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For example “men’s back country backpacks” and “backcountry backpacks for men” may be different queries but the results shown for these searches will most likely have the same keyword position, meaning that search engines see these terms as the same.
But because there are often many inconsequential variances between search queries (spelling, punctuation, grammar, synonyms) a “keyword” might encapsulate any number of “keywords.”
Search engine optimization is a fairly complicated concept – but you can boil it down to one main thing. Keyword rankings.
Google describes Search Console’s keyword ranking definition like this:
Understand the parts of the SERP.
Since Google searches can sometimes be customized for searchers based on their previous searches, the device they are using, and their geographic location – not everyone gets the exact same results. And as the search engine indexes other pages and crawls new content, it reshuffles which links deserve to appear where, based on Google’s complex ranking algorithm.
Keyword rankings in SEO refer to your page’s specific spot on the search results pages for a particular search query. When people enter search terms into Google that relate to your page’s subject matter, whichever spot your URL is shown in is your keyword ranking.
Marketers might think of these as the same keyword and search algorithms often do as well – that’s why searching for both keywords will most likely give people almost identical results.
Search Console is provided by Google to help webmasters monitor the health of their website in the index – this tool also gives businesses and sites a way to see how people come to their site through search. It gives marketers a way to see which queries people are using to get to their site, find new keywords that are best for their site, and measure traffic from Google search. All of which are important for SEO.
There’s no way to tell search engines like Google or Bing which keywords you want a page to rank for directly, they will process the content on the page and decide for themselves. There is also no minimum or maximum number of keyword rankings a page can have.
For most sites, getting better rankings is the number one goal for any SEO campaign, since that is what’s needed for better traffic. But what is keyword ranking in SEO?
Search engines like Google and Bing often show a small selection of paid ads at the top (that look very similar to “organic” results) and then a listing of real, organic results below – usually 10. These appear just below the search bar.
This is a big part of why the queries/keywork ranking position shown in Search Console is usually a decimal number. A keyword position of “2.5” for example could represent a keyword that moves around between spot #2 and spot #3 on the SERP.
Search “queries” represent the terms and phrases that are typed into search engines by the users.
Keyword Ranking Definitions vs “Search Queries”
Page’s with better keyword rankings will rank for more keywords, will rank for higher traffic keywords, will rank closer to page 1 in search engines, and will rank higher-up on page 1 as well! That’s why understanding what keyword position is, is crucial to gaining traffic through Google, Bing, Yahoo, and more.
However, when people talk about “keyword position” they are almost always referring to where a particular page ranks in the main “organic” listings of 10 results per page. These are the main links in the middle of the page and are what most people are familiar with.
In the Coverage report marketers can see:
So what is keyword ranking in Search Console exactly? Let’s look at a couple of the metrics used in this report.
For SEO marketing the 10 organic spots on each page are what is most important. These 10 spots only include organic results – not paid ads or results for other Google channels like image results or Shopping results (which are tracked separately). The better the rank, the more traffic.
Keep in mind that these “keywords” are what it’s ranking algorithm determines as the most important core words from the page’s content or design, as well as from context passed to the pages via links. But marketers may not be able to see or know exactly what these keywords are – instead they might have to determine keywords from the listed “queries” shown in Search Console.
What is a keyword ranking?
Being able to understand this data is important to being able to know your sites keyword rankings and to improve your search performance. Knowing what keyword ranking in SEO means will help businesses perform keyword research and to curate the content on their site to better perform for high-value keywords that bring them more site traffic, and more revenue.
The search results page can sometimes also include rich snippets, shopping results, “knowledge graphs” and more.
This data can be used to help optimize SEO campaigns and optimize on-page content for better traffic and better business. Afterall, what is keyword ranking in SEO used for exactly? The keywords shown here, plus how they perform can help to make adjustments on the site in order to improve SEO.
“…key terms used in the written content of the website pages. These terms are the most significant keywords and their variants that Google found when crawling your site. When reviewed along with the Search queries report and your site’s listing in actual search results for your targeted keywords, it provides insight into how Google is interpreting the content of your site.”
There are some ways to know what keywords your site is ranking for.
