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Most companies are unable to understand which sites will outrank them even when they have invested heavily in SEO.

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The same questions were asked to hundred of professionals to predict which page would rank higher than the other for a variety of keywords.

The result which came out was that most SEOs are no better than a coin flip at predicting which page will rank better.

In UK SERPs, it was seen that only 46 percent of applicants were accurate in selecting the higher-ranked page. The same result was present in US with only 10 percent higher accuracy.

It was considered that since most of the applicants were people with SEO knowledge along with laypeople, one would have expected people with more knowledge to have better predictive capabilities, and that wasn’t the case.

It was seen in the UK SERPs that while professional having 3 plus years of experience did perform better than professionals having less than 3 years of experience, their accuracy was still equal to that of a coin-flip.

It was also seen that people predicting results of which pages were going to outrank which for a particular search phrase by nearly 4% and only slightly more likely to out predict those who guessed.

Blame Google’s Algorithm

While this might come as ammunition to SEO skeptics, and might even give companies some pause about their own SEO efforts, it’s also reasonable to look at these numbers as evidence of how complex Google’s Algorithm is.

Google’s core algorithm now consists of over 200 unique signals that can affect rankings.

And it can be seen in the new Penguin update that it has integrated spam detection algorithm into its core, it is refreshing penguin in real time, which means that pages when re indexed can lead to visibility much faster.

That means SERPs can change very, very quickly and frequently.

Throw is personalized searches into the foray and it can be seen that even experienced SEOs cant accurately predict whether one page will outrank another.

Future of SEO

Given the complexity of Google’s Core Algorithm, an SEO’s worth today comes down to two capabilities:

Being able to identify and fix problems known to be detrimental to rankings. While it might be nearly impossible to predict which action will create a top ranking for any specific search query, there are numerous well-established mistakes that, when present on a site, can harm rankings.

Monitor and Analyze data to suggest and implement improvements that might produce ranking improvements. There are no special techniques present to improve ranking of the algorithm and SERP but analyzing data and making changes over time designed to produce result is of core importance.

In other words, companies should expect SEO to help them avoid the big problems and engage in education, data driven iterative experimentation to try to boost results.