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How To Track Keyword Rankings

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Guide on How to Track Keyword Rankings

Dominating search engine results and building online traffic largely boils down to a single, influential factor: keywords. Optimizing your pages for the right keywords is what drives your SEO, leading potential customers to your virtual doorstep. 

But a page ranking at the top for your targeted keywords can disappear from the first page in a split second–especially if you’re in a cut-throat industry. So how do you even manage something that can fluctuate so dramatically?

The answer is simple: you need to know how to track keyword rankings. To do that, I’ve outlined the best keyword tracking techniques, top-tier tracking tools, and indispensable tips here for you to use. 

Understanding Keyword Tracking

Keyword tracking is exactly what its name implies: keeping track of the position your pages are for your targeted keywords. 

In SEO, keywords are at the heart of your website strategy. It’s what we optimize for. And if we do it right, you will see your pages climb towards the first page of the search results,

Once you’re there, it’s great–it’s going to drive tons of qualified users towards your pages. But just because you get there doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there forever. You will, inevitably, see fluctuations in your rankings

That’s where knowing how to track keyword rankings comes in. It gives you a snapshot of where your page used to be, and where it’s at now. And that’s going to be the foundation of your strategy to either recover or improve your rankings moving forward.

Why Is Tracking Keyword Rankings Important?

If you need some more persuading to start learning how to track keyword rankings, you should know that it helps you: 

  • Manage your most important, value-driving keywords.
  • Track ranking developments, and identify how your keywords perform through historical data.
  • Evaluate your performance against competitors.
  • Set keyword ranking goals for your website. 
  • Find new keyword opportunities for your website. 
  • Identify which keywords (and associated pages) need to be further optimized.
  • Reveal sudden drops in ranking, which can point to issues that need to be addressed.

In short, keyword tracking provides valuable data and insights into the way your website ranks for certain keywords. This then helps you adjust and improve your SEO strategies. 

What Causes Changes in Keyword Rankings?

There are a few things that could trigger changes in your website’s keyword rankings–some in your control, some out of it.

  • You or other websites publish new content targeting that keyword.
  • You gain or lose backlinks from other websites.
  • You make significant changes to your pages’ title tags, meta descriptions, headings, et cetera.
  • You add or remove content to your existing pages.
  • Google updates its algorithms–we just recently had an August 2023 Broad Core Update and a September 2023 Helpful Content Update.

The cause for your rankings improving or dropping can be one or a combination of things in this list. That’s why consistent tracking is important. 

When you can pinpoint when your rankings moved, you can match it to whatever you did on your website on the same day (or week). Then you can determine if these changes should be kept, or if it needs to be reverted.

If you think you’re dealing with the after-effects of the Broad Core Update, here’s how to recover your rankings, as well as an SEO checklist for optimizing after a core update you can use. 

How to Track Keyword Rankings

Keyword rank tracking is a long, never-ending process. Here’s a step-by-step guide on the process:

Keyword Research

To start, it’s important to remember that your focus should not merely be on selecting relevant keywords but on understanding your audience’s search behavior. 

This allows you to choose keywords that align with what you offer and your audience’s search intent, subsequently leading to better results.

Begin by understanding your target audience, their interests, search behavior, and language. Gaining these insights forms a foundation that allows you to select keywords that mirror their search patterns.

Then, use keyword research tools like Google Trends, Keyword Generator, or SEMrush. These tools offer vital data on the popularity and competitiveness of potential keywords within your market area.

Webmaster’s NoteI have a full keyword research and optimization guide that you can follow for this step. And, if you’re just about to start on your SEO journey, I also have a guide on how to do keyword research for new websites.

Implement Keywords in Your Content

The next move is to strategically and naturally incorporate your chosen keywords within your content. They need to be in your titles, subheadings, URLs, meta descriptions, and the body of your content for the best results.

Use a Keyword Ranking Tracking Tool

With keywords in place, the next step is to use keyword ranking tracking tools like SERanking or Google Search Console. 

These tools keep tabs on how your chosen keywords are performing in search engine results, day by day. This data will help you adapt and adjust your SEO strategy when needed. 

