Why Both Weight Loss and Google Rankings are Limited Goals

SEO2My husband and I were talking the other night about one of his pet peeves: When people start exercising and eating healthier, they usually measure their success by how much weight they’ve lost (or not) as shown to them by their trusty scale. It annoys him because, while losing weight is one sign that you’re doing things right, after a certain point, it can only tell you so much.

It reminded me of my own pet peeve: how people usually measure the success of their SEO work by checking how well their site ranks in the search engines. Yet, similar to weight loss being a poor main goal for your health and fitness regime, where your pages rank for specific keyword phrases is also a poor main goal.

Healthier Body – Healthier Website

Your principal goal when eating in moderation and exercising regularly should be to become healthier overall, and ultimately to live a longer and more satisfying life. And your chief goal with an SEO program should be to create a better overall website and make more money from it – which, incidentally, can also make for a more satisfying life! 😉

Writing articles nobody is really interested in about the history of your products is like eating lots of junk food. It’s empty calories. There’s no value in it to anyone (except perhaps the donut store) and it keeps you from eating the good stuff. Writing keyword-filled content just for the sake of search engines works the same way: It keeps you from adding true value to your website. While you can try to cover your big ole body in a floral mu’umu’u, let’s face it, you’re still out of shape underneath it all.

And it’s the same with your website. There’s no sense adding good content on top of bad. If it’s already full of junk (food), it’s time to trim it down and cut out the crap (content).

So how do you measure the effects of trimming the fat?

I’m not saying that weighing yourself and checking up on your rankings are utterly useless. In the beginning, both can be a good way to make sure you’re on the right track. Let’s say you get all into your new health kick because none of your clothes fit and you can barely make it up a flight of stairs without having to stop for a rest. The more you exercise and eat right, the better the numbers on your scale are going to look. This can definitely keep you motivated. But the weight loss itself is only one result of your success. Other results might be that you look and feel better. In fact, even if you lost only a few pounds, if you’re eating better and exercising regularly, you’re likely a whole lot healthier and may even have a lot more energy and overall focus.

And so it is with SEO.

When your rankings for a few key terms move from “nowhere to be found” to being on the first page in Google, it shows you that you’re certainly on the right track. But here’s what is more important: You’re likely seeing not only more visitors to your website, but more targeted visitors. And just as more energy results from a good exercise regimen, more conversions and sales come from more targeted website visitors.

But you can only lose so much weight (and check so many rankings).

If you keep up with your fitness program you’ll probably get to a point where – even though you’re back in your skinny jeans – the needle on the scale has stopped moving in the “right” direction. When you measure your success by how many pounds you’re losing, this can be confusing. You know you’re exercising often and eating correctly, but can’t understand why you’re not still losing weight. And this is where my husband’s pet peeve comes in.

According to him, the more you exercise, the more muscle mass you put on your body. This in turn may even cause you to gain weight because muscle weighs more than fat. At this point, it’s silly to be constantly weighing yourself and worrying why you’re not losing weight anymore. So at this point you can change your goals. After all, you are probably looking fabulous with a whole new body shape. You’re healthy, fit and trim. Your scale isn’t measuring your lost percentage of body fat, nor is it taking into consideration the fact that you’re stronger and no longer short of breath. So why keep looking at the scale?

It’s the same with your website.

Once you know you’re on the right track with your SEO, you no longer need to check your rankings. They simply don’t tell the whole story. Rankings don’t make you money or make your site convert. They
don’t show you how healthy (or not) your website is.

After the initial stages of your SEO program, it’s time to put away your rank checking software (or scale) and adopt new goals – start counting how often your phone rings, your contact form gets filled out, and how fabulously your website is converting all those extra targeted search engine visitors. Then sit down and have a healthy fruit smoothie – because you deserve it!

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area
since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen.

If you learned from this article, be sure to invite your colleagues to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so they can receive similar articles in the future!

About the author


Jill Whalen

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen. If you learned from this article, be sure to invite your colleagues to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so they can receive similar articles in the future!


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  • Great post and really loved the comparison of body weight and ranking. Awesome and thanks for the great post.

  • Great article. Agree completely. The same is true with television advertising for web-based businesses. We often find that web-based clients are mired in the data noise they have generated for themselves by trying to interpret online ad metrics. This has trained them to obsess over keyword performance instead of revenues. Our clients often ask about the measurability of their TV ad campaign. Of course, sales are the best measure of the campaign’s reach and effect. It’s easy to add a “how did you hear about us” field to your contact page, or just keep tabs on calls to the 800 number once the TV advertising campaign has started. TV ads also have a lasting positive effect in the customer’s mind, whereas an online text ad does not. This positive effect is similar to your analogy of overall health and wellbeing as a greater measure of your weight loss goal.

    For our online merchants, we strive to create an ad campaign that blends well with their other promotional efforts, such as the overall theme of their website, any product packaging, brochures, social media profiles, or other materials they may have already presented to customers. Television, like SEO, is one of the key components to marketing success.

  • I remember when ALL clients were fixated on just a few keywords and it was so frustrating trying to explain the importance of how that generated traffic as well as revenue. I really do think that website owners are getting smarter than they were 10 years ago, but we still have a long way to go in educating the clients on taking a holistic approach to gaining traffic & visibility and analytics.

  • Wow, this is a great article, and the analogy is especially well-written. When I was a personal trainer, I always used to tell people not to stress so much over the scale, because it could play tricks – water weight, muscle weighing more than fat, etc – these could all throw off the results. Instead, I tried to get them to focus on long term goals and health. The tendency both in weight loss, and in SEO, is to focus on hitting a certain number or doing something in x amount of time, but I this article hits the nail on the head – it isn’t only the number on the scale (your website traffic) that is the true measure of success. Great work.

  • Great article, as always! It is very difficult to change your way of thinking when you have been doing anything for a long time. Once you get the first page everything changes and you have to work differently in order to get to number one. Also your website has limits just like weight loss you need to consider getting to page one an achievement in itself.

  • haha..i do really like your article and dugg on digg already..thanks for great info 🙂