Online Marketing Blog

Search Engine Ranking Checkers – Why They Still Matter

One of the huge hurdles of starting any SEO campaign is knowing what keywords you are going to target. Keyword tools are a dime a dozen and we’ve all used them. But the biggest problem that they all have is that they can’t show conversion data (obviously).  I am a big fan of using PPC to get accurate and converting keyword data and optimizing to help rank for those keywords that you KNOW convert (or at least have a very good chance of converting again). This can also be done in reverse.

In a lot of cases, pay per click campaigns can give you some really valuable insights into the words that people use to find your site and ultimately become customers. In many cases, these words are quite long and were never phrases you were specifically targeting. Adwords for example can give you data on hundreds of CONVERTING long tail search terms. Once you know know what they are, you can simply craft a page specifically for those terms, focus on the on page elements, then sometimes all it takes is a new blog post linking to that page either internally or externally to get it into the number 1 position on the search engines. I wrote a post on the correlation between PPC and SEO a while back and I feel it’s still true today.

I do realize that optimizing for a search term that converts once every month may seem like a waste of resources in the short term but those rankings are easier to get and can add up quickly. To compete in a saturated market from the grass-roots level it’s essential. I also believe this method of growth and promotion is in line perfectly with what Matt Cutts (The head of search quality and webspam at Google) mentioned in the below webmaster help video in June. The video is only 87 seconds long but his point is clear.

Get the Flash Player to see this Google AdWords tutorial about building your keyword list.

Matt also reinforces this point again at his wordcamp presentation, (skip to ~29:30). He mentions specifically:

“Build up, build up, don’t over reach… you have to get there gradually”

“Start with a smaller niche then embiggen that niche”

“You’re writing about more and more important things and bigger niches and eventually, over time, people get to know you … they’re sending you links and LIFE IS GOOD.”

This method of building up very specific content should attract links naturally and over time build up the reputation and authority that your site needs these days to even have a chance in more competitive markets.

So we know that rankings matter. They matter a lot. There will never be a way to know 100% for sure where you rank for a given phrase but I think it’s pretty important to have as good an idea as possible so you can monitor the “success of your embiggening” (you can’t measure what you can’t track). I know a lot of people/SEOs are not fans of rank checkers but I think that if you monitor your rankings over local search engines over a long enough period of time, you get a good idea of how your doing and weather or not you need to focus more on the long tail or specific regions.

I wont go into too much detail about the variety of rank checkers available, Ann Smarty does a great job of that here but I will mention the one that we use here at Redfly. We use Advanced Web Ranking.

redfly-advanced-web-rankings-screenshot Advanced Web Ranking is website ranking software that allows you to track as many keywords as you see fit across every search engine imaginable, including every regional version of the major ones. The search engine database is updated almost daily and they even have the latest versions of Google caffeine and all it’s regional indexes included.

What’s even better is the fact that it uses the search engines API keys (You all still have your Google SOAP API keys right?) so you’re not violating any of the search engines rules about automated queries. The reporting is fantastic and you can easily see at a glance you’re overall organic visibility. The one problem I have with this application is that it only allows a single API key, I’d love to be able to enter multiple APIs, especially for each site. It’s expensive and not for everyone but for those serious about tracking rankings over multiple sites, I highly recommend it.

*** Edit: As noted in the comments below, the AWR search engine ranking software does indeed take the Google AJAX API keys.

Imagine if you had data on 1000 longtail keywords that only converted once or twice each year from your PPC campaigns. Each conversion is valued at say, €100. If you rank on page one for these results in the organic SERPs, chances are you’ll eventually get clicks and conversions. If you only get ONE conversion for each of these keywords again, that’s still €100,000. I’d be willing to bet you could generate relatively decent content for each of those terms for less than €100, especially if you are bootstrapping and especially if that content you are creating helps build your authority (see above). It’s a win-win-win situation. You’re creating content that you KNOW converts, that you KNOW will help build your authority (because you KNOW your customers convert on these topics) and that you KNOW is a worthwhile investment of time. It’s essential to monitor how you’re doing for these terms.

I know a lot of people will not agree with me in the value of tracking individual keyword rankings, they are indeed in a state of “everflux” (although longer tail term rankings tend to be a LOT more stable). But surely having a reasonable idea of how you’re performing holds value? Especially if you are entering a competitive market “through the back door” using the long tail method outlined above and in the videos by Matt.

What rank checkers do you use? Do you find they are a waste of time?


  1. avatar
    Chase Granberry Says:
    August 24th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Agreed. You have to rank to get traffic, it’s that simple. Not tracking your position in search for the terms concerning your business (and sending you traffic) would be like not tracking social media mentions despite getting traffic from Twitter.