Analyze Keyword Performance Regularly

Keep in mind that keyword tracking isn’t a one-and-done process. It’s an ongoing cycle that requires consistent attention. 

Regularly review the tracking data to stay on top of your keywords’ ranking status and to observe changes over time.

Use these insights to adjust your keywords as necessary. Depending on their performance, you may need to use different variations, remove those that are underperforming, or incorporate new ones that are trending in your industry.

Best Tools for Tracking Keyword Ranking

There are a few tools that are effective when it comes to keyword tracking, for seasoned SEO experts and beginners alike. Based on my experience, SEMrush, Google Search Console, and SE Ranking are the best tools I have used for this purpose. 

SE Ranking

SE Ranking SEO keyword tracking tool

SE Ranking is widely used for keyword rank tracking. This versatile tool also offers a full SEO suite, including website audits, backlink monitoring, and competitor research, among other features.

Pros: Accurate rank tracking, comprehensive SEO analysis, user-friendly, affordable.

Cons: Some reports can be slow, you may need to update the rankings from time to time.

SEMrush

SEMRush SEO keyword tracking tool

This comprehensive digital marketing tool helps with various aspects related to SEO, including keyword tracking. SEMrush is popular for its ability to perform keyword research, competitor analysis, and run SEO audits on your blog.

Pros: Comprehensive SEO features, excellent reporting functions.

Cons: Quite complex for beginners, higher pricing.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console SEO keyword tracking tool and webmaster's tool

A free tool offered by Google, the Search Console provides invaluable insights into what search queries your website is showing up for. It is essential for identifying issues and opportunities for website optimizations.

Pros: Free, provides direct data from Google, integrates with other Google products

Cons: May be too technical for beginners.

The tool that’s best for you will depend on your SEO needs, budget, and familiarity level with this kind of tool. SEMrush, Google Search Console, and SE Ranking each offer valuable features and data to track your keyword rankings effectively and power your SEO strategy.

Tips and Best Practices for Keyword Tracking

Aside from using the right tool, successful keyword tracking relies on following best practices and techniques. Here are some points to consider:

  • Regular Monitoring: Rankings change every day–so regularly check your keywords to see where your website falls. This will help you stay up to date with keyword and search algorithm trends, and make adjustments when needed. Make it a point to:
    • Regularly check your keyword list and incorporate new, relevant keywords
    • Keep an eye on your ranking in the SERPs for your chosen keywords
    • Monitor your competition’s keywords and SEO performance
  • Use of Long-Tail Keywords: Incorporating long-tail keywords can significantly improve your SEO strategy. They tend to be less competitive, more targeted and have a higher conversion rate. Here are some points to consider:
    • Use keyword research tools to find long-tail keywords relevant to your content
    • Understand the intent of your users to identify the long-tail keywords they might be using 
    • Optimize your content around long-tail keywords to drive targeted traffic
  • Strategic Placement of Keywords: Good keyword placement can aid search engine bots in identifying the relevance of your content. However, you need to avoid keyword stuffing, as it can lead to penalties. My tips are: 
    • Incorporate your primary keyword in your title tag, URL, and meta description.
    • Use keywords in your headings and subheadings.
    • Maintain a natural and reasonable keyword density in your content.
  • Find Ways to Consistently Improve Rankings: There are ways to ensure your keyword rankings keep going up. The best way to deal with threats or opportunities to your keyword rankings is to keep up-to-date with the best SEO strategies. Here’s how:
    • Always do your research. There are hundreds of blogs that cover everything about SEO–and SEO-hacker’s blog is one of the best. For example, check out my post with 8 ways to dominate your local SEO rankings.)
    • Keep an eye out for massive movements in SERP volatility. If you time it right, you can steal the top spot from your competitors.
    • Stay updated on Google algorithm changes. Aside from official guidelines, you will want to pay attention to what other SEOs are saying on forums after each update.

Following these can help you make the most out of your keyword tracking efforts, and easily optimize your website’s ranking.

Key Takeaway

Keywords are how we lead users to our websites, and you need to sit at the top of the search results for your chosen keywords to keep a steady stream of visitors. Constant tracking and research are how you achieve that.

