So, in this article, I'll walk you through how to effectively track and analyze your keywords to spot massive opportunities.
Let’s dive in!
First things first: What do you want to achieve by tracking your keywords?
Do you want to...
- Improve your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings?
- Improve your conversions?
- Identify your top-performing keywords so you can optimize your content?
- Assess your brand's online presence by tracking branded keywords?
- Uncover hidden "gems" you aren't actively tracking but still drive tons of traffic?
Whatever you do, never dive into keyword tracking without a plan. Ideally, your plan should also align with your business goals.
For example, your goal right now may be to increase online sales. In this case, your game plan would be to:
- Identify your top keywords, AKA those that drive valuable traffic to your website.
- Track the performance of those keywords and identify opportunities to improve their rankings.
- Optimize pages targeting those keywords by refreshing, updating, and creating high-quality content around those terms.
Next up, we’ll learn how to do all of that. Eyes peeled!
If you want to get granular about tracking your keyword positions (or "rankings"), you'll need the right tools.
Google Search Console is a top pick for several reasons: not only does it give you a comprehensive overview of your keywords performance, it also shows total impressions, average click-through rate (CTR), and average keyword position for each keyword you’re interested in.
Unfortunately, there’s a catch…
There’s no easy way to select the keywords you always want to keep an eye on in GSC, and then see them in the middle of your dashboard. Instead, you’ll have to look for them manually.
Thankfully, there are tools to help.
For example, SiteGuru allows you to choose and set goals for your target keywords, and then continuously monitor their progress:
You’ll see your progress (along with an SEO to-do list of actions you should complete to increase your ranking), your current position vs. your target position, and how many actions there are left to complete.
Even if you don’t want to track individual keywords, SiteGuru provides access to all the GSC data in a more intuitive way.
Navigate to the Insights - Keywords section to view:
- Your Top 3 Keywords (where a given page appears in the Top 3 spots on the SERP).
- Your Top 10 Keywords (where a given page appears in the Top 10 spots on the SERP).
- Keywords where your pages are outside the Top 10 spots, but are still ranking in the top 100.
SiteGuru allows you to plug in both your GSC and Google Analytics data for an all-around overview of keyword performance in the SERPs.
Plus, it instantly notifies you whenever a keyword shows any performance problems. That way, you can zero in on your most important keywords, where they stand on the SERPs, and whether they need any improvements.
You can view the current position for each keyword by looking at the right-hand corner.
In the following example, the first three keywords in the analysis are ranking in the top spots:
Your keywords won't remain in the same spot forever. Reasons can range from algorithm changes to competitor activity, seasonal changes, or indexing issues.
To stand a chance against fluctuations that aren’t in your control, you should track your keyword positions over time. Not only will this help you identify trends and adapt to seasonal changes, but it'll help you assess how well your SEO efforts are paying off.
If you're using GSC, you can use Comparison reports as a guide to understand your keyword performance shifts over time:
Or, if you're using SiteGuru, you can toggle with two different periods to compare how keyword positions changed during the selected period:
You’ll see by how many points a keyword has improved or dropped in the selected period:
If you want an even more in-depth report on how your keywords perform over time (in terms of position, clicks, impressions, position, and CTRs), all you have to do is click on any keyword on your report.
You'll see an individual performance report pop up. It'll look something like this:
From there, you can go granular, viewing the pages, performance issues, potential optimizations, and more – all to streamline your SEO work.
If you see your keyword ranking in the top spot, but you’re getting few impressions and even fewer clicks, that may mean you’re not actually ranking #1.
Take a look at this example:
This is what happens when Google “tests” your page (which wouldn’t normally rank first) in a few searches just to see how searchers will respond.
You’re seeing this data because GSC only counts an impression (and tracks the position) if the site is displayed in the SERP, so if you ranked on page 6 and no one clicked to that page, you’d have no data.
So, if you see a keyword ranking unusually high for your Domain Authority, content quality, or website age, review the Keyword Performance report to see if it’s a real ranking or not.
There may be a shiny keyword (or a bunch of shiny keywords) you want to rank for. But which of them will give you the most value for your efforts?
By tracking keyword performance, you can easily determine which ones are ideal for your SEO strategy and which ones you can safely ignore.
Tracking keyword performance involves:
- Looking at search volume: If your goal is to attract more visitors, prioritizing higher-volume keywords is a great strategy. However, the fact that a keyword has a high search volume doesn't mean it'll magically bring in qualified traffic and conversions. Your target audience and their intent also factor into the effectiveness of a keyword.
