By this point, you understand that SEO is an ongoing process, not a one time task, and that it takes place over time. As you get better at doing it, you will adjust your methods based on what you learn and how the web itself changes. Some of us start out with one strategy and later decide to go another route – this is just fine. The one key principle to keep in mind, though, is that if you can’t remember where you’ve been already you’ll have no idea of where you are headed! It is absolutely important to CONSTANTLY record your efforts and their results so that you will be able to measure how far you’ve come and then analyze what works and what fails.
There are some guidelines to rank tracking that we want you to keep in mind, but here is something to burn into your mind: avoid obsessing. You definitely want to focus on tracking how you rank for each of your keywords and you definitely need to do this as a part of your overall SEO efforts. Still, obsessing over the rankings and wasting tons of time checking them is a common practice that can really kill your productivity.
Let’s take a glance at the DO and DON’T list when it comes to rank tracking:
When it comes to Rank Tracking, DO:
- Establish Weekly Reports– Choose weekly because it is routine and easy to keep up with. Much better than getting caught up with daily stat checking that burns up time.
- Archive Your Weekly Reports– Your data will mean the most when analyzed in a historical context so be sure you either save these reports by hand or choose software that will do this part for you
- Focus on 2 Sets of Keywords – This means have a set of primary keywords where you focus your SEO efforts and keep that set relatively small. You also want a second, larger set that you monitor once in a while to get a sense of how your site is doing overall. Usually, we have between 4 and 10 keywords in our primary set and then as many as 100 or 200 in that secondary set for the same site. The larger secondary set is not has big of a concern for us, but we want to see how the site is doing in rankings of related terms so we can better understand it. Eventually, your site’s authority will begin to rise and once that happens you will notice your secondary keyword rankings rise. This makes that secondary set useful in terms of analyzing those changes.
- Re-Evaluate Consistently – It really is important to keep re-evaluating your keyword strategy every couple months so you can see the impact of your choices. You need to consider all possible options and see if your suspicions and findings actually correlate by using analytical tools such as Google Analytics.
When it Comes To Rank Tracking, DON’T:
- Track Stats Daily– The fluctuations you see are simply going to be too frequent and getting caught up in momentary rises or dips only wastes your time. Obviously you can check daily if you want to, but it is important not to focus on these less than significant daily fluctuations.
- Put Your Blinders On– You may find that at some point you are itching to pursue a specific keyword, but your efforts aren’t bringing results. It’s important to take the perspective that Google will “give” certain things and trying to push other things isn’t going to be worth it. In situations where other keywords are ranking well for you, embrace it – or in the very least, pay attention to it. This same principle applies to URLs. There will be times when you are targeting a specific URL, but a different one ends up ranking. Re-evaluate your choices because there are going to be times when we crave ranking on keywords that take up far more energy to obtain than they end up being worth. Don’t give in to tunnel vision.
- Forget the Overall Picture – It’s very important to keep in mind that your rankings are just a tool to understand how sales and conversions are happening. Obsessing over rankings can lead to a loss of conversions – void that trap and focus on the big picture.
There are many different software programs for rank tracking out there these days. There are those that offer you a hosted plan which you pay a monthly subscription fee to access and others that are local tools you purchase and run on your own. The latter is what we use. They have a tendency to restrict the number of keywords you’re allowed to track and if you decide to track tons of keywords they will cost you quite a lot per month.
They also have a tendency to want to keep the data locked down and we prefer to have it so we can work with it on our own. Remember, though, our job is to do SEO work for our clients, too, and that means we’ve got a huge amount of keywords we need to track and do reports on. In this sense, our needs might not be similar to your own.
There are many programs we have tried out, but in the end we chose SEO Powersuite’s Rank Tracker. It offers a huge array of features that we couldn’t possibly cover here today. Instead, we offer you a little list of the features we like the most:
SEO Powersuite’s Rank Tracker features
- You can schedule and automate the program to run any or all of your reports daily, weekly or a schedule of your choice.
- You can administrate easily and, what we find to be even more important, you can customize things. This lets you modify the reports and screens easily to suit your own particular needs.
- You can create “notes” on keywords. We love this option because it lets us track different aspects of a project from a client using these notes and then we can sort or filter the data gathered based on those notes.
- You get support for software proxies so the results you get are fast and you can do this with a lot of keywords and still not get your IP banned by Google. While this is not going to be something important for the average site owner, if you are tracking thousands of keywords for a ton of different sites and clients the way we do, it’s invaluable.
- You can do a data export directly to CSV for Excel, TXT file or even output SQL statements you can then put right into a database. We cannot overemphasize how impressive this is. Their approach is “you own the data so how can we make it easiest for you to make use of?” and we think that’s perfect! You can customize each of the exports you perform and the reports, too. That’s fantastic.
- There are plenty of other features you can take advantage of, too, like amazing keyword research that is as good as some of the finest tools available today. You can even pull keywords from lists by Google Suggests – again, great stuff.
The Rank Tracker tool you can find inside Market Samurai is another tool that we use from time to time. Do remember, though, that Market Samurai is not nearly as focused as Rank Tracker. It’s still a tool, but it does a wide variety of different things, most notably analysis of your SEO competition and research on keywords. Still, Market Samurai offers you features you will not find in the latest module of Rank Tracker even though I talked with Rank Tracker’s support and they said the upcoming version will have this.Here’s an example of the Market Samurai Rank Tracking capabilities I’m talking about:
- You can track several different domains in a single project. This is perfect for the clients we have that have several different domains and “feeder” sites that are acting as a traffic funnel for certain keywords. All we need to do is input a list of those keywords and the domains involved and let Market Samurai track everything.
- You’ll be able to track double listings easily. With Market Samurai, you can get multiple returns on a keyword. This means that if you have a URL which ranks at the #6 position and you want it to rise in the rankings, you might discover that another URL you have is currently holding the #14 position and that it could be a good choice for a double listing. This feature is just terrific.
For the most part, we use Rank Tracker, but sometimes we also put Samurai to work for us. What we’ve discovered is that Samurai is not always as accurate and can sometimes miss certain details. Still, it’s a very useful tool.
Use of browser
Just like always, there are options that won’t cost you anything or you might want to use your browser to track the keywords and record the results by hand. We don’t recommend that, though. Because of Google’s personalization settings and this means the results you see are going to be misleading because they are not the same results everyone else is seeing. It is also important that you understand there are a lot of data centers out there for Google and that makes using your browser to track results very “iffy” in terms of delivering usable data.
If you want to use a free tool then check out the Rank Tracker offered by the guys at SEO Book. It is a part of their toolbar and is not difficult to get the hang of. The main issue with any free option is that they aren’t going to give you many options and the data is not going to be that well preserved, the charts won’t be terribly well presented, and so on.
The main thing you need to do, above all else, is to keep things simple and stay consistent in how you go about tracking rank so that monitoring your progress is actually effective. There are going to be dips and rises, and there will even be times when it looks as if all things do is spiral ever downwards. Still, you need to keep up with what you are doing and tough it out when that happens. Once you have enough data on the history of your own efforts, you will start to notice “Hmm.. this has happened before so I guess the answer is to keep on going forward.”
The purpose of the data is to prove this to you and it is going to help you really understand the SEO process. Take a look at this sample of how this keyword has grown over time:
As shown, there are those “dips” and “rises” that happen as time goes on. Some of them are actually not shown on this particular chart since it only covers the last 6 months’ history and it’s looking only at the top 50 highest ranking keywords.
However, you still see that the results are prone to shifting up and down – this is totally normal – but when you stay consistent in your efforts you will watch them rise more over time even if it might seem to take a while.