Tracking keyword performance is essential when it comes to measuring and monitoring SEO efforts.
Many people ask which keyword tracking platform is the best on the market (I use SEMrush by the way) and there is a lot of information out there for that, but not as many people discuss one of the most commonly asked questions, which is how to select which keywords to track.
In my opinion, there should be at least two groups of keywords to track.
- Keyword group that represents your site’s existing search visibility
- Keyword group that you are actively trying to rank higher
Let me show you how to select keywords for each keyword group. But before we do, let’s take a look at an example of why we want to track keywords in the first place.
Why do you need to monitor keyword ranking?
Knowing and tracking keyword ranking (=search visibility) for your site is critical. Google updates its algorithms very often and if you happen to have an active site with 10 team members constantly updating it, you should really need to make sure what everybody is doing is not affecting your site’s search visibility.
Let me show you an example.
Below is a screenshot of the Google Search Console (GSC) data of one of the sites that I worked on. You probably think what is wrong with this GSC data other than the traffic seems a little higher before the holidays, then a little lower during and after it. Actually, something really bad was going on.
One of the team members updated some code on the site without realizing that the updated code had caused to add nodinex robots tag on thousands of pages. Since it was the holiday season, for this particular site. organic traffic tends to be lower during that period. As a result, we couldn’t really see anything wrong by just looking at the GSC data (image above). Fortunately, we had set up a search visibility monitoring by tracking rankings of roughly one hundred keywords.
It’s pretty clear from the image below that something was going on. After seeing a huge drop in search visibility data, upon crawling the site, it revealed the noindex tag issue.
To confirm the issue, when filtered the GSC data and focused on the affected pages, that’s when we saw the issue clearly with the GSC data (image below).
So the key message here is even though we might have been able to identify the issue with just the GSC data in the end at some point in time, but by having the keyword tracking tool we were able to identify the issue much earlier and minimize the damage that was caused by the noindex tag.
How to set up keyword tracking for monitoring search visibility?
I recommend getting data from both the GSC and SEMrush. Look for keywords that are ranking on between positions 1 to 30. If the list is too large, filter the keywords based on search volume first (example – keywords with >100 monthly search volume). If the list is still too large, look for less relevant keywords such as misspelling and keywords containing year number (example – digital marketing trend 2019).
Step 1) Download keyword data from the last 3 months on GSC.
Step 2) Download current keyword data from SEMrush.com.
Step 3) Remove duplicates.
Step 4) Remove misspelling keywords, keywords containing year number.
Step 5) Tag keywords with “non-brand” and “brand”.
How to track the keywords you are trying to rank for?
People who are not familiar with SEO typically think writing a good piece of content would automatically rank well on Google. However, ranking on Google is a very data-driven process. Your site content needs to use the words that people are searching for in the first place. This is where keyword research comes in. Ideally, keyword research should be carried out to align every page on the site to a target keyword. Then the page should be optimized based on the target keyword identified.
For example, for this article you are reading, the target keyword aligned to it is [How to Track Keyword Ranking], which has a monthly search volume of 90.
In order to know the optimization that has been done on this page is working, I could check the GSC regularly. However, what if I have 100s of pages to check? I don’t know about you but spending hours and hours on checking the GSC is not the way I want to spend my time.
This is why using a keyword tracking tool could save you a lot of time to easily track your SEO efforts.
Tracking keyword performance may not seem to be something that is necessary when it comes to SEO. However, it could save you from headaches caused by SEO issues and it could also tell you if the SEO efforts that you are putting into your site is working or not.