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How to Pick the Best Rank Tracker Tool for SEO

When you're marketing your website across search engines, half the struggle is determining the best methods to get it seen. And if you've decided SEO is the prime opportunity to do that (which it probably is), you need to climb the rankings on search engines like Google, in order to gain traction. Here's your guide on the best rank tracker tools to evaluate your website performance.

When you've finally gotten your campaign live and it's ticking along nicely, the next hurdle is to ensure you're utilizing the most effective and accurate tool to track keyword rankings and measure your success. This guide covers all of the best rank tracker platforms on the market, helping you to back your weapon arsenal with the top options available to marketers and brands alike.

You'll learn a whole lot of useful tips to power up your suite of rank tracking tools so that you have everything you need to measure and monitor phrases as your campaign progresses. You'll also form an understanding of:

  • Free and low-cost SEO tools for keyword research

  • Rank tracker (free)

  • The most powerful (and less free) paid tools for tracking keywords

  • Best resources for monitoring competitor positions and traffic

  • Most useful tracking tools for monitoring your own website's organic search performance overall.

 

How do keyword rankings work?

First thing's first, though - you'll need to understand how search engines like Google operate and use their own algorithms to determine keyword positions for absolutely every single website it indexes. Remember that the number one position in its search engine results pages (SERPs) gleans a massive 32% of all clicks across the top 10 positions overall. When you're not sitting in first place for your target keyword, you're losing out on a huge load of website traffic, and potential conversions. 

In order to figure out what website to put in these positions, Google uses over 200 ranking factors to make its decision on who to give a keyword ranking to. While that seems like a lot - and it is - there are plenty of rank tracking tools out there to help you manage and monitor how to maximize your appeal to Google search criteria. 

So what are these rankings factors? At a glance, the most important ones you're likely to hear about most in the world of SEO efforts include:

  • Website traffic

  • Time on site

  • Bounce rate

  • Pages per session

  • Backlinks

  • Total referring domains

  • Content length

  • Content quality/relevance

  • Frequency and freshness of content

  • Website security (i.e. HTTPS)

  • Internal links (i.e. anchors)

  • Keyword optimization (densities and placement)

  • Meta data, titles, and descriptions

  • Page load time

  • Mobile-friendliness (big one)

  • User experience

  • On-site and off-site optimization

  • Spam score

important-seo-ranking-factors-graph

It's important to note that these are only a few of the many, many factors that Google takes into consideration when it crawls any given website. But the reason we list these ones specifically is that they're the most crucial, and the most talked about. When you're starting out in search engine optimization, these are the first bases that you'll need to cover, or that your chosen digital marketing agency should focus on. (If they are doing things right.)

When you have so many of these factors to keep track of, it's common to feel overwhelmed. That's where using the most accurate and well-organized keyword tracking tools comes into the equation, cutting plenty of stress out of the process.

Beyond this list, though, are a few crucial and notable points that also help make up Google's mind. In the following section, we're covering off some of the more recent and most vital changes in keyword ranking behaviors from this search engine - keep your pen and paper handy.

The 'Mobile Armageddon' algorithm update

Google recently updated its algorithm in March 2018 to penalize sites with poor mobile-friendliness. Given user behavior has shifted to 60% of online searches stemming from mobile devices, it's no wonder this search engine algorithm change was rolled out.

The update has been referred to as "Mobile Armageddon" by many online marketers and inevitably saw sites with poor optimization for mobile devices decrease in rankings across SERP features. From then on, marketers hustled to ensure their website fits the bill, keeping tabs on mobile optimization and smart device features.

To optimize your website for mobile and get better results for your target keywords, you need to check out these three areas of your site:

  1. Individual web pages

  2. Images, video, and visual content

  3. Responsive website design/layout and CSS.

These days, mobile-friendliness is still hugely crucial for any SEO strategy. Brands that continue to avoid this criterion are likely losing more and more of their audience over time. A site that isn't able to recognize the device it's being viewed on will quickly lose the attention of the end-user. And that's something Google definitely doesn't want to promote to its customers.

