Rank Tracking SEO Keywords: Why It’s Essential for Success
By Michael Ferrari
| August 28, 2023| SEO, SEO Help
Every business owner knows that having your website show up on the first page of Google (or Bing, or DuckDuckGo) search results is the best way to get visitors to your site. Actually making that happen is where most people get overwhelmed and confused.
It’s common for business owners to believe that keyword planning is a one-time job that is complete when their website goes live. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s the main misconception that’s keeping you stuck at your current position in search engine results.
To move up the ranks, you will need to rank track your keyword performance and optimize your site for the keywords and phrases that do well. Climbing to the top of the search results – and staying there – is always a work in progress.
What are Search Engine Rankings?
When a user types a question or phrase into a search bar, the list of websites they see next is called the search engine results page (SERP). Your rank on this page is simply where you show up in the order. A recent study of 4 million Google searches by Backlinko showed that the top organic (as opposed to sponsored) result captures nearly 28% of user clicks.
Consider your own search habits. How often do you scroll far enough to see results 8-10, much less click to the 2nd or 3rd page? Where you rank in the SERPs makes a huge difference in getting traffic, and therefore sales, to your page.
Search engines have complex algorithms for ranking results – all of them confidential and proprietary. What we know they have in common is that they evaluate the relevance of keywords, quality of content on the actual site, domain authority, quality of backlinks, user experience, and user engagement. This means that not only do your keywords matter, but using them well within your site also matters. Then, you have to track them to make sure they are doing their job.
What is Rank Tracking?
Rank tracking is the process of monitoring and analyzing how your keywords and keyword phrases (or long tail keywords) perform in the SERPs. By tracking this data over time, you will learn which keywords are most effective and what users are really looking for when they use them.
Remember that both upward and downward moving rankings are useful in your analysis. By monitoring the changes in your keyword ranks over time, you will be able to make data-driven changes to improve your website.
Why is Rank Tracking Important for SEO?
Tracking your keyword ranking allows you to measure your SEO impact. With regular data collection, you’ll be able to identify if changes are associated with market conditions, quality of your site, quality of your competitors’ sites, or current search trends.
The continual monitoring process will quickly expose keyword gaps in a site’s content. Keyword gaps are user searches that are relevant to your website, but that you don’t rank for because you don’t have those keywords optimized. You have to know what keywords you have and don’t have, and how your target audience is using search tools, in order to uncover and resolve these gaps.
Rank tracking also allows you to monitor your competition and how they are using keywords. For instance, how can you optimize similar phrases and keywords on your own site to move into a better competing rank
Which of your keywords are performing well? Focus on those keywords to create more high-performing content on your site. Optimizing keywords is about more than just using them in your content. Using them in meta descriptions and headers helps drive clicks from the SERPs. Then when you position them with a call to action within the site itself, your increased website traffic will result in a better sales conversion rate.
Over time, you will become more efficient in how you respond to rank tracking, resulting in more revenue for your efforts. Remember to track ROI alongside keywords so that you can get a clear picture of your website’s value in the sales process.
Tools to Make Rank Tracking Easier
Rank tracking tools help you automate the monitoring process. There are many tools available, and they all offer reporting and analysis features that help you evaluate your keyword rankings over time.
Keyword Planner – Keyword tool used within Google Ads
SERPstat – Keyword research with powerful competitor analysis features
Moz – Beginner friendly tool with site crawlers to improve your optimization
Ranktracker – Global optimization tool with a focus on backlinks
Some of these tools offer free versions with paid upgrades, while others may only offer a limited free trial. It’s important to look at each one in light of how well it works with your industry, whether or not it will deliver data consistent with your goals, and how simple it is for you to navigate.
No matter which tool you choose, make sure to integrate it properly with your website and with Google Search Console.
Building a Rank Tracking Strategy
Your volume of keywords is unique to your industry and business. No matter how many you have, though, it’s important not to throw them all into one bucket.
