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What Is Keyword Monitoring and Why Is Keyword Rank Tracking Important?

Thanks to today’s digital economy and the widespread uses of the internet for both e-commerce and product/service research, small businesses can compete with larger corporations on a broader scale. However, success online does not come easily.

One of the critical factors for succeeding online exists in understanding and implementing effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, with a key element being the intentional monitoring of your target keyword rankings. Keyword monitoring, which is more commonly known as “keyword tracking” or “keyword rank tracking” amongst online marketing gurus, is essential for any business seeking to carve out a space in their industry online.

keyword rank tracking data results for small business

What Is Keyword Monitoring?

Before diving deeper, it's crucial to understand what keyword monitoring entails. At its core, keyword monitoring is the process of observing and recording the position of a website or webpage in a search engine, like Google, for a specific keyword or set of keywords over time.

Keyword monitoring involves identifying target keywords that are important for your business, tracking where your website currently ranks for these keywords, and then periodically checking and recording these rankings.

The data generated from keyword monitoring allows small businesses to assess the effectiveness of their SEO strategies, understand their competition for a given keyword, and detect keyword trends vs. anomalies. Ultimately, the data gathered in effective keyword monitoring can guide decisions for future SEO initiatives, especially content production and website optimization.

The Importance of Tracking Keyword Rankings

Tracking your keyword rankings within search engines is critically important for any business looking to improve its online visibility and stay competitive in the ever-evolving digital landscape. The following are just a few reasons why you should start monitoring your keyword rankings if you are not already doing so.

Stay Competitive

The influence of Google in directing internet traffic cannot be overstated. A comprehensive study by SEO expert, Brian Dean of Backlinko, with data from SEO tool giant Semrush, found that the #1 result on Google has an average CTR (Click Through Rate) of 27.6%. Additionally, the top three Google search results get 54.4% of all clicks, while results on the second page receive only 0.63% of clicks.

The following image from Backlinko’s study shows the Google organic CTR breakdown by the top 10 positions based on their study.

google organic ctr breakdown by position

This demonstrates the importance of ranking high on SERPs since the difference between the first and second page could mean a drastic loss in potential customers. Conversely, each incremental position is truly valuable. Tracking keyword rankings allows businesses to understand where they stand in the competitive landscape and strategize on how to climb higher.

Understand and Adapt to Market Changes

The world of SEO is in constant flux due to changes in Google's algorithm, shifts in consumer behavior, and new competitors entering the market. By keeping track of keyword rankings, businesses can quickly identify when search algorithm changes may have impacted their business and adapt their strategies accordingly. Failure to optimize based on the latest best practices can result in a loss of visibility, traffic, and ultimately, business.

Detect Anomalies Vs. Trends

As one downside of keyword monitoring, it’s easy to get discouraged if you see rankings decrease at any point. However, that is a natural part of the SEO process since you are competing against millions of sites for any given keyword. Don’t believe us? Do a Google search on any topic you care about and see how many results Google returns for that query. The answer should be shown at the top of the page just under the search box. For example, as a migraine sufferer, Googling “migraine causes” returns about 2,200,000,000 results that Google finds relevant for the search query.

migraine causes google search

Given that you are competing against so many different sites, some relevant, and others not so much, it’s very important to sort through the noise. As such, if you notice a keyword go up or down in ranking, you want to know if it’s simply an anomaly and nothing to be worried about or if it’s a trend requiring a change in your strategy, whether that be creating more useful content around the topic for your readers or reworking your keyword strategy altogether.

Most tracking tools can help with this since they will show historical data (based on when you started tracking). For example, the chart below shows keyword tracking by BrightLocal’s toolset where a keyword fell out of the #1 spot on Google for a month which could yield less traffic for a key search phrase. However, the historical data shows this only dipped for one month and was not an overall trend to be concerned about.

rankings anomaly

Whereas this second image identifies a trend of a keyword that was improving over time but has since experienced a consistent decline over a multi-month period. This trend certainly merits investigation as to what the ongoing issue is and what can be done to regain visibility.

rankings trend

Eliminate Search Results Biases

Some people will attempt to track their own rankings in a crude Excel document or Google Sheet by simply completing a Google search on their desired phrases and recording the position.

Don’t get me wrong, we love a good spreadsheet at Igniting Business! However, the results collected via this method are biased and inaccurate. While there are hundreds of factors that impact where your website will appear for a given query, a few of them are related to personalization. For example, your search results may be different if you:

  1. Visited the website before
  2. Are geographically close to the company’s location (Proximity Bias)
  3. Have conducted recent related searches
  4. Are logged into a Google account related to the website at hand

Thus, it’s important to use a keyword ranking tool that eliminates the personalization biases and truly simulates a person in a specific geographic area you select (e.g. zip code or city) that has never interacted with your company. This gives you the purest (and perhaps the most pessimistic) rankings, which is truly the best for realistically informing you of where your company ranks for the target keywords.

Measure Success and Allocate Marketing Dollars Effectively

Monitoring your keyword rankings also plays a significant role in assessing the success of your SEO strategies. An increase in rankings for targeted keywords is one indicator that your SEO efforts are working. Without this information, it can be difficult to justify investments in SEO or understand why website traffic may be increasing or decreasing.

Of course, in addition to rankings, there are other key performance indicators (KPIs) like traffic, engagements, and conversions that are arguably just as, or more, important.

In either case, if you are spending money with a third party or utilizing internal resources on SEO efforts, you should be tracking the results accordingly to dictate whether the outcome is worth the investment.

How to Start Monitoring Your Keyword Rankings

As a small business owner, you might be wondering how to implement keyword monitoring without high costs or, perhaps, even without an SEO or digital marketing agency’s assistance. One of our favorite tools we recommend and have used at Igniting Business for over six years for local keyword tracking is called BrightLocal.

BrightLocal allows businesses to track their local and organic keyword rankings across multiple search engines like Google and Bing (including standard searches, maps, business profiles, video results, etc.). This tool provides insights into how your website performs for target keywords over time and how you rank against your competitors. They can even track how you rank on a hyperlocal scale via a local grid that can show you mile-by-mile or block-by-block how your rankings change. BrightLocal also offers the ability to group keywords into categories, making it easier to assess the performance of your company’s different service or product lines.

BrightLocal includes a range of other valuable features such as basic local SEO audits, reputation management, and local citation tracking.

As an alternative option, we also use and love Semrush’s SEO toolset. They are focused more on technical SEO and have extremely robust SEO auditing software and tremendous content marketing tools. Semrush’s toolset is far more robust than BrightLocal, but it does have a much steeper learning curve.

If you’re a small business owner, a general manager in charge of marketing, or are communicating with people who have more basic SEO knowledge, we’d recommend starting with BrightLocal. If you’re a marketing guru and blossoming SEO expert, we’d recommend trying out Semrush’s more robust platform instead.

local search grid rank tracker

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Stay Educated on Rank Tracking and SEO Best Practices

For any business seeking to thrive online, keyword monitoring is not just a good idea – it's a necessity! Monitoring your target keywords can provide the insights needed to stay competitive, adapt to market changes, and measure the success of your SEO efforts. If you’re looking to keep up with the best practices, sign up for our free monthly newsletter where we share various web design, SEO, and digital marketing insights.

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