What is Rank Tracking?

Last modified on: January 27th, 2024

If you're new to SEO, you might be wondering “what is rank tracking?”.

Rank tracking is the practice of tracking the position of website pages in search results.

SEOs monitor changes in these positions for specific search queries (keywords).

Since positions on major search engines like Google tend to fluctuate on a daily basis, SEOs use rank tracking software to effectively track many pages and keywords.

Why is Rank Tracking Important?

Rank tracking is an essential part of the search engine optimization process.

SEO professionals work to drive organic traffic to sites by achieving prominent rankings.

Keyword rankings are one of the most important KPIs to determine SEO progress. Rank tracking provides insight into which SEO efforts and rankings are effective.

With insights like position history, SEO specialists are able to better understand the type of content that Google favors for a specific keyword and what strategies can be used to continue increasing search engine rankings and organic traffic.

What Factors Affect Keyword Rankings?

There are many factors that can affect keyword rankings. Google uses hundreds of signals to determine page rankings in its search engine result pages (SERPs).

Here are some examples of the factors that can affect keyword rankings:

  • Personalized results based on browsing history.
  • If a desktop or mobile device is being used.
  • Location and/or IP address of the searcher.
  • Freshness and quality of page content.
  • Domain and/or page authority metrics.
  • Domain and/or page age.
  • and many more.

Because of these factors, rankings will not always be 100% accurate no matter which rank tracker tool you use. However, they can get pretty close!

Is Rank Tracking Free?

There are both free and paid options for tracking keyword rankings.

Rank tracking is free in the sense that you can manually perform a search and check a website's position for that keyword search.

However, it becomes challenging to do this for many pages and keywords. Even more so when you want to track rankings for multiple locations, devices, and search engines.

Google Search Console is a free keyword tracking tool that is useful for monitoring Google rankings that are identified by Google itself. Additional data provided includes clicks, impressions, clickthrough rate (CTR), and average position.

While Google Search Console is useful for seeing how rankings develop for a site's pages over time, the downside is that you can't add specific keywords to track and the data can be outdated or delayed compared to using a paid keyword rank tracker tool.

How Do You Track Keyword Rankings?

The most effective way to track rankings is with a keyword rank tracker tool.

Here are some of the different types of rank tracking tools for SEO:

  • Google Search Console – A free tool by Google that can help you manage a site's search presence in Google and view keyword rankings identified by Google.
  • Rank tracking software – SEO tools that track keyword positions in various search engines for added keywords and often include features like keyword research data.
  • All-in-one SEO software – Comprehensive SEO tools that include features for managing and monitoring several aspects of SEO including rank tracking.

With rank tracker software, you can track not only keywords for your site, but competitor keyword rankings as well. Some of these tools provide convenient user interfaces for comparing ranking trends between your site and competitor sites side-by-side.

Tracking competitor rankings for a set of keywords relevant to your site will help you understand which competitor sites and pages are strong or weak in certain areas.

Use this historical data to make informed content strategy and optimization decisions.

Rank Tracking Tools

Rank tracking tools give you the ability to add specific keywords to track. This is useful for monitoring new pages to see when and how they start ranking.

This gives you a better idea of the type of content Google likes to rank, how quickly certain types of content tend to rank, and the competition for a specific keyword.

Rank tracker tools also commonly include features to make your life easier as an SEO. This includes features for organizing and analyzing keywords, such as tag and filtering options, as well as keyword data like search volume and traffic potential.

A quality rank tracking tool commonly includes the following features:

  • Ability to track rankings across multiple search engines.
  • Track rankings for different searcher locations.
  • Track rankings on desktop and mobile devices.
  • Daily ranking updates for tracked keywords.
  • Estimated search volume for each keyword.
  • SERP features like rich snippets that show for a keyword.
  • Dedicated keyword ranking reports.

Is Daily Rank Tracking Useful?

Based on my SEO experience, using a daily rank tracker is very useful.

Tracking keyword rankings on daily basis provides a number of benefits:

  • Detect ranking trends early and the type of content search engines favor.
  • Up-do-date reporting for those that require current ranking information.
  • A more accurate historical record of keyword positions over time.
  • Fresh ranking data to quickly detect and diagnose sudden declines in rankings.
  • Detect rank increases early for insight into improving your SEO strategy.

While SEO is a long-term digital marketing effort, you can potentially speed up results by improving your SEO strategy and decisions based on monitoring rankings daily.

Check out the leading daily rank tracking software here.

How Do You Track Rankings Manually?

With the advent of personalized search results, using a rank tracking tool is recommended to more accurately monitor rankings for many keywords.

However, for smaller sites and sets of keywords, you can check rankings by hand.

You can open up a private browser window to check search engine rankings manually. To start a private browser in Google Chrome, open the settings menu in the top-right of your browser and click on “New incognito window”. Firefox has a similar process.

Now, head to Google.com and search for a keyword. The resulting URL will include https://www.google.com/search and a q= at the end, known as a URL parameter.

After the q= is where your searched keyword or query is inserted. You can chain on additional URL parameters (keywords in this case) to alter your keyword search.

There are many parameters you can use to alter Google Search results. For example, adding &pws=0 to the end of the URL will force non-personalized search results.

Including &gl=us will ensure results are based on searching from the U.S. for your keyword search. To learn more about Google Search operators, see this list.

For each keyword search, it's best to open up a new private browser window to ensure your previous searches don't affect the organic search results of subsequent searches.

Rank Tracking Best Practices

The goal of tracking keyword rankings is to gain insight that helps you improve your SEO efforts and knowledge of what works based on position trends over time.

Each keyword and the potential ranking position for any given keyword results in varying organic traffic potential in terms of the amount and quality of traffic.

Collecting historical rank tracking data can help you assess the keyword rank positions that generate the best combination of quantity and quality organic traffic.

As a result, it's good practice to track keywords and their variations for each page of relevant content on a site, for more historical data and insights over time.

What is the Best Rank Tracking Software?

With all the SEO software tools on the market, the best rank tracking software for one person may not be the best for another depending on the situation.

Here are some examples of the types of rank tracking software tools available:

  • Free rank tracking software – Free tools that could be useful for tracking some keyword ranking data, but are often limited in providing related data and features.
  • Enterprise rank tracking software – Tools suited for larger companies who need to track and report on very large volumes of keywords. These tools tend to be pricey.
  • Dedicated rank tracking software – Tools that focus on providing rank tracking features, such as higher accuracy, daily rank updates, and dedicated ranking reports.
  • On-demand rank tracking software – Tools that offer the ability to refresh ranking data more frequently than on a daily basis, such as hourly ranking updates.
  • All-in-one SEO software – SEO software that includes features covering multiple aspects of SEO, such as keyword research, competitor analysis, and rank tracking.


I hope this information helped you better understand what rank tracking is all about.

Keyword rank tracking is an essential component of an effective SEO workflow.

The act of tracking rankings is important for monitoring SEO performance and helping to guide your SEO strategy to continue increasing search visibility and organic traffic.

Looking for low-cost SEO services? Check out these affordable packages for SEO.

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