Rich and relevant content

It sort of pains us to use the cliche "content is king" here, but it's so true. In an age where consumers drive the conversation and pick and choose the marketing messages they engage with, having valuable, rich, user-focused content is absolutely crucial for any brand. Whether you're a door hardware manufacturer or a real estate agent, spending time creating useful, relevant content for your SEO strategy is one of the biggest ways to tick boxes for Google search engine results and appeal to your target audience.

Luckily, there is a 'formula' you can use to create high-quality SEO content that solves your target audience's pain points and build traction on major search engines. Keep the following questions handy when mapping out your content to ensure you're building material that covers all of these bases.

  • Do all of your pages feature well-written content that's substantial and filled with helpful material?

  • Have you conducted thorough keyword research to understand how people may find your content on a search engine results page?

  • Do your pages use phrases or keywords that allow you to be found (i.e. keyword placement)?

  • Is your content about "hot" topics, trends, or timely news?

  • Do you have a mix of content formats - i.e. images, videos, infographics, etc?

  • Is your material converted into direct answers within SERPs? (Look at People Also Ask on Google - if you show up here, big brownie points.)

  • Does your content have enough substance or is it too "thin"? Length and word count matters most here, but you need to ensure you're not just creating fluff either.

  • Have you included SEO elements like meta descriptions, internal links, external links, heading structure, and tags?

At the end of the day, any content you create should always solve or answer a pain point for your target audience. If you can't identify what those are, you'll need to go back to your strategy step to discover more about your demographics and their personas. Without this information, your content will lack substance and Google won't think it's that flash either.

If you ask us, we'll happily tell you that, in order to create relevant and rich content, you need to first map out: 

  • Your audience

  • The goal of your material

  • How you'll write for your audience first, and Google second

  • Keywords to appeal to search engines

  • Call to actions 

  • The overall structure and word count.

Pro tip: Using a tool like SurferSEO alongside your keyword rank checker of choice can really help you out here. This software provides you with crucial insights into how to structure your piece, optimize it for users and appeal to Google at the same time. 

Keyword research and optimization

When you're diving into the action of creating content, nothing is more important in the lead up than effective keyword research and optimization. While keyword rankings need to be tracked, your success here fundamentally relies on how thorough your initial leg work was. That means looking into competitor search activity, trends in your market, user behavior, and phrases that suit your offering. 

Keyword research is crucial because it allows you to narrow down the most influential search phrases in your niche. For example, using a tool like Ubersuggest or paid alternatives like Ahrefs and SEMrush can help you pinpoint high-volume keywords for your specific topic and the competitiveness overall.

The general rule of thumb is to aim for keywords that draw enough monthly volume in search results, but that have a low enough keyword difficulty score that you have a chance to rank for them. Doing so gives you a far better chance at ranking for these phrases in comparison to if you chose the absolute highest volume above all other criteria.

Additionally, utilizing and targeting long-tail keywords (sentence-like phrases) and semantically related terms (known as LSIs) will also allow you to zoom in on more targeted audiences who are after a very specific answer. 

How to optimize your keywords for search engine rankings

Once you're ready to put fingers to your keyboard, you'll need to map out where you intend to place your keywords throughout your material. Gone are the days where spamming them throughout was the best way to gain traction in Google search rankings; now's the time to focus on quality first and keywords second. This is a controversial statement, as most SEOs and marketers have their varying opinions on this thought, but the fact of the matter is that Google always prioritizes the readability and value of your content over how many keywords are in it.

keyword-placement

Instead of quantity, consider the position of your keyword placements instead. For example, once you've solidified your list of target phrases, start by placing them in these areas of your piece:

  1. The main heading (H1) - Aim for your primary cluster here

  2. The subheadings (H2s) - Try to incorporate different ones to your page title, H1, and other subheadings in each.

  3. Minor headings (H3s, H4s, etc) - BUT only if needed. You don't want to spam them across every heading. Not only does this read tacky, but it won't really do you any SEO favors either. Use your best judgment here.

  4. Within the body of your content - Try to get a mention in the first line of your first paragraph, and then scatter as naturally as you can to suit the nature of your piece. Every keyword should read like it was meant to be there.

  5. Internal links and anchors - Linking to your other pages is crucial; use similar phrases to link through to other target pages across your site.

  6. Meta description - Pop a keyword in here but do not overdo it. Ever. You want your meta description to also act as a call to action, enticing the user looking at search results to click through to the content itself. It needs to be compelling.