Using the right tools, you can effectively monitor your rankings over time, and figure out the next best step for your website. Doing so will keep you on top of the competition and ensure your keyword research process will always provide dividends.

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Google Search Leak: Conflicting Signals, Unanswered Questions

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Google Search Leak: Conflicting Signals, Unanswered Questions

An apparent leak of Google Search API documentation has sparked intense debate within the SEO community, with some claiming it proves Google’s dishonesty and others urging caution in interpreting the information.

As the industry grapples with the allegations, a balanced examination of Google’s statements and the perspectives of SEO experts is crucial to understanding the whole picture.

Leaked Documents Vs. Google’s Public Statements

Over the years, Google has consistently maintained that specific ranking signals, such as click data and user engagement metrics, aren’t used directly in its search algorithms.

In public statements and interviews, Google representatives have emphasized the importance of relevance, quality, and user experience while denying the use of specific metrics like click-through rates or bounce rates as ranking-related factors.

However, the leaked API documentation appears to contradict these statements.

It contains references to features like “goodClicks,” “badClicks,” “lastLongestClicks,” impressions, and unicorn clicks, tied to systems called Navboost and Glue, which Google VP Pandu Nayak confirmed in DOJ testimony are parts of Google’s ranking systems.

The documentation also alleges that Google calculates several metrics using Chrome browser data on individual pages and entire domains, suggesting the full clickstream of Chrome users is being leveraged to influence search rankings.

This contradicts past Google statements that Chrome data isn’t used for organic searches.

The Leak’s Origins & Authenticity

Erfan Azimi, CEO of digital marketing agency EA Eagle Digital, alleges he obtained the documents and shared them with Rand Fishkin and Mike King.

Azimi claims to have spoken with ex-Google Search employees who confirmed the authenticity of the information but declined to go on record due to the situation’s sensitivity.

While the leak’s origins remain somewhat ambiguous, several ex-Googlers who reviewed the documents have stated they appear legitimate.

Fishkin states:

“A critical next step in the process was verifying the authenticity of the API Content Warehouse documents. So, I reached out to some ex-Googler friends, shared the leaked docs, and asked for their thoughts.”

Three ex-Googlers responded, with one stating, “It has all the hallmarks of an internal Google API.”

However, without direct confirmation from Google, the authenticity of the leaked information is still debatable. Google has not yet publicly commented on the leak.

It’s important to note that, according to Fishkin’s article, none of the ex-Googlers confirmed that the leaked data was from Google Search. Only that it appears to have originated from within Google.

Industry Perspectives & Analysis

Many in the SEO community have long suspected that Google’s public statements don’t tell the whole story. The leaked API documentation has only fueled these suspicions.

Fishkin and King argue that if the information is accurate, it could have significant implications for SEO strategies and website search optimization.

Key takeaways from their analysis include:

  • Navboost and the use of clicks, CTR, long vs. Short clicks, and user data from Chrome appear to be among Google’s most powerful ranking signals.
  • Google employs safelists for sensitive topics like COVID-19, elections, and travel to control what sites appear.
  • Google uses Quality Rater feedback and ratings in its ranking systems, not just as a training set.
  • Click data influences how Google weights links for ranking purposes.
  • Classic ranking factors like PageRank and anchor text are losing influence compared to more user-centric signals.
  • Building a brand and generating search demand is more critical than ever for SEO success.

However, just because something is mentioned in API documentation doesn’t mean it’s being used to rank search results.

Other industry experts urge caution when interpreting the leaked documents.

They point out that Google may use the information for testing purposes or apply it only to specific search verticals rather than use it as active ranking signals.

There are also open questions about how much weight these signals carry compared to other ranking factors. The leak doesn’t provide the full context or algorithm details.

Unanswered Questions & Future Implications

As the SEO community continues to analyze the leaked documents, many questions still need to be answered.

Without official confirmation from Google, the authenticity and context of the information are still a matter of debate.

Key open questions include:

  • How much of this documented data is actively used to rank search results?
  • What is the relative weighting and importance of these signals compared to other ranking factors?
  • How have Google’s systems and use of this data evolved?
  • Will Google change its public messaging and be more transparent about using behavioral data?

