First. A Confession…
I’m not an SEO guy, never was, never will be. Even though I work for a company that makes an SEO & Social Media Toolset, I’m more of a marketing sort with an eye for the consumer. This means that when things get complicated, I’m the first person to raise his hand and say: “Hey! I don’t think this is simple to do. How can you expect our users to get this?” My personal attitude towards SEO is looking at it like Algebra – lots of doubt and suspicion but tempered with the grudging acceptance that it is useful once you understand it.
So that’s why when we were planning to revamp our existing Rank Tracker, I thought it’s a perfect time to poll our target audience and get their thoughts on rank tracking. And boy, was I in for a shock. Close to 35% of the businesses we polled didn’t track their rankings regularly or have a clue why they should. Another 25% said that they’ve attempted it – since everyone they’d spoken to said it’s terribly important – but didn’t really understand what to do with the data. The remaining 40% understood the importance of rank tracking but didn’t have time to do it themselves so hired agencies or SEO professionals to do it for them.
Great. There we were spending time and money upgrading our existing rank tracking tool when a good chunk of our audience didn’t see the reason to get the most out of our rank tracker. All that hard work down the drain right? Well not quite.
When we got the poll results in, I distinctly remember feeling that nobody actually knows what’s going on and those that do, aren’t really doing a good job of explaining it to the folks shelling out money for the results. This got me thinking – ‘is Rank Tracking really still important?’ I’ve always maintained that algebra hasn’t helped me in any shape or form my entire life and here I am with the opportunity to prove something similar (at least in my mind) isn’t really useful anymore…
And so I began my research, slightly worried by the thought of possibly slaying a mythical algebraic-esque monster. Little did I realise that I’d end up justifying its existence.
Anyway, to start with, let’s look at the top 5 most common concerns that people have with rank tracking.
Excuse #1 – it’s wildly inaccurate because of ‘personalization’, ‘location’, and ‘device type’.
Yes, personalization factors can play a part in search rankings but if you look at ranking data overall, the results only change ever so slightly when you’re logged in. Also, the factors about localization and device type are minimized when you use a rank tracker that keeps these factors in mind. For instance, our rank tracker allows you to specify the location (up to a city level) and the device (desktop or mobile) for which you want to check your rankings. We then emulate those settings to fetch your rankings. Any good rank tracking tool should do that and so this shouldn’t be an excuse to not track rankings. The rankings are reasonably accurate for a location and device type and should give you a fair indication of how well you’re performing for a term.
Excuse #2 – I can’t possibly know all the keyword combinations to track.
Our poll also revealed that a few business owners were using this as an ‘escape clause’, to justify not spending on rank tracking. Even me, with my weariness of anything algebraic can see that’s a little shortsighted. You don’t necessarily need to track each and every term, that’s not going to be possible. However, there will definitely be a bunch of core terms that you know you want to be ranking for. So you should at least start with tracking your rankings for those terms. In the worst case scenario if you don’t know which terms to target, you could use a keyword research tool to help you. This should be the least of all excuses to not track rankings. You need to know how well you’re performing for your target terms, otherwise you’ll never know if the efforts you’re putting into your website are paying off.
Excuse #3 – No point of tracking if I have no idea how much traffic these keywords are sending my way
So you’re ranking for a bunch of terms but then you’re wondering, is it even worth tracking these terms. Are they even delivering me the traffic I need. Since Google Analytics has stopped showing the keyword data, it’s hard to identify the keywords that are “really performing”. There are a few rank trackers that will estimate the number of visits you get from the keyword terms you track. Well, at least at Mondovo, our rank tracker shows you the search volume for every keyword you track and based on that, we calculate the ‘Traffic Flow’ (an estimate of the number of visitors your site could potentially be getting from each keyword). This is computed using a proprietary algorithm and is based on the search volume, your keyword ranking position and takes into account the number and type of ads showing up in search results (videos, images etc…) for the specific keyword. So ideally, this metric can be give useful insights into what terms are delivering you traffic and which terms have latent opportunity.
Excuse #4 (the doozy) – Not really understanding why Rank Tracking is important : (
For most businesses, rank tracking is an ‘important’ part of SEO, mainly because whoever handles their SEO said so. And that’s a sad reality to swallow given that in truth, Rank Tracking is a measure of how effective your SEO efforts are. Without it, you’d never know whether the hours spent optimizing your site via an audit or researching the right keyword mix is actually having an effect. More importantly, without tracking rankings, if the reverse were to happen and a sudden drop in traffic occurred, without analyzing search patterns and terms, you’d never have a clue why. One sure fire workaround is to identify what goals you’d like to achieve through rank tracking. What question do you want to solve or what would you do differently based what kind of data you got back. You might not visit these goals everyday, but at least when something seems off, you can go back to the data to see what went wrong and when.
To close on a positive note, how can I wrap this up? Is Rank Tracking still relevant? In short, yes. It is. You can’t improve something you don’t measure and Rank Tracking does exactly that. Measure your rankings to see whether you’re improving over time or not. The good thing with Mondovo though, is that you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand the data (case in point being me) and you don’t need a huge bank balance just to keep doing it.
I’m always in favor of things that benefit our users, and I’m happy to say that in this instance, the algebraic-esque monster is relevant after all.