MOZ SEO MasterClass

Image source: Moz

If you manage to cover off all of these points in your own content creation, you'll find your rankings will be rewarded. While it does take time and effort, the end result is always worth it, and your audience will appreciate how much work you've put into creating material that is of value to them. 

Find this interesting? Load up on more helpful tips - Get our FREE A-Z SEO Guide now.

 

Optimizing page speed

Nothing is more infuriating to users and search engine crawlers than a page that takes forever to load. Time is money, so ensure your pages are always up to scratch and rapidly loading as required. On average, 53% of users will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Yes, three seconds

If your website takes too long to load or if it’s slow to navigate, you will inevitably lose customers. As a society, we're time-poor, and that's only continuing to become the case. Cater to your users and you'll reap the benefits here.

google-page-speed-insights-nytimes-results-for-mobile

However, it's important to note that page load speed is NOT the same as site speed, which is calculated by the average of several sample pages on an entire website. And if you're thinking all of this complicated, we wouldn't blame you, but with a little understanding and practice, you can easily bridge the gap for poor rankings and user experience through this element alone.

Additionally, if users are spending significant portions of their time waiting for your website to load, they will say au revoir to your site, resulting in a high bounce rate. This is something Google really doesn't like, and it makes high conversion rates impossible to achieve. Collectively, these factors negatively affect your SEO rankings.

How to improve page speed for users and search engines

Paid speed also depends on the overall design of your site and its functionality. Combined with the following basics, you'll be able to significantly improve your speeds. (Note that these are just a few of the many factors you'll need to tick off for better visibility in search results.)

Image optimization

There are lots of ways to optimize images, the easiest and most cost-effective method of compression is to use online image optimization tools. If you have lots of images for your page - like a product collection - this is extremely vital.  Images take up a lot of bandwidth, so make sure they are as small as possible - no more than 5-10Kb.

Code optimization

Removing unnecessary commas, characters, and spaces, and unused code can help improve the performance of your website.

Improve server response time

To improve the speed of your site overall, you need to find the bottlenecks, improve the performance of your web server, and make sure that your database is up to scratch. To find these issues - such as slow routing, databases, or code that might slow down how fast the page loads for the user - it’s important to understand the web server’s configuration and the type of technology stack you are using. You will need the help of a developer here.

Remove extraneous HTML

If you have lots of HTML elements, remove them where possible. This includes comments, sidebars, and other elements that aren't really necessary for your content to be seen. This can reduce the size of your website and make it load faster.

Use CSS

By using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), you can control the appearance of your website and keep the number of files you need to download down. You can also use this to add custom fonts or images, but it's best to avoid using JavaScript with CSS.

Use Gzip compression

If you have any images, videos, or other content that's significantly large, you should always aim to compress it. This will help reduce the size of the file and make it faster to load. 

Compress video content

Compressing your video content down will improve page load speed and save bandwidth. Video compression is important because it can reduce the file size of the video without any noticeable loss in quality. Most basic editing software can do this for you, as well as online tools.

Page experience

Similarly to page load speed, your page experience needs to be frequently monitored and tweaked for the best possible performance across keyword rankings - both for users and search engine crawlers. In fact, Google announced its page experience update in 2020, known as Core Vitals and is one of the biggest ranking factors currently active.

These vitals are essentially a collection of user-focused metrics intended to track a page’s “health”. This benchmark for health is based on providing a seamless and smooth user experience. 

What this means is that every page is assessed on the criteria that it offers value, relevancy, a positive user experience, and zero hiccups along the way. And unfortunately, there are so many things that can hinder all these aspects.

So how can you improve your page experience?

  • Improve page load speed: Use our above tips to cover this one off appropriately. A fast-loading page means a happy user. And a happy user means a happy Google.

  • Fix any broken links: Bad for experience and even worse for search engine rankings.

  • Test your web design on all devices: Does it function well on mobile, tablets, and desktops? Ensure your design isn't dropping the ball on any of these.

  • Assess competitors: Look at what your competitor pages include and how they function. Can you do better?

  • Analyze your navigation: Confusing users with a poorly built navigation system is detrimental to conversions, bounce rates, and rankings.

