<< Go back to the blog

Measuring Search Rankings: Why “Traffic Flow” matters more than a #1 Ranking on Google

traffic flow mondovo

First, let’s fire off an accusation.

Not at anyone per se, but more of a statement of fact as we see it. Rank Trackers today are slightly misleading when it comes to telling you how to measure your search engine rankings. I’m not implying that the data they’re presenting is wrong – not at all. But more along the lines that the data they’re presenting is too literal. Measuring your ranking performance based on just search positions isn’t as insightful anymore as opposed to a ranking metric with intelligence behind it.

Let me explain.

Data is only relevant when it can communicate an insight beyond the obvious. Imagine a scenario where two companies are competing online. Company A is doing all it can to rank higher and in the SERPs, their site is ranking higher. But. Company B is working smarter. Through better optimization techniques, they’re managing to pull in more traffic with a lower SERP ranking. If you were to ask any digital marketer or SEO professional, they would tell you that Company B is doing a better job since it’s able to extract more ROI from it SEO efforts. (Although I’m loathe to admit that for some clients, Company A is the way to go. Sigh.)

As a SaaS company that created and markets an SEO & Social Media Toolset, we see this all the time. Marketers get so caught up in the SERPs that they forget to measure whether higher ranking is actually bringing in higher traffic or not. Google’s become a crowded place of late. Ads, Sponsored results, Map results and more. The amount of distractions between the user (read: searcher) and the 1st search result is almost half a page scroll. You could be ranking #1 these days and still not be clicked on by a large number of searchers because of the distractions above your listing. So measuring your performance purely based on ranking positions can be such a misleading metric! It would rather make more sense to compute the potential traffic you could get from each term and on that basis, measure your real ranking performance.

Recognizing the lack of a clear benchmark metric when it comes to measuring rankings, in Mondovo’s Rank Tracker, we compute and display a metric called the “Traffic Flow” where we factor in all distractions that show up for each search term and on the basis of an estimated CTR and the search volume for the word, we calculate the estimated traffic you could be getting from each individual keyword as well as all combined. Our proprietary algorithm takes into account the:

  1. Search Volume
  2. Number of ads
  3. Type of search results (news, tweets, images, videos, etc.)

And estimates an approximate CTR for every result on the search results pages. We then multiply that approximate CTR with the Search Volume to arrive at the Estimated Traffic Flow. Tests have shown that for the purpose of benchmark comparisons, it’s immensely useful and a much better metric to look at when evaluating your ranking performance.

Our next step when developing the new Rank Tracker at Mondovo was to base all the tools data tables around this one super metric – the ‘Estimated Traffic Flow’. Here are some key insights you can draw by measuring your success by traffic flow instead of ranking positions.

Are those ranking changes actually bringing you traffic?

Given below is a screen grab of the summary section in our Rank Tracker report. The summary section is where users can see the main ‘Estimated Traffic Flow’ figure. This number represents the total estimated amount of traffic that the ranking keywords are driving to the site. The section also shows you the ‘Estimated Traffic Flow’ figure for the previous crawl date, so users can measure the change in growth overall.

If you had to just look at ranking changes, in the “Gains vs Losses” section below you’ll see the site has lost rankings for “90 terms” and gained rankings for “70 terms”. Normally, you’d take that as being worse-off. But. If you look at the traffic flow, the site has actually seen an increase in estimated traffic! This means that in spite of losing rankings for more search terms, the ranking gains by the other terms have more than compensated for these losses and the ranking gains have come from keywords that have higher search volumes and visibility.

summary of keyword rankings


Identify the keywords that can get you highest returns for your time and effort

I’ve mentioned this before but, for the sake of emphasis on how important it is, I’ll mention it again. ‘Estimated Traffic Flow’ data gives a sense of context to Ranking Data. Without it, it’s hard to know which keywords to focus on. Let me illustrate with an example from our demo account (you can access this account & demo ranking report by clicking this link)

list of keyword rankings

Our ranking data tables have a lot more information than what is first visible on screen. There’s a wealth of data to be had from the “Show/Hide Columns” and the full search results for each term. In the sample report above,  we select the ‘Current Traffic Flow’ column, and then filter the ranking data to only show the keywords ranking between the 11th and the 20th position. The idea being that it’s best to first focus on terms that you’re ranking on the 2nd page already as these terms could could move up the rankings with the least effort.

We can now see that there are a total of 62 keywords that are ranking on the 2nd page of the search results, each with high search volumes. If you sort by traffic flow (which is already sorted by default), you’ll see the keywords which are delivering the highest traffic already to your site and which would make most sense to optimize further for best results. Keyword prioritization can be important and viewing your existing traffic flow can be helpful to prioritize where you should put your efforts next.

Which of your competitors’ pages are driving the most traffic?