    I think most of the negative sentiment towards serp tracking has to do with the cumbersome software needed to do it, and the loops Google makes you jump through.

    Having ranking data for a few terms is useful, but things start to change quite a bit when you can easily analyze data on tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of terms.

    Reply

  2. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    August 24th, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Good points Chase, especially about the hoops we are made to jump through to stay on good terms with the engines :)

    You’re spot on, the picture changes when you have a LOT of data and the relationship between the different sets.

    I was going to give Authority Labs a mention (great tool by the way) but we only tested it. A desktop application is a lot more robust for us an there is always the uncertainty of what third parties will do with your data.

    Reply

  3. avatar
    Prepaid Legal Services Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 12:06 am

    I have never used a ranking checker, and have done alright without it, but based on what you’re saying here, I’m likely (highly likely) to start checking my rank for the keywords/keyphrases I’m working on.

    Thanks for the write-up and ideas on why this is important.

    Warmest,

    Jonathan

    Reply

  4. avatar
    Moni Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 5:46 am

    I totally agree with you for the value of tracking individual keyword rankings,its really very important.

    Reply

  5. avatar
    Roy Huiskes Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 6:13 am

    If I’m not mistaking the SOAP API works until the end of september, since it’s End of Life for three years now, they finally decided to pull the plug.

    Reply

  6. avatar
    BizBamboo Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Hi, I think its informative and useful for me. I have noted some points from
    this article, good article for me. Thank you very much for sharing. Regards,
    - Bizbamboo

    Reply

  7. avatar
    John O'Connor Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Excellent posting and timely for ourselves.

    One consideration we are having with regards landing pages for long tail keywords is click depth from the home page – it’s something that appears to be important to google.

    If a link from a homepage is second level, does it matter if the long tail is 3rd, 4th,or even 5th level. Or is it enough to just include these long tail pages in the sitemap.

    In terms of website structure, we have to be careful that potentially 100′s of long tail keyword pages do not interfere with the effectiveness and usability of the website, so they may sit best at depth.

    Reply

  8. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Hi “Prepaid Legal Services”, thanks for your comment but the comment links here are nofollowed and so too are links within comments so spamming your links here doesn’t work.

    Reply

  9. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    August 25th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Hey Roy, you are correct. The SOAP API is being retired but bear in mind the AJAX API is not and while it’s a little more limited (to say the least) AWR can use the AJAX API too. Just waiting on tehm to provide teh feature to use multiple APIs (one per site or per limit set of keywords) at the moment.

    Reply

  10. avatar
    Wilson Pon Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Dave, I was wondering, is it possible for us to create our own keyword niche, which is doesn’t show up in the keyword suggestion tool?

    Reply

  11. avatar
    Adam Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    these are really nice points.Subscribed to your RSS :)

    Reply

  12. avatar
    Maneesh Bhati Says:
    August 29th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    It’s important to track the individual keyword ranking.

    Reply

  13. avatar
    Garry Says:
    September 1st, 2009 at 10:13 am

    It’s important to track the ranking. Thanks for the write-up and ideas on why this is important.

    Reply

  14. avatar
    finance Says:
    September 6th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Tracking of keyword is really very important. This is really a nice article. Thanks for sharing all this with us. I just watched the Youtube video attached with this post. That is also really information. Thanks for sharing. good luck.

    Reply

  15. avatar
    Ant Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Agreed. Without tracking your site you can never know how much traffic and how good your site is converting. I like what you did with the videos. You gave me a couple more ideas I feel like I can use to better my efforts.

    Reply

  16. avatar
    Kitchener Marketing Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 5:04 am

    Targeting {your top keyword} {your city name} is usually a good start. good article

    Reply

  17. avatar
    Sam - Web Design Manchester Says:
    September 9th, 2009 at 9:16 am

    You make some very interesting points and have written some nice read there. Damn wish i’d of thought about it myself!

    Some Rank Checkers are a waste of space but there are so many to choose from. You really have to get out there and try as many as you can until you find one that works best for you.

    cheers for the article

    Reply

  18. avatar
    Angelina Jones Says:
    September 9th, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Companies that cannot afford the expenses required to push themselves up in search engines rankings are increasingly resorting to more underhanded methods to knock down the image and reputation of their more well-funded competitors. These methods include smear campaigns, the spreading of false rumors, misleading information, and anything else that may damage a company’s reputation to the point where it puts doubt in the minds of consumers considering the purchase of that company’s products and services. A well run campaign will continue to add negative commentary over time to make it appear that there is some sort of growing movement against the targeted company. The commentary can be posted on blogs, forums, in articles, or any place else where it can be seen by consumers on the internet. Search engine optimization of the negative content can draw more viewers to it and increase its “believability” regardless of it being poorly written or its inaccuracies. The damage done, those consumers are then steered toward the sponsors of the negative content.

