Some folks say keywords are dead, but boy are they wrong. Keywords are still as relevant as ever, playing a huge role in determining your business’ position on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
But ranking on Google or other popular search engines like Bing isn’t something that happens over night— it’s a long game. That’s why a lot of search engine optimization (SEO) experts consistently track their organic rankings, to measure their progress and make improvements to their content marketing strategy.
The problem is, many SEOs ask the question, “Is SERP tracking even worth it?” There’s not one “true” ranking anymore. You’d be fooling yourself if you said that “national” US data shows an accurate depiction of how you rank, overall.
Your rankings vary drastically based on the location of the searcher, and the type of device they are using to find you. Because of this, SEOs often turn to the help of multiple SERPs checkers to compile data and paint a big picture of their search engine visibility.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the best SEO tools for monitoring your business’ keyword rankings, so that you can increase organic traffic and make actionable decisions for improving your SERP positioning.
Let’s dive in! Here are some of our favorite rank trackers:
With any search for kickass SEO ranking tools, you’re going to find that SEMrush makes #1 (or at least in the top five) of many SERP checker lists— and for good reason.
This optimization tool provides an in-depth report of your “Organic Search Positions,” showing the keywords your business currently ranks for as well as your SERP position: by one out of ten, on each page.
For instance, in these pictures you can see that our domain ranks in position number one for the listed keywords. You can sort by highest to lowest, or sort your data by any of the other metrics, such as traffic volume, keyword density and more.
The SEMRush dashboard also boasts a tab for “Position Changes,” so you can see when you claim new terms or when your previous ranking position increases, as well as if you decrease in position for a query. It will also show if a keyword was “lost” altogether, if a page is taken down or revised drastically.
You can even see which of your pages are ranking for the most keywords, and the exact phrases people are typing to find you, by clicking the “Keywords” tab from the “Organic Pages” screen.
The caveat: these metrics are based on your organic ranking across the entire United States, and do not reflect local search engine results. This data can differ based on the region someone is searching from, which device they’re using and how they have their browser search settings configured.
If, however, you are a local business who has competition directly in your neighborhood, these results may not accurately reflect what someone on their smartphone sees looking up, say, “coffee shops near me.” If local SEO is important to your business, you’ll want to check out BrightLocal.
“Forty-six percent of searches now have a local intent,” according to an official Google presentation at the 2018 Secrets of Local Search conference at Google HQ.
With such a high number of searches aimed at finding products or services from brick and mortar businesses, it’s more important than ever to track your keywords in terms of their local ranking, beyond their national positioning. In step BrightLocal: a SEO tool designed specifically for local search engine tracking.
Check search rankings from your exact town, city or by postal code. You can set specific keywords you’d like to track (pull data you found using SEMrush or read our article on finding the right Google keywords for your business to discover what terms you should be monitoring).
What makes this platform different than other keyword rank checkers is its ability to pull in three columns: your local rankings on Google for desktop users, mobile users and even how you stack on Google Maps.
With Google’s mobile-first indexing update, the world’s largest search engine announced it prefers to serve mobile-friendly sites for those looking up answers on their smartphones or tablets. The fact that BrightLocal offers mobile SERP tracking is a huge win.
Tracking how you appear on the Google “map pack” is also a critical part of any local SEO strategy, as it’s in-and-of-itself a search feature; people looking for closeby locations often exclusively search in Google’s Maps tab vs. its traditional search bar.
As if that wasn’t enough, BrightLocal is far more than just a ranking tracker. Export a “Local Search Audit” report to analyze your local SEO cahonas in all aspects: from your number of and quality of links, to your local citations, reviews and level of Google My Business (GMB) optimization.
This keyword tracker also lets you square up against your competition, pulling data on their citations and comparing it directly against yours in an easy-to-understand table. So, you can get all the citations they have and ensure you’re listed on the same sites and beyond. You can even see what GMB categories they are sorted into, so you can consider how you can also categorize your industry for improved rankings.
