“Where do you rank?”. This phrase is as common parlance amongst SEO Companies and the SEO community as water cooler talk is to the rest of us. What does it really mean though?
Keyword rankings are my bone to pick for the day. Accurately assessing where a particular URL ranks for a particular keyword is something that is rarely done well, or even correctly. The importance of being able to accurately measure where you rank for your chosen keywords is very important, if you can’t measure it, you can’t master it.
What Does Ranking Actually Mean?
This article is written primarily for the business owner and the integrated marketer. I’ve no doubt that die hard SEO’s have their own opinions and various technical definitions, but I like to keep things simple. I define ranking as: “The current position of your chosen keyword in your region-specific version of Google”.
To use my own company as an example, we rank number 1 for the key phrase ‘SEO Norwich’ in the UK SERP results of Google, or the UK version of Google basically (any excuse for self-promotion, eh?). This means if somebody is located in the UK and using Google.co.uk, Square Social will appear in the number position 1 for this keyword.
I’ve illustrated this below using Moz’s Rank Checker (more on this shortly).
Now that we’ve defined our key term and provided a little context, let’s dive straight into the ‘how’ of the equation.
There are some very complicated methods of tracking keyword rankings out there, but for the majority of us these aren’t necessary. The simplest methods are the most effective, in my opinion, and are generally enough to get the job done, unless you’re working on a very high value account or particularly tricky campaign.
I like to use what I call the Two Step. This, unsurprisingly, contains two steps to check a keyword ranking.
Moz’s Rank Tracker
There are tons and tons of ‘keyword rank checker’ tools out there, the majority of these are junk and unreliable. Moz’s Rank Tracker is by the far the most professional and reliable tool that I’ve found for measuring and tracking keyword rankings.
Here’s how you use the Rank Tracker to figure out where you rank for a particular keyword.
- Open up Rank Tracker.
- Type your keyword, or keyphrase, into the keyword box. For example – [SEO Companies].
- Paste in the URL of the page you want to determine the ranking of.
- Select your search engine of choice, Google, Yahoo or Bing.
- Configure your location by selecting the country you wish to check the ranking within. For example – United States.
- Hit get ranking.
Nice and simple, the process is seamless and only takes 30 seconds. Once you’ve run your initial rank check, you can ‘track’ that keyword so you can measure the fluctuation of the keyword over the month. This will allow you to better measure what’s working in your current SEO campaign, and what’s not working as well. This is a fantastic tool for SEO companies, marketers and business owners alike.
Google Webmaster Tools
Part two of the Two Step is to use Google Webmaster Tools. A bit techier, but still well within the remit of business owners and non SEO’s alike. This process allows you to combine simplicity with a bit of analytical data; this should be enough to appease most.
A lot of the Webmaster Tools content is fairly technical; it delves into crawl errors, URL parameters and page indexing. The section you want to focus on is fairly simple to get a grip on. Follow these steps:
- Log into Google Webmaster tools. If you don’t have it configured, run a few Google searches for ‘How to use Google Webmaster tools’ to get started. Kiss Metrics also has a pretty awesome guide to Webmaster Tools for any marketers looking to get a real handle on it.
- Click on the web property you’re looking to analyze
- On the left hand navigation bar, click on Search Traffic
- Click on Search Queries
This will provide you a breakdown of search queries pertaining to your website. The key metrics you need to pay attention to are clicks and avg position. Combined with your Moz Rank Checker, you can accurately determine where you are ranking for any given keyword and determine how many clicks this keyword is converting for your site.
Water To Wine, Rankings To Rent Checks
To finish up with, let’s quickly cover how you can take this new information and put it to work for your own business. The best thing to do with this information is first of all, audit your SEO efforts.
One of the first things we do as an SEO Company when working with a new client is conduct a full audit of the current SEO strategy. There have been numerous occasions where an in-house marketing manager, or more notoriously the ‘IT Guy’ will be tasked with managing the SEO and be completely ignorant of what they are doing.
Doug Kessler, a fellow Social Media Explorer columnist, recently wrote a really good article titled; It Won’t Work, We Tried That. That article struck a chord with me, because he’s completely right. Don’t take everything you hear as gospel, it’s our job as marketers to question anything that sounds suspect. The next time you’re dealing with a company and the marketing or IT guy claims to have their SEO covered, don’t be afraid to question this if you’ve done your research and know otherwise, just remember to back any assertions up with data and evidence.
For the marketers and business owners out there, hopefully you are now better equipped to assess your own SEO efforts. Once you’re able to measure how your website is performing, you can set to work on plugging any gaps or ramping up your efforts to drive more traffic and sales.
Are there any other easy methods of tracking your keywords out there you’d add to this list? Connect with me on Google+ and let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.