As the debate surrounding the leak continues, it’s wise to approach the information with a balanced, objective mindset.

Unquestioningly accepting the leak as gospel truth or completely dismissing it are both shortsighted reactions. The reality likely lies somewhere in between.

Potential Implications For SEO Strategies and Website Optimization

It would be highly inadvisable to act on information shared from this supposed ‘leak’ without confirming whether it’s an actual Google search document.

Further, even if the content originates from search, the information is a year old and could have changed. Any insights derived from the leaked documentation should not be considered actionable now.

With that in mind, while the full implications remain unknown, here’s what we can glean from the leaked information.

1. Emphasis On User Engagement Metrics

If click data and user engagement metrics are direct ranking factors, as the leaked documents suggest, it could place greater emphasis on optimizing for these metrics.

This means crafting compelling titles and meta descriptions to increase click-through rates, ensuring fast page loads and intuitive navigation to reduce bounces, and strategically linking to keep users engaged on your site.

Driving traffic through other channels like social media and email can also help generate positive engagement signals.

However, it’s important to note that optimizing for user engagement shouldn’t come at the expense of creating reader-focused content. Gaming engagement metrics are unlikely to be a sustainable, long-term strategy.

Google has consistently emphasized the importance of quality and relevance in its public statements, and based on the leaked information, this will likely remain a key focus. Engagement optimization should support and enhance quality content, not replace it.

2. Potential Changes To Link-Building Strategies

The leaked documents contain information about how Google treats different types of links and their impact on search rankings.

This includes details about the use of anchor text, the classification of links into different quality tiers based on traffic to the linking page, and the potential for links to be ignored or demoted based on various spam factors.

If this information is accurate, it could influence how SEO professionals approach link building and the types of links they prioritize.

Links that drive real click-throughs may carry more weight than links on rarely visited pages.

The fundamentals of good link building still apply—create link-worthy content, build genuine relationships, and seek natural, editorially placed links that drive qualified referral traffic.

The leaked information doesn’t change this core approach but offers some additional nuance to be aware of.

3. Increased Focus On Brand Building and Driving Search Demand

The leaked documents suggest that Google uses brand-related signals and offline popularity as ranking factors. This could include metrics like brand mentions, searches for the brand name, and overall brand authority.

As a result, SEO strategies may emphasize building brand awareness and authority through both online and offline channels.

Tactics could include:

  • Securing brand mentions and links from authoritative media sources.
  • Investing in traditional PR, advertising, and sponsorships to increase brand awareness.
  • Encouraging branded searches through other marketing channels.
  • Optimizing for higher search volumes for your brand vs. unbranded keywords.
  • Building engaged social media communities around your brand.
  • Establishing thought leadership through original research, data, and industry contributions.

The idea is to make your brand synonymous with your niche and build an audience that seeks you out directly. The more people search for and engage with your brand, the stronger those brand signals may become in Google’s systems.

4. Adaptation To Vertical-Specific Ranking Factors

Some leaked information suggests that Google may use different ranking factors or algorithms for specific search verticals, such as news, local search, travel, or e-commerce.

If this is the case, SEO strategies may need to adapt to each vertical’s unique ranking signals and user intents.

For example, local search optimization may focus more heavily on factors like Google My Business listings, local reviews, and location-specific content.

Travel SEO could emphasize collecting reviews, optimizing images, and directly providing booking/pricing information on your site.

News SEO requires focusing on timely, newsworthy content and optimized article structure.

While the core principles of search optimization still apply, understanding your particular vertical’s nuances, based on the leaked information and real-world testing, can give you a competitive advantage.

The leaks suggest a vertical-specific approach to SEO could give you an advantage.

Conclusion

The Google API documentation leak has created a vigorous discussion about Google’s ranking systems.

As the SEO community continues to analyze and debate the leaked information, it’s important to remember a few key things:

  1. The information isn’t fully verified and lacks context. Drawing definitive conclusions at this stage is premature.
  2. Google’s ranking algorithms are complex and constantly evolving. Even if entirely accurate, this leak only represents a snapshot in time.
  3. The fundamentals of good SEO – creating high-quality, relevant, user-centric content and promoting it effectively – still apply regardless of the specific ranking factors at play.
  4. Real-world testing and results should always precede theorizing based on incomplete information.

