SEO Measurement: 5 Tools to Track Your Rankings

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Mar 23, 2010
More Articles by Janet


One common question I ask other search engine optimization practitioners is how they measure the success of their efforts. And of course, the most common answer is the most obvious one: the search engine rankings (SERPs).

However, tracking SERPs isn’t as easy as you might think, so it’s important to find the right tool — an accurate tool — to track your rankings. And each tool has different features that you may find important. So I decided to evaluate just a few of the SERP tracking tools available on the market today.

SEO Book’s RankChecker

RankChecker

RankChecker is one of my personal favorites for tracking SERPs because it’s easy to use, and it’s FREE! RankChecker is a Firefox plugin that tracks the SERPs for you.

RankChecker is very simple to use. Like most tools, you simply add in your keywords and the domains you wish to track rankings for. RankChecker then checks the rankings for these domains and associated keywords on Google, Bing and Yahoo (which fulfills the needs of most users).

One superb feature of RankChecker is that it reviews the top 200 results for a given keyword. While most of us only care about the top 50 or 100 positions, knowing that your site is positioned at 101 does at least give you some insight as to how far you may have to go to break the top 100 in the first place.

Caution: If you use RankChecker, be sure to log OUT of your Google account BEFORE running the program. Else you run the risk of getting personalized results in your rankings report.

Pros Cons
  • FREE!
  • Easy to use interface
  • Tracks top 200 results
  • Highly accurate
  • No automation
  • Doesn’t store historical rankings
  • 50 keyword limit per domain
  • Limited on engines
    (problem especially for international SEO)

RankChecker

WebPosition

WebTrendsWebPosition for many years was the dominant search engine ranking measurement software. In recent years, however, there have been many more competitors entering the market. WebPosition is a client-side based software. One benefit of using client-side software is that it often only has a one-time fee, versus a monthly subscription option.

WebPosition definitely has some great features, including the ability to automate reports and to track rankings historically. It’s greatest downfall, for me, was the accuracy of the results.

I originally used WebPosition for tracking, but after a few Yahoo! algorithm updates a few years back, I found that WebPosition often gave me inaccurate Yahoo! results, making it necessary for me to manually update these rankings (which is very time consuming). Also, manually updating the rankings for my reports rendered many of the charts useless because my correct data was not incorporated into the charts, but rather the incorrect Yahoo! data was incorporated into the charts.

In testing the accuracy of the results today, however, I found that WebPosition appears to have improved accuracy. For instance, when I did a head-to-head comparison of RankChecker and Advanced Web Ranking, RankChecker found my site at position 7 in Yahoo! for my name (“janet driscoll miller”) and WebPosition found instances of my site at positions 6 and 7 in Yahoo! for that term.

Pros Cons
  • Shows all rankings for keyword/domain,
    not just top result
  • Automate reports
  • Nice graphical representations
  • Historical tracking
  • One-time fee, not monthly fee
  • Possibly accuracy of results

WebPosition

Advanced Web Ranking

Advanced Web RankingLike WebPosition, Advanced Web Ranking is a client-side based software that tracks your search engine rankings. It can be a bit overwhelming when you first use it because it’s stocked with lots of functionality.

Unfortunately, like WebPosition, I’ve had some challenges with Advanced Web Ranking actually tracking SERPs correctly. In the same test that I did for WebPosition, I checked Advanced Web Ranking for my name (“janet driscoll miller”) and found my site at position 36 in Yahoo! for that term. A manual search of Yahoo! showed that, indeed, the highest ranking for my keyword and my site was position 7.

Pros Cons
  • Packed with features
  • Automate reports
  • Nice graphical representations
  • Historical tracking
  • One-time fee, not monthly fee
  • Accuracy of results

Advance Web Ranking

Raven Tools SERP Tracker

Raven ToolsAlong with its full suite of tools, Raven Tools offers a ranking tracker called SERP Tracker, a web-based application. SERP Tracker is coupled with many other handy tools from Raven, it has an API (which I like) and you can even create customized reports directly from the Raven interface. The starting price for Raven, too, is budget-friendly, which is also a plus. Unlike RankChecker, SERP Tracker also has multiple search engines to choose from, even international engines.

Overall, I liked Raven Tools, but the price is pretty steep as monthly fees go if you only need the SERP Tracker and not the other tools in the suite. Also, if you add keywords to track, you need to give Raven a little time to update the rankings for the new words. It can take up to a half hour for rankings to update, which can be frustrating if you’re on deadline and trying to get a report out.

I think the most frustrating thing about SERP Tracker, though, was that it does not appear to track subdomains along with the main domain. For instance, if I enter a domain to be tracked as “search-mojo.com”, my expectation is that SERP Tracker will track anything with “search-mojo.com” as part of the domain, including “blog.search-mojo.com” and “www.search-mojo.com”. But in my testing, I did not find SERP tracker tracked these subdomains, unless I entered a new “profile” for each. And since the pricing works by number of domains (or profiles) you have, if you have many subdomains, you may have to upgrade just to get all of your subdomains covered.

However, if you’re an agency, by far the best features of Raven Tools include the custom reporting, the API access and being able to “white label” the product for your own use.

Pros Cons
  • Automated tracking
  • Email reports
  • Historical keyword tracking
  • Many search engines to choose from
  • Has an API (for tech geeks like me)
  • Speed of results
  • Have to enter each subdomain separately

Raven Tools SERP Tracker

SEOMoz RankTracker

SEOMoz

Like SERP Tracker, SEOMoz’s Rank Tracker tool is a web-based application and is available along with its suite of SEO tools. Created by the great folks at SEOMoz, Rank Tracker has a slick interface and is fairly user intuitive.

Also like Raven’s SERP Tracker, Rank Tracker can automatically send you weekly updates on your results. However, it appears that even with the Pro level, you are limited to 50 items to track. Notice in the screen shot above that for each keyword AND search engine, you need an entry for tracking. So to track one keyword weekly across Google, Yahoo and Bing, you’d have to use up three of your 50 entries. I was only using the Pro version; there are up to 300 items to track using the Pro Elite level.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to use interface
  • Automated weekly updates by email
  • Price, if you don’t need all of the
    other tools in the suite
  • Limit of 50 tracked keywords by engine (Pro)
    (up to 300 with Pro Elite)

SEOMoz RankTracker

All 5 Tools Compared

Tool Free Trial Cost CSV Download Save Queries Automated
Advanced Web Ranking 30 days $99 y y y
RankChecker NA Free y y n
Raven Tools SERP Tracker 30 days $19/month y y y
WebPosition 30 days $149 y y y
SEOMoz RankTracker 30 days $79/month y y y

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