    Reply

  19. avatar
    Mark McCulloch Says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Indeed I learnt 9 years ago when I started full time in internet marketing that first of all everything should be tracked that way you know what works and what does not then second you have to rank for traffic I also learnt that, great post and keep em coming

    Reply

  20. avatar
    Kampus Says:
    September 13th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    It’s important to track the ranking. Thanks for the write-up and ideas on why this is important.

    Reply

  21. avatar
    Ayan Sen Says:
    September 15th, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Thanks for your article. It has cleared a lot of questions in my mind. Thanks a ton for sharing your knowledge.

    Reply

  22. avatar
    Andreas - Linknami Says:
    September 17th, 2009 at 9:45 am

    For me, constant tracking and analysing keyword rankings in search engines is a must if you want to know in which areas you need to improve on. Also keep an eye on the competitor situation around your rankings in the results, this often gives you an indication in which direction they are heading.

    Reply

  23. avatar
    Royal Bouquet Florist Says:
    September 20th, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    As a relatively newcomer to IM, I’m definitely tracking everything so that I can grow my presence correctly. It was great to read this post as it confirms I’m doing the right stuff. Thanks for sharing. I’m looking into Market Samurai for possible rank checking.

    Reply

  24. avatar
    Free Rein Internet Marketing Says:
    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Interesting article. Keyword tracking is essential when determining success rate and the areas which need improvement.

    Reply

  25. avatar
    More website visitors Says:
    September 29th, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Constant keyword tracking and analysis is important to help distinguish which areas need improvement and which are a success.

    Reply

  26. avatar
    Kieran Says:
    September 29th, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Hi Dave.
    I totally agree with you that the tracking individual keyword rankings are very important for any site.

    Without tracking your site you can never know how much traffic and how good your site is converting. You gave me some use full ideas and also I can use it to better my efforts.

    Nice post….

    Reply

  27. avatar
    Tom Harvey Says:
    September 30th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Great post with some really helpful links and references, thanks.
    I’m in the process of building a foundation and developing it over time much like Matt suggests so these type of tips and advice are very useful.

    Reply

  28. avatar
    Elizabeth Crane Says:
    October 3rd, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Content based SEO has worked for us better than any other method. Good tracking information. It’s a must for any business evaluation.

    Reply

  29. avatar
    Sam Says:
    October 5th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    You can’t put too much emphasis on keyword tracking, especially for those you want to track for conversion purposes.

    Reply

  30. avatar
    elektropedia Says:
    October 7th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    yeach, i agree with you. tracking individual keyword is very important i think.

    Reply

  31. avatar
    Brendan Abel Says:
    October 7th, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    I’m having to learn this lesson now. I started by going after all the high traffic keywords in my niche that has beatable competition. My initial thinking was “if I got to pick cousins they might as well be high traffic” Now I learning that building authority on those little know or used cousins will really speed up the whole process of bagging that big fish. Very informative post

    Reply

  32. avatar
    Repo Woman Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Nice article and some good comments especially regarding the tracking of longer tail keywords. Any online business really needs to exploit and be able to track these.

    Reply

  33. avatar
    Will Maack Says:
    October 18th, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I have used Google Rankings for quite a while and it seems the service is no longer available. Do you have any suggestions for organic rank checkers. Any help is greatly appreciated!

    Reply

  34. avatar
    Kei Dayton Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I remember when I first started out building my website. I didn’t understand how keywords affected my ranking, but once I read up on it and after some trial and error. I realised how much of a difference picking the right keywords can make to your traffic. This is a great post and I’m glad I found it.

    Kei.

    Reply

  35. avatar
    MAS Says:
    October 22nd, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Liked the video! Niche selection is everything when starting out. Building a keyword strategy around an attainable niche has worked for me so far! Then “build out!”

    Reply

  36. avatar
    chewie Says:
    October 22nd, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for these great tips, Dave. I have heard of changing traffic to making money. How do we do that ?

    Reply

  37. avatar
    Driving Lessons Says:
    October 26th, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    A blog post about a local area with a couple of place names as tags can be all it takes to optimise a website for a “long tail” area search for a product or service.

    Reply

  38. avatar
    Rankability SEO Says:
    October 28th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    So important to get feedback on how well you are doing in the big wide world of SEO. Can see it being especially usefull for large sites and reporting. Strangely I use the advanced link manger product from the same company, but am thinking of using this too!

