Not long ago, a new client looked at their Search Analytics in Google’s Search Console and saw they had an Average Position of 1.7 for their highest value search term. They were very happy. I was sorry to have to explain to them that in reality, their website was performing quite badly for that search term.
When Average Position 1.7 is bad
Google’s Search Console includes Search Analytics, a trove of data about how your website is performing in Google Search. One of the interesting numbers is Average Position. As you probably expected, this is the average position of your website when displayed in the Google Search results. Some call this value your website ranking.
Average Position seems like a simple concept, but like much of the data in Search Analytics, it is easy to misinterpret and think you’re doing much better or worse than you are.
There are two important things to keep in mind whenever you are looking at Search Analytics data:
what is this value actually measuring?
what other measures can affect the meaning of this value?
Understanding the precise definition of average position is often important when trying to decide what is and isn’t a good value. However in this case it was the other relevant measures that told me 1.7 for average position was not a cause for celebration.
The other measures
When considering the relevance of average position, you should first look at Impressions. In this case, Search Analytics told me that impressions for this search term over the corresponding time period was only 10.
Next I checked estimated search volume. There are a few places you can find an estimate of search volume for a specific search term. Google Adwords is probably the most used, but there are third party commercial tools that also give you a value for this.
I was unsurprised to see this search term with an estimated search volume of several tens of thousands each month.
What was happening?
Of the tens of thousands of times each month someone typed this term into Google Search, this client’s website was being suggested ten times in total. Each of those ten times it was listed at number 1 or 2. But the other (say) 49,990 times, this website wasn’t listed at all in the search results. Not even on page 10.
I’ll never know one way or the other, but it’s possible those ten impressions were when the client or their staff searched to see where they were ranked.
The irony is that an average position of 10 would have been a much better result than 1.7, provided the number of impressions was significantly higher. Ten impressions scattered between positions one and two is nowhere near as good as a thousand impressions at position 20 plus a thousand impressions at position one.