Best SEO Software 2020

How to Track Keyword Ranking for SEO

Not exactly sure what rank tracking is or how to best approach it? This guide explains how to select a keyword rank tracker, find the right keywords to track, and monitor your website's SEO performance.

Keyword rank tracking is an SEO best practice that provides visibility into the performance of your website in Google's search results.

To monitor the positions of your keywords, you will need to purchase a good rank tracker and choose the right keywords for it to track. Before selecting a keyword rank tracker, it's important that you understand what keyword rank tracking is and why it's valuable.

Table of Contents

What Is Keyword Tracking?

Keyword tracking (or position tracking) is the process of monitoring how your web pages rank in Google's search results for your most important keywords. Google shares some of this data for free in the Google Search Console. Other rank tracking tools provide more advanced keyword tracking as a paid service.

Here's an example: As you can see below, Best Buy owns the top search result for the keyword "laptop". Best Buy gets a significant amount of traffic and sales from this keyword. As a result, Best Buy should consistently monitor the rank of their web page for the keyword "laptop". A drop in ranking from number one to number two (where Walmart is today) would likely cost Best Buy millions in sales per year.

laptop search with keyword rankings

Why You Should Track Keyword Ranking

Keyword rank tracking is the best way to measure the success of your SEO efforts, and quickly identify any sudden changes in your website's search rankings.

Companies invest in SEO to drive more traffic to their websites. To get traffic, their web pages must rank well in Google's SERPs for specific keywords. As a result, the best way to determine if your SEO efforts are working is to track your keyword ranking over time for your most important keywords.

In addition, keyword rank trackers unlock the ability to measure the success of individual business initiatives. For example, Best Buy might begin selling a new product category. They would add that product category to their website, and create related content to drive traffic to their website. It would be wise for Best Buy to upload keywords for that category to their keyword rank tracker to measure the success of these marketing efforts.

Tracking your keyword rankings also makes it possible to detect large changes in your SEO performance. Without keyword tracking, you might not notice these changes until you see a major drop in web traffic. The best keyword tracking tools have automated alerts that notify you of ranking changes immediately.

Why You Need a Keyword Rank Tracker

Google provides a large amount of highly valuable data to help marketers understand their SEO performance. However, Google Analytics and Google Search Console have key limitations:

  • Google Analytics and Google Search Console do not allow you to track the performance of specific groups of keywords over time.
  • Google Search Console only shares ranking data for your top 1,000 keywords, and you have no control over the keywords that are tracked.
  • Google will also never alert you if there's a sudden drop in your keyword ranking.

Purchasing a rank tracker addresses these limitations. You control the keywords you want it to track, assign them to groups, and can track as many keywords as you need. In addition, keyword rank tracking tools have user-friendly reporting that makes it easy to understand performance and uncover valuable insights.

SEMrush keyword tracking tool

How to Choose A Keyword Rank Tracker

Fortunately, there are several great SEO rank tracking tools to choose from. To determine which keyword tracking software is best for you, consider these factors:

  • How many keywords can you track for what price?
  • Are you able to track keyword performance for mobile vs. desktop, and for specific geographies?
  • How frequently does the company update its keyword rankings?
  • How rich and intuitive is the company's reporting?
  • Does the rank tracker allow you to tag groups of keywords and filter ranking results?
  • Can you set up automated alerts to notify you of major changes in your ranking?

The best keyword rank tracking tools are AccuRanker, Ahrefs, SEMrush and Serpstat. AccuRanker is a specialty tool that focuses only on keyword rank tracking. In contrast, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Serpstat are all-in-one search solutions that offer a bundle of several tools (e.g. rank tracking, keyword research, competitive research, site audits).

If you just need a tool to do keyword rank tracking, then we recommend AccuRanker.

If you want an all-in-one solution that includes a keyword rank tracker as a part of its bundle, then start with SEMrush. Serpstat competes based upon price – you can track thousands of keywords in Serpstat for a fraction of the price of Ahrefs and SEMrush.

Read more about the best keyword rank trackers in this in-depth guide from SoftwarePundit.

How to Choose Keywords to Track

To generate the most valuable insights from your rank tracking tool, you must choose the right keywords to track. The categories of keywords you should track are:

  • Branded Keywords: These are keywords that include your company's name.
  • Best Performing Non-branded Keywords: These are the keywords that don't include your company's name that drive the most traffic to your website.
  • Keywords for Each Product or Service: These are groups of keywords specific to each distinct product or service that your company offers.
  • Keywords for Each New Initiative: These are keywords related to the new initiatives you are pursing.
  • Competitor Top Keywords: These are keywords that generate traffic for your competitors, but not you.
Keyword CategoryWhy You Should Track This Category
Branded KeywordsThese keywords drive a high percentage of traffic to your website, and should perform well. If you notice a drop in your branded keywords, that is a serious issue.
Best Performing Non-branded KeywordsThese keywords represent the majority of your traffic & sales, and are the most important to track closely.
Keywords for Each Product or ServiceThese keywords provide visibility into how specific products and services are performing in online search.
Keywords for Each New Company InitiativeThese keywords unlock the ability to measure the success of current company priorities.
Competitor Top KeywordsThese keywords tell you if you're making progress stealing traffic from your top competitors.

Where to Find Your Keywords

It's ideal to use multiple sources to create your initial keyword list. For a typical business, we recommend tracking between 500 and 1,000 keywords. The best places to find your keywords are:

  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics
  • Competitive Analysis via SEMrush, SpyFu or similiar tool
  • Manual List

Google Search Console is the best source to find your top performing branded and non-branded keywords. Look for the keywords that have received the most clicks in the last 3 to 6 months, and separate them into branded and non-branded groups.

Google Search Console can also be used to find keywords that are specific to individual products or services that your company offers. Filter the Google Search Console data by page to find this data, and then create separate keyword groups for each product or service.

To find your competitors' top keywords, use SEMrush or SpyFu. You can use these tools to identify keywords that drive considerable traffic to their websites, but not yours. You can group these keywords together, or separate them by competitor.

Finally, create a manual list of any missing keywords that you know are important but are not on any of the lists above. Keyword lists for new initiatives will likely need to be manually generated, for example.

What to Monitor In Your Keyword Tracker

Once your keyword list is organized into groups with the proper tags, you can upload it into your keyword rank tracker. The keyword tracker will query Google on a regular basis and report back on how your website is doing in Google search.

Here are the top data points to keep an eye on using your keyword rank tracking tool:

  • What is the general trend of your search rankings?
  • Have there been any major changes in your ranking in the last day or two?
  • How is each category of keywords performing?
  • How do your rankings on desktop and mobile compare?
  • What keywords have experience the biggest positive or negative changes in ranking in the last few days?

Having a properly implemented rank tracker will provide deep intelligence into your SEO performance. It's best to review your reports at least once a week to see the progress your company is making.

Bruce Hogan

Bruce Hogan is Co-founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit, a technology research firm that provides advice, information, and tools to help businesses thrive. Bruce has experience investing at multi-billion dollar private equity firms, leading teams at venture-backed Internet companies, and launching new businesses.