SEO Glossary > What is Rank Tracking?

What is Rank Tracking?

Rank tracking is the practice of tracking where URLs rank on the search engine results pages for select keywords. The URLs are tracked over time in order to detect trends and to see the impact of SEO optimization.

How do I know where my keyword ranks on Google?

Simply typing your target keyword into Google to see where your content is ranking is not likely to give accurate results. This is because, in 2005, Google launched Personalized Search. This means when a person types a search term into Google, the results they get take into account the geolocation of the searcher, social interactions, previous searches, and more.

Due to Personalized Search, the only accurate way to get search ranking data is to use a rank tracking platform. These platforms are designed to track keyword rank independent of subjective factors such as geolocation.

Why is rank tracking important?

For an SEO who is responsible for a website's organic traffic, a rank tracking tool is essential. Knowing how a website ranks and how its rankings have developed over time helps the SEO understand what strategies can be used to increase both rankings and organic traffic.

Diagnose Traffic Drops

Rank tracking software is the first place an SEO visits to diagnose sudden traffic losses and downward trending traffic. The rank tracker can be used to find pages that are causing traffic loss and if the rank tracker gives enough granular historical data, it can help the SEO understand what the cause of the traffic drop was and how to solve the problem.

Common causes of loss of traffic are:
  • Google fluctuations and algorithm changes
  • Low click-through rates
  • Ranking drops
Rank trackers help SEOs quickly diagnose these issues.

Gain Competitor Insight

Understanding what makes competitor marketing campaigns successful is an important step in starting any SEO campaign. Most rank trackers provide this data through the use of site explorer tools. Rank trackers also help site owners discover untapped opportunities by analyzing where competitors are not ranking through the use of content gap analysis tools.

SERP Feature Analysis

There is more to gaining Google traffic than just rankings. SERP features have disrupted the traditional ten blue links, acting simultaneously as an opportunity to be won and a reason why a site with high rankings might be losing organic traffic. This means for an SEO to truly understand their rankings, they must use their rank tracker to track SERP features.

Identify Potential SEO Opportunities

Rank trackers can reveal a number of ranking opportunities. For instance, when web pages are ranking on page two of the SERPs for specific search terms the SEO can improve the quality of the content for those search terms, thereby increasing the likelihood of those pages moving up to page one. Also, pages that rank at the top of Google tend to rank for other related keywords. What often happens is the page will also rank for keywords not directly related to the content. In general, when this happens, the content does not feature on page one or two of the search engine for these keywords. Since these keywords are not directly related to the content, the SEO can create new content for those pages and then create an internal link pointing from the first page to the new content.

Ranking Data Can Be Presented to Clients

SEO and digital marketing agencies can use rank tracking data to present progress reports to clients. Agencies can demonstrate how SEO activities are increasing rankings. They can then correlate this data with sales data to demonstrate how SEO is increasing sales or leads.

How Do I Know Which Keywords to Track?

To pick the right keywords for SEO, an SEO should use the Google Search Console Queries report. This report can be set to show the top keywords each separate page is ranking for. Although there are no hard and fast rules to picking keywords the best practice is to choose a cluster of best performing keywords for each page of the website and add them to the rank tracking software. This will allow the SEO to track their optimizations for highly targeted keyword sets.   

Is rank tracking free?

There are both free and paid rank trackers. Google Search Console is a free Google product that provides valuable ranking data. The performance report provides clicks, impressions, CTR, and average position. This is important raw data. However, paid rank tracking tools provide data that is more granular that is designed to provide actionable insights through special reports. For instance, special reports can include data about:
  • SERP feature competition
  • Rank fluctuation
  • SERP fluctuation
  • Pixel rank tracking
  • Competitor’s ranking and traffic data