If I had to choose one killer application of the ‘Estimated Traffic Flow’ metric, this data table would be it. Websites over the years have become enormous repositories of content. With literally hundreds and thousands of pages optimized for search engines, finding competitor pages to analyze is a herculean task – was rather.

Mondovo’s super metric – ‘Estimated Traffic Flow’, forms the basis of this entire data table “Page-wise Rankings” shown below.

list of page rankings

For this example, I’ve applied a filter to only show pages from Expedia.com. We can easily see the following:

  • Which pages are their best performing by rank based on ‘Avg.Position’
  • How many keywords each page is ranking for
  • And most importantly, what is the estimated traffic that these pages are driving to the sites.

From this table alone, we can identify their best performing page and this might be a page worth investigating to figure out what’s working so well!

Spot the unexpected competitor based on Traffic Flow from the “Competitor Landscape” section

In SEO, it’s a fair observation that the most obvious competitor might not be the one to go after immediately. It’s best to see if you can find competitors who seem to be getting the most traffic for the least number of terms and which aren’t as authoritative as your other competitors. Let’s look at this a little closer to see if this observation holds water from the “Competitor Landscape” section in our Rank Tracker:


Common ‘Quick Win’ logic dictates that you’d go after the big guys with lots of ‘Rankings Pages’ and ‘Number of Keywords Ranking’ – Tripadvisor, Hotels and Expedia. These are the ones Booking.com feels the most threatened by and capturing search share from them would be a smart move right?

Not entirely.

Look further down the table and we can see that www.beachchamber.com and www.visitstpeterclearwater.com have only 2 ‘Ranking Pages’ apiece and negligible Keywords Ranking (this is from the 250+ keywords that we’re tracking for this profile). But, they’re both managing to pull in huge amounts of traffic for the target terms. If we click to see the keywords they’re ranking for, we can see they’re getting most traffic from ranking in the 2nd position for the keyword i.e. ‘clearwater beach’. By just analyzing their site and optimizing to capture their share of search traffic, you could potentially drive another 18000 people to your website.

Dig further and apply industry standard conversion metrics and that’s nearly 100 people who could potentially end up buying or booking a hotel from Booking.com. All from optimizing 1 keyword that would have normally gone overlooked!

Are there advertisers stealing potential traffic from you?

In online marketing, organic traffic might be the most preferred option to achieve the best ROIs i.e. result 1 on page 1, but it by no means is it the only tactic that marketers employ. Most often, it’s a combination of things and Ads usually play a big role in getting pages / terms ranking. But who is advertising for which terms? What copy are they using? And are they taking away some of your traffic. Let’s find out:

advertisers search terms

When we sort the table by “Traffic Flow” again, we can quickly spot a few sites that seem to be advertising for just a few terms but those seem to be the terms that have the highest search volume. The traffic that could otherwise be yours is being taken away from you. CheapHotels.com is doing a terrific job of pulling in giant numbers with just 1 ad for 1 target term. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more plum opportunity for boosting site visitor numbers. You could use this data to decide whether you need to compete with them on the ad front and if so, we show you the ads they are using – this could be useful to strategize your ads when going head on with them.

So there you go, a brief overview of how Mondovo’s ‘Estimated Traffic Flow’ gives context, focus and depth to otherwise generic Rank Data so that your decisions become driven by intelligence and insight. You could be ranking #1 for a lot of terms but if you’re not getting as much traffic as your competitors’ then you’re targeting the wrong terms. So it’s important to track your rankings progress by a growth in Traffic Flow rather than just ranking positions. To get started with our Rank Tracker, click here.

For those interested in knowing how to get the most out of your rank tracker as well as comparing how existing Rank Tracker tools fare vs Mondovo’s Rank Tracker, check out our Best Rank Tracker Comparisons & Alternatives page.

The following two tabs change content below.

Giridhar Sridharan

Senior Manager - Customer Success & Sales at Mondovo
A passionate marketer at heart, Giri brings years of customer facing marketing experience to the Customer Success table, combining a passion for the product with an equal passion for the customer experience. Part coach, business manager, cheerleader and product guru - all combined into a person that drives business revenue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Thank you!

Check your email for a confirmation link.
Do check the spam folder as well.
Download the Sample Proposal
  You will also be subscribed to our fortnightly email newsletter
Download the Calculator
  You will also be subscribed to our fortnightly email newsletter
Download the Sample Proposal
  You will also be subscribed to our fortnightly email newsletter
Download the Rank Drop Quadrant
  You will also be subscribed to our fortnightly email newsletter
Download the Templates to Help You Manage Your Online Reputation Better
  You will also be subscribed to our fortnightly email newsletter
Download the List of Restaurant Discovery Plaftorms
  You will also be subscribed to our fortnightly email newsletter