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The significance of rank tracking - Do we still need to check ranks?
One of the first and most important activities in SEO is checking ranks or checking how far down the line search engines will place your website or web page for a specific keyword.
Now that the most of Google competitors are mostly done (dead and buried) when I'm referring to search engines, what I'm really saying is Google so when you are checking your ranks you pretty much are checking your positions in Google.
In the past, this analysis was hugely important and change can mean an increase in organic traffic or the loss of substantial money due to low traffic and few conversion because of you bad ranks.
But now, after years of Google updates and improvements as well as the rise of additional services like Google Analytics and Search Console that can reveal a huge number of information about what keywords you are ranking for, manually checking ranks seems outdated and unnecessary.
To make things worse checking ranks can actually become compulsive behavior leading to a real addition addiction, in essence, you will find yourself wasting a huge portion of your time in this useless practice of checking if you gained a position or not in Google's search results.
Here are my main 5 tips and pieces of advice regarding rank checking in modern SEO:
1. Make sure you do it and keep track of it.
Even though this is an old SEO practice checking your ranks or positions can reveal a lot of information you otherwise won't know about your website. Having a detailed historical analysis on how your positions evolved over time can give you an idea on where you are going and where you will be in the following months. It will also help you take quick actions if certain drops happen even if it doesn't instantly reflect in your organic traffic.
2. Make sure you don't over do it and use tools to help you save time.
As I said, checking ranks can waste a huge part of an SEO's time. So make sure you don't over do it by compulsive checking your ranks every hour. If you manage one small website (if you are a business owner) with a few keywords (like under 20) you don't really need a keyword checking tool, do it manually three times per week and note the results into an excel sheet and make sure to transform that into a graphic so you can have a visual on your exact statistics over time.
If you need to manage anything that haves more than 20 keywords you need some specialized help, meaning SEO tools. I personally use ranktrackr.com, won't go into details on how much I pay per month but I keep track on about 800 keywords for about 10 different clients, I quickly take a look at them every day (only once) to check for big fluctuations but other than that I don't really analyze anything. I implement a full analysis at the end of every week and I have something to work with in terms of fluctuations and I can outline some main conclusions on what needs to be done and implemented the next weeks.
3. Use additional tools like Ahrefs, Search Console and Google Analytics.
To help guide your analysis and guide you to some correct conclusions you also need to gather data from other tools.
4. Don't forget about how smart Google can be.
- Search Console: in the Search Traffic under Search Analytics sub category you will find a list of queries your website is visible for inside Google searches. You may find here keywords that you had no idea you were ranking for, finding such keywords can make you improve your content on specific subject ensuring additional traffic.
- Google Analytics: everything about your organic traffic needs to be analyzed and although GA may not show you the full list of keywords you are getting traffic from you can still figure a big part of them out by checking the most popular organic landing pages.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is a great tool for figuring out for what keywords you currently rank for. In my opinion, Ahrefs can sometimes replace the traditional tracking tool. It may not be as correct and specific but it can get the job done and you can gather enough information to change and improve things.
When you are checking your ranks you need to keep in mind this is 2017. Google has evolved into an AI machine capable of figuring out a lot of stuff, especially delivering certain results based on your location.
So if you are going to check your ranks on google.com but you have a .co.uk domain you are probably checking your ranks in the wrong google. Keep in mind you also need to be in Incognito mode with your location turned off, otherwise, you are going to be shown local results based on your location or worst still, based on your search preferences saved inside Google's history.
I have huge problems with some of my clients that aren't checking their ranks the right way. They are trying to check if my reports are correct by checking some of the ranks themselves in a manual way and they usually fail miserably.
5. Make it useful.
At the end of the day, checking your ranks may be fun but you need to draw solid conclusions you need to be able to interpret all that data that all the above tools will provide. If you don't interpret the data correctly and you don't implement the necessary changes I assure you nothing will happen and your ranks will get worse sooner than later.
SEO can be boring and check your ranks is just part of the SEO routine, don't forget it is one of the most important tasks. I personally got a lot of breakthroughs with my clients just by checking ranks, because the competitors are right there, you will start noticing things and eventually discover important elements that help them rank and you can incorporate those same elements to help you rise in the SERPs.