Keywords are a very important part of search engine optimization. Building your SEO strategy around specific keywords is one way to make sure your site appears in relevant searches.
And if you’re targeting certain search terms with your strategy, it’s crucial to track your position in search engine results pages (SERPs) so that you always know where you stand in the rankings.
What Is Keyword Monitoring?
Keyword monitoring is the practice of tracking two metrics:
- Keyword rankings: Which keywords your web pages rank for
- Keyword positions: Where in the search results your pages rank for those keywords (and how that position has changed over time)
The goal is to understand how your web pages are performing in search engines so that you can take steps to improve their rankings.
Ideally, your SEO efforts will land you in the top spot in the search results for your target keywords, as it has the highest clickthrough rate (25.6%).
Our goal in creating SEO content is to get your site into that spot to drive as much qualified traffic to your website as possible (which in turn leads to conversions, more brand awareness, etc.).
However, getting to the top of Google can take a while. You may need to re-optimize, expand, and refresh your page three or four times over several years before it finally reaches number one.
Your page may take a long journey, climbing from the depths of the eighth or ninth page — and getting knocked down several times — before it’s even on the first page (let alone in the top five).
By monitoring your keywords, you can keep track of your site’s rankings and adjust your strategy to boost each page’s performance.
Keyword Tracking Is a Necessary Part of any SEO Strategy
Here’s why tracking your rankings is so important:
- Allows you to monitor ranking improvements/drops
- Lets you monitor your website’s performance against competing sites
- Helps you to identify new keywords to target/revamp your content around
Let’s talk a bit more about each of these benefits:
Tracking Monitors Ranking Improvements and Drops
Keyword ranking improvements tell you that your search marketing strategy is working.
You can take this information to your clients or your boss and show them that their investment is paying off.
Drops in ranking, on the other hand, are a sign you need to change something on the page.
For example, it could mean that a competitor published a new article about the same topic and is outranking you. In that case, you’ll want to make some on-page updates to make your content better than theirs.
It could also point to technical issues on your website, such as poor Core Web Vitals scores. Fixing these issues can help you to improve your rankings.
Tracking Monitors Website’s Performance Against Competing Sites
The top page listed in a Google search has a 25.9% clickthrough rate (CTR) as of November 2023.
The second result has an estimated 13.9%.
That’s a big difference between the top two results.
Ranking in the top position could mean that your page sees 15%+ more traffic than the other sites ranking in the SERPs.
There will be instances where a competitor is ranking for certain terms by happenstance (not terms that they intentionally targeted).
If your competitors are outranking you, monitor your keywords for opportunities to outperform them.
If any of these keywords have a high enough search volume and low enough competition to justify the work, you may want to revamp your page around those queries or even create new pages targeting them (assuming none of your pages already rank for those keywords).
Tracking Helps You Identify New Keyword Opportunities
Ideally, your site will rank not just for your target keyword but for many semantically related terms that it picks up along the way.
For example, this article about affiliate marketing tools currently ranks for 380+ terms, even though it initially targeted the term “affiliate marketing tools.”
Sometimes, your page will start to rank for keywords with a much higher search volume than your original target term. This tends to happen when a site builds more authority with Google over time.
It might be low in the search rankings, but you could shift your efforts toward ranking for that higher-volume term (as long as you’re confident your site has the domain authority to compete with the top-ranking pages).
In a way, keyword monitoring can double as keyword research. Instead of searching for new terms to target, you find the most valuable ones you already rank for and build from there.
Keyword Monitoring Tools
There are dozens of rank-tracking tools out there you can use to monitor your rankings, including Moz, Ubersuggest, GrowthBar, SERPWatcher, and others.
At Intergrowth, we pretty much use these three (for now):
- Google Search Console
Let’s talk about the value of these three products:
SEMRush is best known as a keyword research tool. And while it can help you find relevant keywords to target in your content, it has all kinds of useful features for planning, executing, and tracking SEO campaigns.
Their Position Tracking feature is particularly useful for keyword monitoring. Drop your target keywords into the tracking list, and SEMRush will monitor how your site ranks for those queries from day to day.
You’ll get a list of your top-performing keywords, the rankings that have improved over time, and the rankings that have seen a negative impact.
