In one sense, yes, the band’s best answer is to do the search, scroll through, and see if you see yourself. That’s the short answer. The long answer is you really shouldn’t be doing that. That’s the wrong attitude to approach SEO. Take a different look at it. Rather than concentrating on one specific trophy phrase or two specific trophy phrases, you should be thinking about the long tail and all the different phrases that can bring people to your website. And rather than checking how well do I rank for those, you should be looking at your server logs to see the phrases that people are already searching for and using to find your site.
Now, whenever we move to AJAX APIs, AJAX Web Search, we will even show, as a URL parameter, some of the,like where you ranked as far as result slots. So that can tell you, “Oh, this person ranked at number 12 or this person ranked at number 5.” So even just from looking at your server logs, you can often tell these are the phrases that I ought to be optimizing for rather than chasing after my trophy phrases. Okay, but even then, there are still stuff that you should be doing.
Whenever someone lands on your website, how often do they turn into a purchaser or do whatever it is that you want them to do. So that takes into account a lot of different things including your return on investment if you’re buying ads or how, you know, much does the snippet entice people to click? How much is the title enticing people to click? Is it something that’s really useful for people? So, what I would advocate is to change your entire philosophy about ranking.
Don’t just say, “I want to check whether, one-on-one, I check,I rank for this particular phrase.” Instead, you want to look at the entire constellation of phrases that you’re ranked for in your server logs. And you want to try to look at whether it’s Google Analytics or your server logs, you want to say, “How can I do a little bit better for these phrases that I already rank for?” You also want to be asking yourself what’s the conversion rate? How can I put my best most profitable products right up towards the root page so that users find those products?
Please just don’t focus on a few small number of phrases. Instead, look at the holistic picture. Look at everything along the line and try to optimize for the amount of effort that you’re putting in. What are you giving of value to your users so that you earn as much money as possible, or as much whatever you want, subscription renewals, whatever it is you’re interested in. That’s the entire pipeline you should be paying attention to. Not just, “Do I rank for this phrase or that phrase?” Because if you start to approach it from a much more comprehensive viewpoint, that’s going to make sure that you don’t miss out on things that could be worth a lot more time and a lot more bang for your buck, compare to just trying to rank for a few phrases. Good luck.
by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team