Additionally, page experience can critically affect the performance and success of landing pages, which can be the make or break of your marketing if you're relying on it for conversions. From subtle, but compelling, call to actions to non-invasive ads, form fields, and pop-ups - every one of these elements impacts the overall user experience and page performance.

On-page optimization

If you've ever dabbled in SEO before, you would have heard this terminology a lot. On-page optimization refers to the process of improving the performance of a website by optimizing its content, such as keywords and headlines. Ultimately, it spans across how everything on a given page functions, feels, and performs.

To optimize your on-page elements for the best possible search engine rankings (and page experience), follow these steps:

  1. Provide keyword-optimized, relevant titles: This is pretty straightforward; your title should tell the user and crawler what your page is about. Don't mislead and always include your primary keyword. Additionally, avoid duplicated page titles! This is a biggie.

  2. Create unique meta descriptions: Every page needs its own individual meta description, no ifs, buts, or maybes.

  3. Build content using a strategy: If you've done everything according to plan so far, you will already have a content strategy ready to go and backed by your keyword research from earlier. Use this to flesh out your material across all of your pages by producing high-value, SEO-optimized content with substance. Again, no duplication.

  4. Utilize heading structures: As we mentioned earlier, using the correct practice for headings is crucial. Use SEO tags appropriately and position keywords naturally.

  5. Avoid keyword spamming: Plain and simple.

  6. Build clear URL structures: Avoid confusing users and crawlers with messy URLs that seem to recite the entire alphabet.

  7. Use keywords naturally, strategically, and logically: As with all of the above, use your keyword research to your advantage. Back yourself with optimization tools (like those mentioned previously) and place phrases where they fit. Never force them into your content. 

  8. Roll out relevant alt image tags: Every image needs an alt tag that is accurate and definitive of what the image is about.

  9. Don't forget internal links: Another one from before; never forget these beauties.

  10. Or external links: Pointing to other websites that are of authority - like government organizations or industry sites - is a good way to back up your material. It proves that your content can be trusted and that you've done your research. 

  11. Finally, update content: Refresh your older content with more up-to-date keywords, structuring, and information. This keeps it relevant and maximizes search engine rankings.

Content-Optimization-e1595864063599

 

Yes, tracking keyword rank is important

Even though it might feel like overkill at times, using a keyword rank checker to monitor your progress is vital to the overall success of your strategy.  

When you compare sites or perform research for yourself, you learn that each user will experience different results due to the many factors at play. The problem is, it doesn't matter how much data you collect on your keyword rankings if you don't know what it all means.

If you were to stop tracking keyword rankings overall, it would be extremely difficult to get the value and insights that you require to dominate SEO. Thanks to recent technological advancements and A.I. there are several tools available today that will help you monitor your website's performance in terms of your target keywords.

 

At the end of the day, keyword tracking is a powerful tool for understanding what's going on with your site and what's working for you. It also shows you what's not, identifying room for improvement and low-hanging fruit.

By being able to see the trends in your performance over time, you can see what your audience is searching for and find out which keywords are bringing traffic to your site. When certain phrases in your campaign drop off in traction, you can ditch them for more up-to-date and relevant queries that you're using instead. Lastly, consistently monitoring your keyword rankings enables you to identify those you've missed out on, giving you the ability to add them into your campaign or create content out of them. 

If we need to convince you further, other crucial reasons to use a keyword rank checker include:

  • Problem-solve drops in traffic and target keywords

  • Find new opportunities for keyword positions

  • Maximize visibility in organic search

  • Keep track of competitors and their behavior

  • Identify click-through rate problems

  • Gain data you can use to measure overall SEO performance 

  • Improve ROI 

  • Pivot your strategy as required.

What rank tracker tools should you use?

Like anything in marketing, you're only as good as the data you've got to back your campaign up with. When you have to report back to your boss on the effectiveness of your strategy and whether the ROI is where it should be, you'll thank yourself for setting up your rank tracker in the first place.

However, to monitor them at all, you need rank tracking software that allows you to get as much clarity as possible. In the list below, we highlight some of our favorite and go-to SEO tools for assessing SERP features and progress.

SEMrush

SEMrush is considered the leader in "online visibility management". It helps brands improve SEO, learn how to drive more traffic, and improve conversion rates. The suite includes over 50 products and tools that give you complete clarity on your search campaigns, with add-ons for social, content, and market research. It's also available in more than 140 countries and integrates directly with Google for precise reporting on Google rankings.