The Position Tracking tool has a bunch of other useful features, too. Here are just some of the metrics it allows you to monitor:
- Rankings distribution: How your site’s search engine visibility compares to your competitors’ search engine visibility
- Top-performing pages: Which pages on your website are driving the most organic traffic
- Keyword cannibalization: Multiple pages ranking for the same keywords (which are unlikely to rank simultaneously, as Google usually ranks just one)
- Featured Snippets: Cases where one of your pages is showcased by Google in their Featured Snippet SERP feature (as seen in the screenshot below, which appears in searches for “content marketing writer” and drives significant traffic to our article about hiring a content marketing writer.
SEMRush has powerful reporting functionalities, too. You can incorporate a Position Tracking widget right into your reports and set up an automated keyword monitoring process that emails an updated report to you and your clients weekly.
You can even connect it to Google Analytics and Search Console for more accurate reporting. Very helpful!
Ahrefs is another keyword research tool with many features that are useful for digital marketing.
For one, it offers an easy-to-use organic search analysis tool that shows your keyword rankings and how they have changed since a given date.
Ahrefs also has a feature called Rank Tracker, which is comparable to SEMRush’s Position Tracking tool. Add your list of target keywords, and Ahrefs generates a recurring updated ranking report.
Google Search Console
The benefit of using Google Search Console to monitor keywords is that the data comes direct from Google, not a third-party SEO tool.
This tool lets you track the performance of your whole website or individual pages over time.
You can track the following metrics:
- Total clicks: The number of times someone clicked your URL in the search results
- Total impressions: The number of searches your site appeared in
- Average CTR: How often searchers clicked your link when it appeared in a search, represented as a percentage
- Average position: Where your pages most frequently rank in search engines for their respective keywords
It also shows you where each page on your site ranks (and has ranked in the past) for specific queries; which countries and devices are driving your clicks and impressions; and the search performance of various types of content on your site (images, videos, news articles, etc.).
GSC doesn’t have any reporting features, but it’s a helpful tool for collecting data.
Note: Google Search Console has many uses in addition to keyword monitoring. For instance, you’ll use it to monitor your Core Web Vitals and mobile usability scores. You can also submit sitemaps using the URL Inspection tool to make sure your website appears in Google search results.
For more, see DIY SEO Tools For Do-It-Yourself-Content Marketers
How Often Should You Monitor Keywords?
You can monitor your keywords as often as you deem necessary. It depends on the nature of your business and your campaign. A media company publishing up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest news may monitor rank changes in real-time all day, while others check daily, weekly, or monthly.
Definitely take a look at your rankings whenever you see your website traffic start to decrease. Traffic drops often occur after a high-ranking keyword slips down in the rankings, so it’s important to see which terms are slipping and if there’s anything you can do to repair the page’s rankings.
What to Do When Your Keyword Rankings Drop
So what happens when your most important keywords — the ones that used to rank number one and drive all of your site traffic — start sliding to the bottom of the page?
What can you do?
Don’t panic. Your traffic will likely decline temporarily, but there’s still hope for getting your rankings up.
Wondering how to fix a drop in keyword rankings?
Here are a few places to start:
- Make sure search engines can find your website: Is a backend problem preventing Google from crawling or indexing your site?
- Check for search penalties: Has your site been hit with a Manual Action that’s driving it down in rankings?
- Look for signs of keyword cannibalization: Is another page on your site overtaking your page’s keyword rankings?
- Analyze your backlinks profile: Does your site have enough high-quality backlinks to show Google that you’re a trusted expert on the topic at hand (or do you need to work on link building)?
- Compare your page’s quality to the pages outranking it: Have your competitors published better resources about the same topic?
- Analyze the search intent (and make sure you’re meeting it): Does your page provide the type of information searchers are seeking when they search for this topic (or are you targeting the wrong searches)?
It’s also possible to check the performance of keywords in meta titles. Test them with our Meta Title Performance Calculator.
Want to Get Your Site Ranking in Searches (or Get Your Rankings Back Up)?
We may be able to help!
At Intergrowth, we do SEO consulting and content marketing that helps our clients outrank their competitors in search results. We monitor our clients’ rankings closely to ensure that their content is either at or on its way to the top.
We help sites build momentum fast, too. For instance, we recently helped one client grow from 11 monthly website visits to 10,000 monthly website visits in under a year.
If you’re looking for a partner to build, implement, and monitor your SEO strategy, let’s talk. Intergrowth might be just the partner you’re looking for.