What To Do Next

As an SEO professional, the best course of action is to stay informed about the leak.

Because details about the document remain unknown, it’s not a good idea to consider any takeaways actionable.

Most importantly, remember that chasing algorithms is a losing battle.

The only winning strategy in SEO is to make your website the best result for your message and audience. That’s Google’s endgame, and that’s where your focus should be, regardless of what any particular leaked document suggests.



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Google’s AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

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Google's AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

An analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries by Bartosz Góralewicz, founder of Onely, reveals the impact of Google’s AI overviews on search visibility for online retailers.

The study found that 16% of eCommerce queries now return an AI overview in search results, accounting for 13% of total search volume in this sector.

Notably, 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.

“Ranking #1-3 gives you only an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews,” Góralewicz stated.

Shift Toward “Accelerated” Product Experiences

International SEO consultant Aleyda Solis analyzed the disconnect between traditional organic ranking and inclusion in AI overviews.

According to Solis, for product-related queries, Google is prioritizing an “accelerated” approach over summarizing currently ranking pages.

She commented Góralewicz’ findings, stating:

“… rather than providing high level summaries of what’s already ranked organically below, what Google does with e-commerce is “accelerate” the experience by already showcasing what the user would get next.”

Solis explains that for queries where Google previously ranked category pages, reviews, and buying guides, it’s now bypassing this level of results with AI overviews.

Assessing AI Overview Traffic Impact

To help retailers evaluate their exposure, Solis has shared a spreadsheet that analyzes the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.

As Góralewicz notes, this could be an initial rollout, speculating that “Google will expand AI overviews for high-cost queries when enabling ads” based on data showing they are currently excluded for high cost-per-click keywords.

An in-depth report across ecommerce and publishing is expected soon from Góralewicz and Onely, with additional insights into this search trend.

Why SEJ Cares

AI overviews represent a shift in how search visibility is achieved for ecommerce websites.

With most overviews currently pulling product data from non-ranking sources, the traditional connection between organic rankings and search traffic is being disrupted.

Retailers may need to adapt their SEO strategies for this new search environment.

How This Can Benefit You

While unsettling for established brands, AI overviews create new opportunities for retailers to gain visibility without competing for the most commercially valuable keywords.

Ecommerce sites can potentially circumvent traditional ranking barriers by optimizing product data and detail pages for Google’s “accelerated” product displays.

The detailed assessment framework provided by Solis enables merchants to audit their exposure and prioritize optimization needs accordingly.


FAQ

What are the key findings from the analysis of AI overviews & ecommerce queries?

Góralewicz’s analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries found:

  • 16% of ecommerce queries now return an AI overview in the search results.
  • 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.
  • Ranking positions #1-3 only provides an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews.

These insights reveal significant shifts in how ecommerce sites need to approach search visibility.

Why are AI overviews pulling product data from non-ranking sources, and what does this mean for retailers?

Google’s AI overviews prioritize “accelerated” experiences over summarizing currently ranked pages for product-related queries.

This shift focuses on showcasing directly what users seek instead of traditional organic results.

For retailers, this means:

  • A need to optimize product pages beyond traditional SEO practices, catering to the data requirements of AI overviews.
  • Opportunities to gain visibility without necessarily holding top organic rankings.
  • Potential to bypass traditional ranking barriers by focusing on enhanced product data integration.

Retailers must adapt quickly to remain competitive in this evolving search environment.

What practical steps can retailers take to evaluate and improve their search visibility in light of AI overview disruptions?

Retailers can take several practical steps to evaluate and improve their search visibility:

  • Utilize the spreadsheet provided by Aleyda Solis to assess the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.
  • Optimize product and detail pages to align with the data and presentation style preferred by AI overviews.
  • Continuously monitor changes and updates to AI overviews, adapting strategies based on new data and trends.

These steps can help retailers navigate the impact of AI overviews and maintain or improve their search visibility.


Featured Image: Marco Lazzarini/Shutterstock



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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

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Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.



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