For some time now, the importance of tracking the organic ranking positions of your website’s keywords has been a hot topic.

Some say keyword tracking tools provide little value because there are so many variables that can affect your site ranking — making monitoring your keyword rankings a waste of time. Keyword rank tracking can provide great value for your website’s organic ranking in search engines. Let’s break it down.

What is keyword tracking?

First, we should define what keyword tracking actually is: Keyword tracking, or keyword rank tracking, involves monitoring the position of your website and webpages for specific keywords. With this you can see if your keywords (and thus your webpages) are in position one or at least on the first search engine result page (SERP). Knowing how your organic rankings have changed over time can provide significant insight into your website’s SEO performance. By tracking keyword rankings, you can better understand SEO impact on search visibility and project where to focus future search optimization strategies.

Ranking position chart

It can be shown graphically how keywords ranked in SERPs over periods of time, which helps zero in on struggling keyword ranks.

How to Use Keyword Tracking Tools

Ultimately the goal of keyword tracking is to find opportunities to enhance your presence on search engines. Here are some quick ways that you can do so using your keyword tracking tool.

Problem Management

When something goes wrong in organic traffic, your keyword ranking positions are a good place to look. If position 1 keywords start dropping you can catch this, optimize in order to improve your page rankings, and monitor these struggling keywords over time. You can also see specific pages that are affected, which allows you to examine the keyword targeting and intent credibility on these pages.

Evaluating Competitors

You can use keyword tracking tools to see how competitor domains are ranking for your targeted keywords. This is really helpful when deciding how long-tail your keywords need to be in order to optimize your website in the best way possible. If you have an insistent competitor that’s continuously crushing your SERP results, this is a good indication to re-evaluate your SEO strategy. You can also have reports or alerts created automatically when competitors have drastic changes in search engine results.

By tracking keyword rankings, you can better understand SEO impact on search visibility

Site Launches

For every planned site launch, it’s important to have an understanding of how your keywords are ranking before the new site is live. From here you can evaluate your keyword positions and determine where your ranking opportunities are. After a new site launches, it is exciting to see how your targeted keywords were affected and whether more optimizations need to be implemented. Make sure you watch these keywords closely to avoid losing previously ranking pages in the SERPs!

Category Grouping

For large eCommerce sites, more often than not you’ll want to rank for a lot of different product category pages. Different category and sub-category options (such as types of products and/or brands, depending on the site) are difficult to monitor all at once. With keyword grouping, you can see if keywords are affected as a group and then pinpoint an SEO strategy for these specifically. For example, if you run a sports clothing eCommerce store, keyword grouping can better show you if your “sports sweaters” keywords are tanking.

Multi-Location Monitoring

For sites with multiple locations, whether across the country or across the world, you’ll want to monitor location-specific keywords for each of these locations. Here you can see if a specific location’s keywords are more competitive and plan a more in-depth strategy for ranking first for these keywords. Many keyword tracking tools allow you to update your search engine country, so if you’re worried about how your ranks look in Google Canada organic listings versus Google US, don’t fret — keyword tools are here to help.

Additional Features

Not every tool, but some keyword rank trackers have helpful additional features. Some features I’ve come across include:

  1. Mobile – Ranking data based on mobile SERPs. Yes, these results are often different than Desktop SERPs. This is an especially important feature considering Google’s mobile-first indexing, where mobile optimizations are a high priority for website optimizations.
  2. Graphs – Graph representations of changes in keyword or domain positions. These can be edited to show all keywords, specific groups of keywords or just one keyword at a time.
  3. SERP Snapshots – Some tools can provide you with evidence of where in the SERP your keyword ranked your page/domain at a specific point in time.
  4. Google Product Integrations – Some tools allow you to integrate Google Analytics and Google Search Console data for more detailed organic ranking results.
  5. Reporting – Automatically generated reports with a specific frequency or whenever significant ranking changes occur with your keywords. These are usually available as Excel CSV or PDF exports.

Where to Use Keyword Tracking

In order to track keywords, there are several tools available to use. Some of the more popular examples include AWR CloudAuthority Labs and SEMrush. Tools like these are designed to report on changes in the positions of keywords specific to your domain and web pages. Now remember, not every keyword tracking tool has all the bells and whistles. In most cases, paid keyword tracking tools have more reliable results and provide more functionality to better serve your keyword tracking needs.

Don't Ignore Your Keyword Data!

It is true Google’s algorithm is an enigma that doesn’t guarantee how your keywords will rank  in the SERPs. Going into 2017 however, as an addition to other methods for analyzing organic traffic performance, it’s a huge help to your SEO efforts to track and monitor your keyword and web page rankings. With this data, you’re in a great position to find opportunities for keyword optimizations and then, with the right resources, maximize your website’s overall conversion rate.