The downfall is that it does attract a more expensive price tag, with fees starting from $119.95/month. If you want to take it for a test run, a trial is available and you can even use its free limited SEO rank tracker tools to pull some data on a single project.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is the go-to rank checker for marketing professionals and the industry as a whole, trusted by hundreds of thousands of experts worldwide. It crawls the web and stores tons of Google search data for you to make use of and is easy to access via a simple user interface. The data can then be used to improve the relevance of your keywords in search results, the quality of links to your site, your link-building strategy, content marketing strategy, competitive research, and website audits. 

You will have to dish out some dollars for this one though, with prices starting at $99 for the Lite plan, scaling up to $999 for agency-level access - so definitely not the cheapest on the market. Marketers may also find it frustrating that - despite the price - you can't sort keywords by relevancy.

SERPWatcher 

This platform claims you can set up your entire campaign up on its native keyword rank tracking tool in 30 seconds, and it delivers. Featuring a 10-day free trial so you can take it for a whizz. it fundamentally does what many others do but gives you a Performance Index too - a score out of 100 that sheds more clarity on your Google search rankings and where you could do better. For those that want something clean and simple, this is the one to use. You also have the ability to track desktop and mobile results, locations, daily positions, key metrics and collect interactive reports alongside email alerts.

SERPWatcher is just $29.90 per month on the most basic plan, with the most expensive being $79.90 - ideal for one-man teams or SEO marketers that don't need all the bells and whistles.

Google Rank Tracker

As an entirely free option, Google Rank Tracker is a web browser tool that gives you easy access to data that shows your top traffic-driving target keywords by simply entering your domain name. There isn't a whole lot of depth to it, but when you're after an overview of volume, traffic, results, and Google search trends, it will give you all of that in one dashboard. Lastly, it gives you a full run-down in its helpful guides and video content on how to use this search results data and why it matters.

Moz Rank Tracker

While you do need Moz Pro to access this tool, you can also try it out with a free trial in the meantime. You'll get complete access to a comprehensive look into your rankings, keyword metrics, competitor research, progress reports, and long-term tracking. If Ahrefs and SEMrush are up your alley but slightly too expensive, this is the next best thing. And for those with more money to splash, the higher-end plans come with absolutely everything you need to run a large-scale SEO team in-house ($599).

Wincher

The all-rounder keyword tracking tool for improving rankings with clear data on performance, competitors, opportunities, and reporting, Wincher definitely does its job for a cheaper keyword ranking tool. Starting at just over $32/year (yes, per year!) there is plenty to love about this nifty platform. Even its highest plan is only $365/year for complete access and unlimited use for an entire team. The only downfall is that the basic plan doesn't offer a whole lot of depth, but the data it does give is enough for a solo marketer.

Google Search Console

We couldn't go without mentioning Google's own inventions, with Google Search Console being an absolute must in our eyes. With ranking reports that let you measure traffic, performance, and traction, you also get clear-cut looks at your biggest issues and opportunities. It's here that you'll submit your sitemap and ping Google Search Console for individual URL crawling, too, so we do recommend having it handy. It will also send you real-time alerts on your biggest issues, notifying you when you need to fix something. Oh, and it's completely free.

Google Keyword Planner

Finally, Google Keyword Planner is the perfect winner for any search engines specialist or marketer who just wants the data they need to check keyword rankings and SEO performance. Ideal for SEO and PPC, it's a great entry point into the market. As for the downsides, you do need a Google Ads account to sign up (free) and there isn't much versatility for looking at broad or phrase-match searches. You also can't look at device targeting, which is a bigger con if you're weighing up your options. 

 

Putting it all together

We know - this has been a lot to digest. But when you understand how every element ties into each other, it starts to become second nature. Hopefully, with all of these resources on hand, you'll be able to dive into your keyword tracking with ease, guiding you into more target campaigns across search results.

Remember, set up your chosen rank tracker, keep things ticking along, and refresh your campaign as you see fit. Never let it grow stale - data is your friend!

Not sure where you stand in search results? Get a FREE audit from the experts at OMG now to get on the track to online success.

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