So, what is keyword ranking in SEO compared to search queries used by searchers? The difference is mostly context and what’s being referred to. Search queries represent what’s actually typed into a search engine by people who are beginning their search, whereas marketers usually think of “keywords” as the queries that they are targeting for their SEO and PPC campaigns. Plus the Google indexing algorithm is designed to look for keywords in the content of pages, which means that Google has its own keyword ranking definition used for the algorithm.
For any particular target keyword, pages will generally have a specific position that they appear at in the search engine results page (or the SERP). Search engines use algorithms to measure and scrutinize website elements like content, meta-data, internal links, navigation, link structure, and more. This is what keyword ranking in SEO means: being able to design, set-up, and optimize a site in order to rise the rankings in search engines. After all, websites that are higher quality will have better keyword positions, and websites that are lower quality will have lower keyword positions.
When Google Search Console is integrated with Google Analytics, you can find keyword position data in the Acquisition menu to see what terms you rank for, average position, and clicks and impressions the rank generated. Source: analytics.google.com.
Rank tracking measures the effectiveness of your SEO. It can show your visibility at the outset and the end of an SEO project, and it can be an ongoing monitoring tool, helping you continuously improve your visibility in search engines.
The Rank Tracker overview provides a number of metrics to understand the nature and evolution of your positioning on the tracked keyword set. Source: Ahrefs software.
3. Keep an eye on competitors.
The more SEO work you do to drive traffic from search engines, the more variables interact, causing you to sometimes lose sight of the big picture. How do you keep an eye on all the keywords you are trying to rank for? And how can you maintain focus on the most important ones?
With keyword rank tracking, you can also keep an eye on your competitors’ positions on your target keywords. This enables you to discern competitor strategies and create content to maintain or expand your presence in key areas.
The free Google tool only works for Google’s search engine. Make sure you use a position tracker that can cover the full scope of your project. Some tools can cover the full range of search engines and languages you create SEO for. Others may have limitations, making your life harder by having to add multiple tools.
In an SEO project, position monitoring can play a role at several stages in the process.
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It’s great to start with free tools, but you’ll receive greater benefits from doing more advanced keyword position tracking. Let’s have a look at them.
Rank trackers can track an unlimited number of keywords. These software tools deploy resources for each keyword they track and often have economic models providing a certain allowance or payment per keyword. Therefore, it makes sense to only track the keywords that are valuable to you.
3. Pick one tool for all your channels.
Rank tracking helps you monitor how your target keywords are positioned in search engine results pages. Find out how monitoring your keyword positions helps your SEO efforts.
Rank tracking brings the most benefit if you use it through the entire process. As soon as your keyword targets are set, you should track them with a tool and monitor your progress as your project advances. At the end of your SEO cycle, you can estimate outcome by looking at the number of positions you gained.
Updated January 9, 2021.
But beyond this collective tracking, a rank tracker can be configured more specifically for your SEO needs. It can track the positions of specific keywords and specific URLs in your website.
With advanced keyword rank tracking, you can also be alerted to sudden movements in your rankings. Is your site down? Did a recent update negatively or positively generate a sudden impact on your site’s visibility? Alerts will help you react swiftly.
4. Be alerted when rankings change.
The keyword rank tracker will also help you measure the results of your SEO work. If you invest time and resources in improving your SEO, it’s important to measure the effect of your actions to refine your strategy.
Tools for rank tracking provide great strategic and competitive insight via their ongoing data collection on major keywords. They also provide custom tracking projects allowing you to track your visibility per URL and per keyword. They can be a great foundation for your SEO success.
SEO tracking can be used in various stages of the SEO process. During keyword research, for your on-page SEO, for building backlinks, and most importantly, to measure results. Let’s see some of the best practices for SEO tracking.
A rank tracker allows you to monitor what matters to you. You’ve spent time researching keywords that are important for your business, and now you can track exactly where you stand on those and the progress you make.
Search engines are not happy about crawlers monitoring and monetizing their search results, and Google now provides some of the same basic functionality for free via the Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
In an SEO audit, it’s worthwhile checking the rank for all the keywords you target. On an ongoing basis, there are two types of keywords you should monitor: