’ve searched for in the past, what websites you’ve visited … and much, much more. No one’s completely sure how many factors go into search rankings, but guesstimates range into the hundreds.

Put simply, your search results are manipulated based on your personal data. 

The search engine DuckDuckGo recently did a study about this phenomenon, known as the “filter bubble.” 87 people across the United States searched Google for the same phrases at the same time, all in private browsing mode, and each participant received wildly different results. Here’s a short summary of the findings:

  • Most, if not all, of the participants saw results that were unique to them, whether they were signed in to Google or not. The discrepancies couldn’t be explained by algorithm testing, time or location. 
  • On the first page of search results, some participants received links that others didn’t.
  •  Even after accounting for location, individuals were shown different sources.[1]

So, no matter what you do, the results you get when you type in certain keywords will be basically out of anyone’s control … except Google’s (or the search engine you happen to be using). 

This is why we at Sage Age consider keyword rankings to be “chasing the dragon.” You’ll never be able to get a clear, specific result because it simply doesn’t exist. While we work hard to learn about what keywords work best in what order and create SEO campaigns accordingly, there are many factors at play that are out of anyone’s reach. 

How do we measure success, then? How can you (and we) tell whether or not a campaign is actually working? Instead of focusing on the dragon, we instead focus on the landscape: organic search traffic. 

Instead of looking at where a community’s website falls in a search with different keywords, we instead consider how much your search traffic increases based on your campaign. Then, we take a look at how that traffic is turning into conversions. In other words, we view the campaign as a whole and focus on the results, which gives a much clearer picture of success. 

Here’s how we do track how SEO campaigns are performing:

  • We track web activity through dedicated phone number tracking and webform monitoring
  • We measure what comes from web activity and what comes from pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • We’re able to run metrics on each campaign because we keep different aspects separate (for example, PPC landing pages can only be visited through an online advertisement, not through a keyword search)
  • We’re able to adjust campaigns in real-time based on the data we receive

All this to say: Don’t get hung up on keyword ranking because it will never give you a clear picture of what the truth is. While your community may turn up fourth when you do a keyword search, you may be ranked first for many of your online leads. Instead of chasing the dragon, take a look at your organic search traffic compared to your goals, and you may find that the results are pretty heroic after all.

Learn More Today About How Sage Age Strategies Can Help Your Community Grow!

Sage Age Strategies is a multiple award-winning strategic growth, marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living and senior care space. Sage Age Strategies has been solving problems and finding solutions to the needs of growth-oriented senior living providers nationwide for over thirty years. With experienced subject experts focused on the primary drivers of senior living success, we specialize in strategic growth planningmarket researchbest-practice sales and marketingsocial mediadirect marketingbrandingwebsite optimization, online marketing, sales training and creative services — all designed to help senior living organizations grow sales in existing markets while creating a presence in profitable new ones.

For more information, please call or email Melinda Schmitz at 816.349.0464 / melinda@sageagestrategies.com.

Contact Us Today!


[1]“Measuring the ‘Filter Bubble:’ How Google is influencing what you click.” https://spreadprivacy.com/google-filter-bubble-study/