    Reply

  39. avatar
    Ted Payne Says:
    November 10th, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Love this post – and love the quick video.

    It makes sense to start small when dealing with niches. A partner and I attacked a lot of small terms in a certain niche – terms with a couple thousand searches a month…maybe a bit less. We were pulling in money better than ever…and a funny thing happened. As we built links for the smaller terms, we naturally raised on the main term.

    Now we rank for it as well. The progression was completely natural. We still make money from that term, but of course it is a lucrative niche.

    Reply

  40. avatar
    Robert Phillips Says:
    November 10th, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Useful and important information about ranking checkers. I believe that ranking checkers are essential for a n SEO campaign. It helps to know us where the website is indexed in the search engine and other attributes related to organic search engine ranking. I do use ranking checkers it helps me to take necessary steps to get good search engine ranking. Thanks once again.

    Reply

  41. avatar
    kleansy Says:
    November 11th, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Web ranking or checkers were useful and important SEO,
    And thanks to this site, now I can optimize my site with my small budget.

    Reply

  42. avatar
    Seo Service Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Rank Checker can be used to check the competitiveness of keywords on sites like HubPages and Squidoo by just typing in the URL of the site and the keywords you are targeting. Rank Checker will then list the highest available site in ranking for that keyword if one is ranking. This is a great way to see if any new keyword that you are trying to make a hub or lens for has any competition and if you are able to beat its ranking.

    Reply

  43. avatar
    inmobiliaria madrid Says:
    November 26th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I am using Google Keyword Analyzer tool, since I first created my blog in 2004. I have found it very useful, and it helps me a lot determining about the keywords, conversion etc.

    Reply

  44. avatar
    Pixelsmedia Says:
    January 6th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks for your post. it was very informative. i used to check search engine ranking manually. It cleared many questions in my mind.

    Reply

  45. avatar
    Tom - marketing tips Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    If you do not rank for your keywords, there is no way you are going to get targeted traffic that converts.I often use tracking tools to see what terms in my niche people are searching for and write useful blog posts on each term.

    Reply

  46. avatar
    mathewsteff Says:
    January 21st, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Yes, Rankings matter a lot and the more important thing is keywords, since if you target the right keywords which users are looking out for then you may land up in the first page of the SERP and also get more conversions too.

    Reply

  47. avatar
    James Says:
    February 13th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Great tip in the video about going after a neighbourhood, or other localized keyword. That really works…

    Localized search levels are growing exponentially. The sooner you start marketing your site for localized phrases, the better. In particular if you are a small business, or if you have clients who have a small business.

    Thanks for the great post….

    James

    Reply

  48. avatar
    warren shaw Says:
    February 26th, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Some very good content in here, rankings are crucial in this area of business along with keywords meta tags not so important especially from googles point of view Great Work

    Reply

  49. avatar
    Springboard SEO Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    The one thing that bothers me about most ranking checkers is that the results don’t differentiate between the business listings at the top of the page and the rest of the results – renders many of these tools useless as far as I’m concerned.

    Reply

  50. avatar
    call answering service Says:
    March 18th, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I use a rank checker (seobook.com) if anything just so i can check when google has cached a new site on whatever terms i’m aiming for.

    Reply

  51. avatar
    Design horloges Says:
    March 27th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Most of the time I use the rank tracker on seomoz.org and the rank checker which is build-in in the seobook toolbar.

    Reply

  52. avatar
    Andrew Sullivan Says:
    April 13th, 2010 at 7:28 am

    hey Dave, interesting post & i am using SEObook for page ranking checker. But, i do check manually, after checking in page rank checker & i find the difference in page ranking. Why is it ?

    Reply

  53. avatar
    aaron wall Says:
    April 14th, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Hi Andrew

    As stated on our download page

    3 things that may cause results to differ when you use Rank Checker vs when you search Google directly.

    1.) personalization – if personalization is on then the results you see might be different than the results other see. even if you are not logged into an account results can be altered by your recent prior search queries.

    2.) clustering – to send Google less queries we grab 100 results per page. If 2 pages from the same site are in the search results they will be clustered together, so in many cases a low ranking page will see rankings shown even lower on our tool due to clustering. If you add &num=100 to the address bar in google the results should be fairly well aligned with our tool.

    3.) datacenter and algorithm changes – at different times of day your query might access different datacenters, and algo changes also happen all the time…Google did around 450 algorithm adjustments in 2007.

    Even if the numbers do not exactly line up they are still good for helping you see the general ranking trends.

    Reply