What is rank tracking in SEO?

Rank tracking is the process of monitoring a page’s position on the search engine results pages to help detect changes in the website’s visibility for different keywords.

What Is Rank Tracking and How Should It Inform SEO?

Rank tracking is the act or process of monitoring a page’s position on the search engine results pages (SERP). This can be done manually, or by using rank tracking tools. Additionally, it can follow specific pages, or track all the keywords and content on an entire domain. 

The use of rank tracking can help you detect changes in your website’s visibility for different keywords, letting you know when the competition is getting ahead or else signaling that your own SEO efforts are paying off. Over time, tracking your search rankings can help you to understand why your page is valued as it is, according to the search engine’s algorithm and ranking factors. 

Rank tracking can serve many purposes from a content standpoint — it can lead you to recognize areas on your page in need of SEO attention, identify your top competitors and local niches, and provide a timeline that shows trends in your search visibility. Businesses and content creators can use rank tracking as an informative guide to the current state of their content, as well as a metric for their algorithmic success.

What Are Ranking Factors?

Ranking factors are what the search engine algorithm uses to determine the quality of your page, and therefore its order on the SERP. Google uses an algorithm to almost instantly evaluate and rank pages based on some of the following criteria:

  • Satisfying Searcher Intent — Once upon a time, you could manipulate your page rank through a practice called keyword stuffing. However, since Google’s Panda update, searcher intent, rather than simply matching the exact query used by searchers, has become a top ranking factor. For example, the query “how to lower debt” is more likely to lead to financial help articles than lending services, due to Google’s perceived searcher intent. 
  • User Experience — User experience, or UX, is another ranking factor Google uses to evaluate your page. Google is all about accessibility, so if your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and ADA-accessible, you’ll likely rank well here.
  • Page Speed — Similar to user experience, page speed matters when it comes to ranking. If your site takes too long to load or respond due to ads, pop-ups, or animations, your user retention suffers, as will your page rank. Page speed has become especially important with the increasing use of mobile devices as a primary means of search for many users. 
  • Links — Google wants to see expertise, authority, and trustworthiness — sometimes referred to as EAT — in high ranking content. A good way to build authority and trustworthiness is to have a strong backlink profile. Think of backlinks as an endorsement. The more endorsements you have, the more trustworthy and authoritative you seem. Link building can help your content stand out as authoritative and useful, two factors which influence your page ranking. 

These are just a few of the ranking factors that are considered for SEO. Ranking factors can also include website design, coding factors, and even the age of your domain. While you can’t control some of these factors, proper SEO practices with your links and in your content can seriously improve your page rank standing.

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How Do I Track My Ranking?

There are a few ways you can keep track of your rank. One way is to invest in rank tracking tools that can give you real-time data about the performance of your site and your individual pages in search. Rank tracking tools include:

It’s important to note that these tools don’t necessarily interpret why your page is ranking in its current position, but rather provide quantitative and comparative data about your content, such as keyword popularity, search volume, and related searches (depending on the tool you use). These services are great to refer to when building or revising content, but really unpacking why your content ranks where it does typically requires more than one tool or report to really diagnose.

You can also invest in an SEO audit. While not instantaneous, an audit can provide you interpretive information about the performance of your current content, as well advice to improve them, or utilize them differently, which tracking tools may not be able to provide. These types of services are a great foundation for building SEO practices into your content, which can lead to long-term success. 

If you don’t want to spend the extra money on these services but still want data about your ranking factors, you can do your own keyword research through Google Analytics. While you are no longer able to track your direct ranking via Google Analytics, keyword research can help you discover current searcher questions and pain points, popular or related searches in your area, and the historical popularity of certain keywords, which can all be used to improve your SEO practice.

What Does My Rank Mean?

Your SERP ranking is not a definitive means of measurement, but a quantitative performance assessment. So what does that mean for you and your current rank? 

Perhaps most importantly, it means that no rank, high or low, is permanent. With the increasing presence of ads crowding top results, and continual SERP updates — such as featured snippets and sidebars — and the institution of better SEO practices, your rank position is subject to change. It’s important to note here that, short of buying the ad space, no page ranking optimization practice, service, or tools can change your rank overnight. The key to ranking well is creating consistent, high-quality content with Google’s ranking factors in mind. 

Rank tracking is an important practice for those wishing to make a name for themselves on the evolving tides of the Google SERPs; it can help you understand how your content is performing in search, which pages might need more SEO attention, as well as whether your efforts to optimize content are paying off.