Keyword tracking is most effective when keywords are clustered into common segments. These segments will help you monitor groups of keywords and track them based on the most relevant data.
Possible clusters include:
Branded vs. unbranded keywords
Divide by industry or specialty
Divide by target market segments
When tracking, be sure to keep an eye on how keywords do with various devices. Laptop users behave differently than phone users. Similarly, look at where users are geographically, and monitor relevant demographics.
Setting user behavior aside, take note of how your keyword ranking changes with search algorithm changes or your own site updates.
There are two great categories to focus on in your tracking:
Striking distance keywords – these words are in the 11-20 positions on the SERPs and have potential to be optimized to move up.
High-performing keywords – these words are in positions 4-10 and could bring exponentially more traffic with a small rise in position.
Monitor the Competition
If you don’t have the number 1 position in the SERPs, someone else does. Whoever holds those spots above yours in the rankings for each keyword is your competition. Part of your rank tracking work is to learn more about what is working for your competitors and optimize those elements on your own site.
What Keywords are Your Competitors Ranking For?
Your keyword search tool should have competitor tools built right in so that you can do less work to find out who outranks you in the SERPs. But it also helps if you know upfront who your main competition is.
This will be particularly useful if you discover that they are ranking with a list of keywords that you’ve never tried.
Simply load competitor information into your SEO research tool of choice to learn more about what keywords are driving their traffic, to compare your performance with theirs, and to see how they position their best performing words on their site.
Use this data to then optimize your own content using those high-performing keywords. It should go without saying, but be careful not to copy their site word for word. Your website should use optimized keywords in a way that is unique to the personality and style of your business.
What Do I Do with the Analysis of My Keyword Tracking?
With regular tracking, you will discover which keywords need more content built around them and how to use your best performing keywords in more optimized ways.
Note that keyword tracking is about learning to optimize, not overhaul. Very rarely should your tracking reports lead you down the path of setting fire to your website and starting over. Most often, small changes over time will produce the best results.
For example, a high-performing keyword can be swapped into existing meta descriptions, headers, and content without changing much of the surrounding text. Or it may be a good idea to add a service page or a blog post that incorporates a good keyword that is already doing well on the site. Focused changes done in small batches will allow you to attribute results to specific optimizations with the best accuracy.
How Often Should I Check Keyword Rankings?
Though every business needs to monitor keyword ranking regularly, the cycle will vary based on individual business or industry factors.
In industries with frequent changes, such as retail and fashion, it may be necessary to tweak keywords almost weekly. In highly competitive industries, you’ll also have to stay on top of rank tracking to make sure you’re on pace with competitors. But in steadier industries, the fluctuations may be so slow and incremental that checking more than once a month is overkill.
Anytime there is a major industry change, an algorithm update, or you are planning for a big website change, increase your report frequency. Always automate your keyword ranking tool to send reports right to your inbox so that you can schedule your evaluations.
Finally, block out your keyword rank tracking time for when you can focus on it and make data-driven adjustments. If you’re having a rough day in business, set this work aside, because emotional decisions make for poor keyword optimization.
Keyword analysis and rank tracking is not the most glamorous element of your marketing strategy, but it will be one of the most effective drivers of business when done correctly. The best revenue potential from organic search results resides in the top 3 positions of the SERPs.
When you focus on that goal and approach it methodically and in a data-driven mindset, you will consistently maintain a top position.
If you have been guessing at keywords and throwing everything at the wall, you’re losing far more time and money than is necessary. Pen Cap SEO is your partner in taking control of your organic search engine optimization strategy. Contact us today to convert your website into a consistently top-ranking search result and sales machine.
About the Author
Michael Ferrari owns and operates Pen Cap Online Marketing, an agency specializing in search engine optimization. He’s been working in the marketing space for almost a decade, helping small, medium, and enterprise businesses with their search engine optimization needs. When he’s not helping businesses dominate the search rankings, he’s most likely hanging out with his wife, son, beagle, pit bull, and a very aggressive cat.