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When you hear the word “rankings” in SEO, it is referring to a website’s position in the SERP (search engine results page).

What is a SERP?

A SERP is a web page served to users when they search for specific queries online using a search engine, such as Google. The SERP can be made of many different search result types that cater to different industries; however, there are three main types of SERP listings: Paid Search Results, Local Results, and Organic Results. Below you can see the general layout of a SERP for the query “Nike”:

For SEO, we primarily like to focus on organic results. Local Results may also be an area of focus depending on the industry (such as a local business with a brick-and-mortar location.)

Each SERP usually contains 10 organic listings (some results pages may have fewer organic listings).

Why Are Rankings Important?

The main reason that rankings are important, outside of general brand visibility, is click-through rate, also known as CTR. CTR is measured by dividing the number of times a link appears on a SERP (also known as impressions) by the number of times it is actually clicked on by a visitor.

Many studies prove that the higher a website ranks in Organic Results, the higher the CTR. A case study done by Advanced Web Ranking found that the CTR on desktop for a website ranked in the first position was 30.26%. Websites that are in position 2 see a significant drop, receiving only a 12.21% CTR. Those ranked in position 10 receive a jaw-dropping 0.96% CTR. You can see a visual below showing the relationship between CTR and Average Position in the SERP:

So, to summarize, the higher you rank in Organic Results, the higher the propensity is for your website to have a higher CTR – thus more traffic.

Should Clients Focus on Rankings?

While ranking high in the SERPs looks nice, especially if you are outperforming a competitor, it is not a metric that should be a primary focus of a business. Keyword Ranking is not a true business KPI; “you can’t take rank to the bank”. If you have a client that is stressing over their rankings, we have a great blog on why chasing SEO keyword ranking is a fool’s errand.

What Influences a Website’s Ranking Position?

There are A LOT of factors that can influence keyword rankings for a website. Some on-page factors include meta data, header tags, and the actual body copy on the page. Some off-page factors include backlinks, anchor text, and Domain Authority. Check out our entire “SEO in 2018” series to learn more, or download our Guide to SEO in 2018.