#1 on Google doesn’t mean the same thing it used to. Google still ranks websites, but there are many other factors involved in websites’ showing up for searchers. Because of personalized factors, including physical location, different people see different things.
Search engines crawl websites, make decisions about what those websites are about, and rank their trustworthiness and importance. Later, when someone searches for a given keyword, the websites will be offered — all things being equal — in the order of their ranking, the most trustworthy and useful one first.
All things being equal. However, it isn’t usually equal, because usually the search engines include information like where your computer is, what you’ve looked at before, what other people in your social network have shared, and other stuff designed to give you a better searching experience.
Where does your page rank?
So how can you tell if you’re leading the pack?
- You can use Google Search Console to get your average rankings direct from Google.
- You can use tools like ManageWP‘s SEOtool.
- You can try an online tool like Spyfu.
Make sure to use the same tools. They will not all give you the same information, so you can only see improvement if you use the same measurements.
How can you improve rankings?
Track your rankings. Optimize your content. Become aware of your competitors and make sure that your web page provides a better experience than theirs. Add fresh content, using the Content Clusters method. This requires concentrated work over time, and it’s worth doing for your most important keywords.
However, you might also want to relax about those top keywords a little bit. While I certainly enjoyed the days when you could struggle your way up to #1 and feel triumphant when you accomplished it, that particular cheap thrill doesn’t matter much any more. Increasing traffic using increasing numbers of long tail searches, resulting in more conversions and increased income — that’s the set of metrics to watch now.