How can I see my rankings in Google? 5 tools to consider.
This is the question we often hear as I'm sure you do! Our answer is that rankings aren't where you should start when reviewing how well your SEO is working. We have showed how it's best to start with your analytics which will show you actual traffic, leads and sales generated through your SEO efforts. But at the end of the day, marketers still want to know their rankings and rightly so - they do provide a benchmark even in these days of personalised, real-time search. These software or web services report on your position in different search engines, in different countries, for different search terms. The five tools we recommend considering include some of the best known, most widely used ranking tools and a couple of "new kids on the block" which have more integrated analytics. The 6 services are:
- Advanced Web Ranking - I use this one regularly on projects and recommend it
- Agent Web Ranking - another established tool which I haven't personally used
- Web Position Formerly Web Position Gold (WPG), now owned by WebTrends
- SEO Gadget - Richard Baxters new keyword analysis toolset includes rankings I think
- SEOMoz - Likewise, the SEOMoz toolset best known for link analysis also includes rankings
Why use them?
I am a big believer in using these services if they add context to other KPI's that allow a story around data to form which can then influence future tactics. These tools should NEVER be used as a standalone metric for measuring Search Engine Optimization success & if you team member or agency every try to make it so then stop them right there. Tracking your ranking for the keywords relevant to your website over time is good primarily for two reasons:
- For you to relate traffic, lead & sale improvements (or drops) from search engines to keyword changes. You then know if no keywords have moved position but traffic has dropped for example that it is market driven and new ideas are required
- To monitor the competitive space. Are any new competitors suddenly performing well, are competitors overtaking you (then ask why!)
How do I best use them?
The setup and consistent running of such services is key, ensure you are looking at the right keywords have all your competitors across the keywords in this tool is paramount to getting value from them. Ensuring they then run every 2 - 4 weeks but consistently is key. Using the comparison tools built into most services will allow you to compare ranking performance but the real interesting insight comes when you then look at traffic from improving or dropping keywords, what has that meant to leads & sales etc. Obviously as a benchmark for SEO work these tools offer a quick insight as to whether your efforts are impacting things at all. Please remember the time it can take for SEO effort to impact rankings and that its the sustained development & hard work into an SEO strategy that improves your performance not short bursts of activity every time you see the latest report! An example of an effective use of this tool:
- The SEO strategy is to grow Natural Search Sales from 200 to 300 per month by Quarter
- We are going to do this by growing traffic from 2,000 to 3,000 (as we know it converts at 10%)
- To do this we have identified 15 weak ranking (10+) on some high volume keywords & we have 5 new keywords we wish to get onto page one for
- Our strategy to rank for these keywords is X, Y & Z
Obviously such tools would help at the most granular part of the strategy, benchmarking the 15 weak ranking keywords & the 5 new keywords will mean performance over time can be tracked, if after 3months the rankings have improved on the keywords but traffic hasn't grown at the expected rate you can then look back at your strategy & tweak as required. The thing I am trying to stress above is that keyword ranking is just a piece of the process around analysing & improving your natural search performance and should be used with other tools & data. Over the next few weeks I will touch on the other areas you need to consider when reviewing & improving natural search performance!
A word of warning
Be aware that some of these tools may contravene the search engine's terms of service if not used correctly since they query the search engine repeatedly. The best tools such as Advanced Web Ranking use throttling and query from different IP addresses to minimise the load on the search engines. But still you shouldn't ask them to do too much. Ensuring you stick to the search engines terms of service! You should think through the following issues when using these tools:
- Some of these services may contravene Googles terms of service (www.google.co.uk/intl/en/webmasters/guidelines.html) although they are widely used
- Minimising the number of ranking queries and using the Google API Key are likely to reduce this risk
- These tools are particularly necessary if you have a large keyword portfolio or international sales are important so you can track performance in different countries
- For some agencies, this is the primary method of reporting success, but of course share of search on a given phrase, number of clicks, conversion and value generated are much better measures of effectiveness!