BrightLocal comes with a dashboard for monitoring your local reviews, citation tracking to spot name, address and phone number (NAP) inconsistencies, and even offers an Aggregator Submission function to get your more citations from the big dogs (Infogroup, Neustar, Acxium, Factual). It’s a must-have local SEO tool!
For those of you that are new to tracking local rankings, we recommend downloading our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO, to learn more.
Ahrefs is another kickass SEO tool with spectacular SERP checker features. A lot of SEOs use it either in tandem with, or instead of SEMrush for its comparable functionality.
Whereas SEMrush shows you which keywords you’re already ranking for, Ahrefs Rank Tracker is designed exclusively for those who know the search terms they want to monitor from the start.
Upload an Excel file of your targeted keywords or type up a group to add manually, separated by commas. Click the “+” to add words you’re already ranking for to your tracked group as well.
You can choose to track these terms by country, state-wide or by ZIP code, much like BrightLocal. Once on the Rank Tracker dashboard, you can toggle between desktop and mobile rankings, or even sort to choose keywords exclusively ranking on your blog, your homepage or landing pages.
It’s this refined filtering that makes Ahrefs so desirable, as you can note areas of your site which can use additional keyword implementation/optimization.
We love Ahref’s “SERP Features” filters, which can get pretty granular. For instance, if you are running a campaign to improve your featured snippets rankings, you can filter your keywords by snippets “you don’t rank” for, to see which domains are currently dominating the snippets— so you can beef up your content to try and seize position zero from them!
You can use their data on how people are finding you to understand where your keywords are packing the biggest punch too. In the example below, you can see that a few people are finding your ranked content using Google’s Knowledge Panel, so cleaning up your GMB might become a higher priority to improve your SEO strategy!
Just like SEMrush and BrightLocal, Ahrefs offer competitor analysis tools to help you learn from your rival’s victories and shortcomings on the SERPs. Ahrefs is unique in that you can filter by tags, to see topically, where your competitors are dominating.
What does that mean? Simply put, you can see which topics your competitors are talking about, instead of strictly keywords. Instead of zooming in and looking a micro view of just these terms— i.e. a very specific element of the SEO strategy— you can “zoom out” to see a holistic view of general topics they’re tackling.
With this data, you can check to see if you’re also covering those broader discussions and which, if any, areas need some attention. Read our article on the importance of creating topic clusters to improve your rankings here.
FATRANK is a lesser known SERP tracking tool, in the form of a powerful Chrome extension: Keyword Rank Checker by FATJOE.
Simply install it in your browser and go to the URL you want to track. In the top right corner of your internet window, click on the yellow cat icon.
From there, you’ll do a manual search for a search query that’s important to you. If you’ve been optimizing your pillar page to rank for a certain term, you can see how you’re crushing it.
For instance, we went over to our Conversational Marketing pillar page URL and clicked the cat. We see we’re in position 10, on page two of Google search, or the query “conversational marketing.” We still need to do a little work on it to cross over to page one!
This is a handy SEO extension for creeping on competitor’s pages too, for quick inquiries of how they compare to your awesomeness.
Finding Value in Your Keyword Data
Collecting all of this keyword ranking data is wonderful— but only if you put it to good use. It can be easy to track the SERPs only to prove you’re “doing your job,” but if you’re not using that information to make improvements, why bother?
One way you can make a big difference is by using your keyword metrics to reoptimize old posts or pages that are performing well organically, but are capable or ranking even higher with a little love.
Just a few slight adjustments to your content may potentially shift you from page two of Google’s search engine results to page one, or from position four to three on the front page. Leaps like this might not seem grand, but they have the potential to drastically increase your site traffic— in some cases, doubling it! Check out our article on optimizing old content to see how easy yet rewarding it can be.
If you really want to improve your local rankings in particular, check out our Google Ranking Casserole ebook, which outlines exactly what the world’s largest search engines likes, and what content it prefers to serve on the local SERPs.