The numbers in your metrics are all but useless if you don’t know how to interpret them.
Average position may seem pretty simple at first glance, but in reality there are many factors and nuances that play into the numbers that will show up on Google Search Console. Your results can have very different indications for your site and its pages depending on the greater context.
To use this metric to your advantage and not be misled, you need to understand how average position is measured and how to analyze your results in relation to the rest of your data.
Average position refers to the average rank of your site (or a particular page on your site) across Google’s Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) during a specified time period.
In Google Search Console, there are a few different average position measurements you can look at: your site’s overall average position, the average position of each page, your site’s average position for individual queries, or a page’s average position for a certain query.
When someone makes a search on Google, it is possible that your site could appear as multiple results, displaying different pages or even the same page multiple times. The results from your website that appears first as the user scrolls through the list of results is called the topmost result. The numerical rank of this result is the value Google will use in its calculation,
Two users who type the exact same query into the search bar may receive different SERPs; this is due to localization and personalization. These processes done by Google to show users the most relevant content possible affect the order of results on the SERP.
To help demonstrate this principle, let’s take a simple example:
Say you are looking at your site’s average position for the query “shining armor for sale” for a one week period. Your site appeared on the SERP for 3 users.
For User 1, your topmost result was 4.
For User 2, your topmost result was 1.
For User 3, your topmost result was 10.
Average position can be calculated as: (4+1+10)/3 = 5
Your site’s average position for that week was 5.
You can view your average position data on Google Search Console. Here’s how:
Now, the overall average position of your site will be displayed in that top box. The graph will be populated with your site’s average position over time.
You can get much more granular with the data: Using the “+ New” button at the top of the page, you can adjust the time period measured and specify by country, device, or certain queries and pages.
By scrolling down further on the page, you can also view lists of data broken out by those categories as well.
If you are a Centori customer, you can view your average position in Centori as well! Centori integrates with Google Search Console and backs up your data every day. Google Search Console limits the keyword data it provides, but Centori shows you every single keyword that you rank for and allows you to view your average position for:
All of this data can quickly get overwhelming, so what should you pay attention to?
Average position is most useful when you are looking at the data at its most granular level: by page and query. When you can see how your page is ranking for its target keywords, you can use this information to evaluate how well your SEO efforts are paying off on the page, or what terms you need to continue optimizing for.
However, if your page does not have many impressions from the specified time date, your data may not be as useful. Because averages can fluctuate greatly when there are less numbers to work with, you may see averages that do not reflect how your page is actually doing. The more impressions your page receives, the more reliable the average position data.
When it comes to the overall average position of a page, this number is not as useful because it’s often misleading.
This average takes into account every query the page ranks for, not just your target keywords. So even if your page is consistently ranking 1 or 2 for your target keyword, it could be lower in the SERP for many other keywords and consequently make the average higher.
This issue will increase as you make SEO improvements to the page, and it begins to rank for even more keywords. This means that, while most of the time we perceive a lower average as being better, in this case a higher average would mean positive changes are taking place on the page.
This makes it even more important to be granular and ensure your page still has a low ranking for its target keyword as its overall average climbs higher.
In the same vein, the average position for your site overall may not be helpful, either.
If your site's average position were to start increasing, this could mean your site is getting less and less relevant for its target queries. Or, it could mean that the site has started to appear in more SERPs for new queries.
In reverse, a decreasing average position for your site could indicate all of your content on your site is improving their rankings, or that your site has fallen off many SERPs completely as of late.
To understand which scenario is taking place, you need to look into the granular data of your page’s rankings, as well as other metrics on Google Search Console. When all other metrics are pointing towards progress and improvement, it's safe to disregard an average position that may be creeping up.
Average position is a handy metric, but when you're looking at an average of 1,000, 10,000, or even 50,000 keywords it suddenly starts to mean less.
That's why paying attention to your rank distribution is key as it tells you what percentage of keywords you rank on page 1, page 2, etc for. A rank distribution allows you to see a breakdown of keyword rankings, usually by:
Google Search Console does not provide this type of chart, but Centori does thanks to its Google Search Console integration!
With this data, you can see if your SEO strategy is improving by watching how your rank distribution changes over time. For example, if the percentage of keywords you rank higher for increases then you're doing something right! On the other hand, if you notice that the "50+" bar is getting bigger over time, you might need to make a change to your SEO strategy.
We’ve given a lot of explanations and caveats as to why there is no magic number for your site to hit as its average position. However, the typical premise is this: the lower the average, the more consistently your page or site is ranking high in the SERP. Just be sure that low averages aren’t due to low traffic and appearing on hardly any SERPs!
For your target keywords, you should be aiming to get your pages to that first ranking, or at least in the top ten. If you can improve individual rankings, the positive effects will then translate into the averages.
Like we said above, average position in Google Search Console is not the "end all be all" of SEO metrics.
Still, it's important to rank highly - especially for keywords you are targeting for your SEO strategy. In order to improve your average position, you usually need to do two things:
Depending on the age of your website (and how competitive your niche is) this can take time. If you're struggling to move your average position in Google Search Console then we have something else to suggest to you: join Centori.
Centori gives you access to an SEO community where you can connect with other marketers, founders, and SEO experts to get help live as you work through your SEO strategy, as well as group coaching calls to learn the latest SEO tactics. You'll also get access to our SEO software platform which allows you to:
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