- Determining keyword difficulty: If a keyword is too competitive for you to rank for, insisting on it will waste your efforts. You'll stand a much better chance of ranking for long-tail, less competitive terms.
- Spotting your top performers: These keywords are performing well – as a result, their position is going up in the SERPs. They're great candidates for uncovering opportunities and low-hanging fruit.
- Spotting your worst performers: These keywords are underperforming, which means their position is dropping in the SERPs. They're key to identifying weak spots and potential issues in your strategy.
Because keyword tracking is all about spotting opportunities and making better data-driven choices, I'll give the last two items their own sections. I'll make sure to mention two very helpful features from SiteGuru, which were built to help you spot improved and declined keywords.
You'll know a keyword signals an opportunity when its position in the SERPs is going all the way up.
That means more people may be searching for that term and clicking on your content (particularly if that specific keyword shows a high CTR).
You can see that in GSC’s Comparison Report, or in SiteGuru's "Improved Keywords" report:
Pretty cool. Now, what should you do with those improved keywords?
Firstly, if you put in the work to improve those keywords, well done! It’s time to celebrate. But if this is an organic development, unpack those opportunities:
- Analyze the strategies you've used for those keywords. If they're going up, you must've done something right. Did you target long-tail keywords? Did you update stale content using those keywords? If you can pinpoint the strategies, you can replicate them in future SEO optimization efforts.
- Try creating more content around related keywords. If those keywords have improved, the chances of related terms following suit are pretty high. For example, if your improved keyword was "best running shoes for women," you could create content using "top 10 brands of running shoes for women.” (Just make sure there’s no cannibalization overlap.) Keep long-tail keywords in mind while you're at it, as they're often laser-targeted and have less competition.
- Measure the results of the improved keywords. Has the improvement in rankings for these keywords translated into more click-throughs, conversions, or sales? If yes, you've got a winning strategy you can repeat!
With such a close watch on your top keywords, it's easy to dismiss the keywords you aren't actively targeting but are definitely ranking for. As a result, you could be missing out on low-hanging fruit.
SiteGuru's Keyword report also offers a tab called "New keywords," where you can view any new keywords you’ve started ranking for in a chosen period.
For example, in the following report, the page started ranking for 2 new keywords within 30 days. None of which this particular user was actively targeting!
This report will show the keywords you may or may not be already tracking. If you are, that means your efforts have paid off.
If you aren't, that's low-hanging fruit you can tackle in future content.
Part of keyword tracking is identifying weak spots. Those are usually the keywords that are declining in the SERPs, so fewer people are seeing and/or clicking on your pages.
Right beside SiteGuru's "Improved Keywords" report, you'll see the "Declined Keywords" report:
You should figure out why they’ve declined:
- Identify potential reasons for the decline. As we've mentioned before, some of those reasons are outside of your control, including algorithm changes. However, it’s good to look at your content quality and competitors. They may have acquired more backlinks or strengthened their content, so you should follow suit if the keywords are profitable for you.
- Review the content associated with the declined keywords. Is it still up to date, or is it stale? Does it accurately reflect users' intent? If you find any gaps, refreshing the content using relevant keywords will strengthen your content.
- Review the on-page SEO for the declined keywords. How are the page titles, headings, meta descriptions, and content of those looking? Not so good? If that's the case, the pages that rank for this keyword may benefit from a content audit.
- Check the backlink profile for the pages ranking for declined keywords. Did you lose any backlinks? Should you acquire more, based on the number of links your competitors have?
Last but not least, there are the keywords you're no longer ranking for, AKA the keywords you've lost.
SiteGuru's Keyword report has a tab called "Lost keywords," in which users can view the keyword they've lost in a selected period:
Maybe the competition beat you on them. Perhaps they're too competitive. Maybe you haven't optimized your content accordingly. The reasons for losing a keyword are many.
If the keyword has performed well before that, look into the potential reasons for the decline. But if the keyword has been consistently performing poorly, it might be a good idea to prioritize a different one.
It doesn't mean you'll let it go forever – just that you'll focus on more favorable keywords for the time being.
Keyword tracking should be part of everyone's keyword research strategy. Without it, you'll be guessing your way through SEO efforts and the effectiveness of your keywords. If you rely on your website to make money, that could potentially hinder your business's growth down the road.
That said, keyword tracking is just a tiny slice of the process. Ranking for one or more keywords calls for recurring content audits, on-page optimization, and link building. It's an ongoing but extremely rewarding process if you use the right tools to your advantage.
Do track your keywords. But most importantly, act on your data!