If you’ve started doing your own SEO (or have some help with it), the main metrics you’re likely to be concerned with will be those directly related to revenue generation in most cases. I’m talking about things like sales, enquiries, subscriptions and so on. As well as that, traffic will be a key thing to monitor.
There are some now who don’t track their keyword rankings at all. But personally, despite the fact I’m well aware that variants and synonyms will also drive traffic, I choose to check a number of keywords for each website I work on. In some cases it might just be 20 or 30. In most cases it’s over 100. In some it’s well over 1000.
I’ve tried a number of different rankings checker tools over time (at different budget levels). And while it’s lovely to have rankings checked for you, it isn’t feasible for every business doing their own SEO to invest in rankings checkers. I get that. So in this piece I’ve outlined a few methods from the free right up to the higher budget tools to allow you to check rankings.
We’ve only included options we’ve tried ourselves recently and will add over time as in my day job running a small SEO agency, we review our tools and process options frequently.
How to Check Keyword Rankings – in a Nutshell
Here’s a summary of all the ways of rankings checking and the rank checking tools we’re covering in this piece. You can find more details of each within the post:
|Manual checks||Free||Zero cost. Real time and you get to see what your actual users see.||Very time consuming. If you have a lot of keywords this is a particularly significant task|
|Google Search Console||Free||There’s no cost. You can also see a picture of how many clicks you’ve benefitted from at the same time||It shows an average over a given date range so it’s far from real time. There’s value in what it shows but it will rarely be the same as what you’ll see if you go type a query into Google and check for yourself. Slow process again.|
|SERPRobot’s Free SERP Checker||Free||Quicker than manual checks. Free.||Capped at 10 keywords per search prior to registration|
|Accuranker||From €89 per month||Fast and very accurate. Daily checks with ability to request real time checks every couple of hours. Can check for multiple countries and search engines. Largely very accurate.||The odd quirk with accuracy but highly infrequent.|
|Semrush||From $83.28 per month||A wealth of functionality included beyond simply rankings checks||Not real time so sometimes the checks are a little out of date|
This involves checking rankings by searching in Google yourself. There are pros and cons:
- You actually see what users see
- Real time
- No tool set up. required and no waiting for check results to come back. Immediate.
- Time consuming beyond a handful of keywords
- Failure to use incognito could mean you end up with inaccurate results
- Difficult to check outside of your current territory/location
So if you do choose to check your rankings yourself by simply going to Google or Bing and typing in a keyword to see what ranks, there’s one golden rule to bear in mind. Use incognito mode/private browsing.
In Chrome, you achieve this as follows:
This is really important because if you’re checking rankings for your own site, there’s a possibility you could end up seeing your site positioned higher than other users see it simply because you’ve been on it so frequently.
There’s absolutely no scale to this method. And if you’re not on the first page or two for the keyword you are checking, then you will also need to allow time for sifting through pages of results.
However, one thing tools cannot show you is a user’s real experience. And I think that many of us (myself included) can be guilty of over relying on tools and rankings checkers. And while such checkers will also look for “SERP Features” like snippets or ads, not all users will see the same thing. I can’t recommend enough (even if you are using a good keyword rankings tool) regularly going and manually searching for some of your most important keywords.
So in short, this is a good exercise regardless of whether you have a quicker process as well, but don’t rely on this for any sort of scale.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is one of Google’s free tools for those running websites.
It can be used to check rankings in a roundabout sort of way.
When you login to Search Console, you see a screen like this:
There’s lots of information on here and if you are interested in learning how to use Google Search Console fully, then here’s a great resource.
But for the purpose of checking rankings in Google, we’ll need the “Performance” report highlighted on the screenshot above.
Once you click on “open report,” you’ll be taken to a screen that looks like this:
The information shown here by default is the specific keywords and the number of clicks and impressions they drove over the default time period (which is 3 months and you can change the date range to whatever you like). But you can also highlight and show on the graph both “Average CTR,” and “Average position.” The latter there is the one we are most interested in. But let me take you through what those all mean:
- Total clicks: How many times did your site get clicked on over the time period after someone made a search in Google? The figure at the top of the screen is total clicks and when you scroll down the page, you can view this per keyword
- Total Impressions: How many times did users see your website in the Google Search results after typing in a query, regardless of whether they clicked your listing or clicked something else on the page? The total figure is one thing but you can also scroll down and see this for individual keywords as well
- Average CTR: This is the average “click through rate.” Put simply, this is the percentage of times your result was clicked after an impression. So, let’s say your site showed up 100 times (100 impressions) and you had 4 clicks from those impressions, that would be a CTR of 4%.
- Average position: This shows the position your site showed up at on average across all keywords when it gained an impression. Some caveats on this figure follow.
By default this data shows for all keywords across all countries. If your site targets an audience just in the UK, filtering this to UK might give you more insightful data.
In addition, this defaults to “last 3 months.” So if we are using the average position data to get a rankings figure, we have a few problems:
- Rankings change a LOT over 3 months
- Rankings for a UK site, if it shows up outside the UK, could be significantly lower than in the UK. This makes averages very skewed
So, here’s what I’d suggest if you want to use Search Console to check rankings:
Change the date range either to 7 days (if you have enough data – for sites with less traffic this might be too little data to get an accurate position) or 28 days:
You’ll also need to specify your country, as follows:
Then make sure “position” data is shown as follows (you can choose to keep impressions and clicks data or unselect that – your call):
When you scroll down now, you’ll see a list of keywords and the average position they showed up in the country you selected over the time range you selected:
You can click on any individual keyword to see its performance day by day on the graph at the top too.
And in the same way you filtered to view country, you can filter to view just specific keywords if there’s just certain ones you want to check positions for.
You can use Data Studio and other reporting tools to pull this data more automatically too.
Again, this method has its pros and cons.
- Totally free
- Lots of other insightful data available too
- See keywords you might not have even been deliberately targeting.
- Can view performance for multiple countries
- Bing Webmaster Tools offers similar data for Bing
- Still time consuming
- Not real time. It’s based on an average of a date period and rankings can change over short periods of time
- It can take a bit of time for those new to it to get used to using Search Console
- Can only check rankings on keywords with impressions
- Only offers data from Google
SERPRobot’s Free SERP Checker
This is a free tool that allows you to check rankings for up to 10 keywords at a time completely free of charge and without registration. It’s seriously straightforward too:
Just select which international version of Google you want to check in, enter your keywords and you’ll get your results. The tool advises you it can take up to three minutes at busy times bit I’ve typically found it to be under 1 minute.
Here’s how the results look:
- Totally free
- Much quicker than manual checks one at a time
- You can check any international version of Google too – handy for multi territory campaigns
- Limited to 10 keywords without regisration
- No way to export results to record in your own sheet/record
- No option to check in non-Google search engines
So, this is my personal tool of choice specifically for rankings checking. I use SEMRush too (more on that below) but I don’t tend to use that for rankings checks.
The main thing I like about Accuranker is that it is just a rankings checker. It isn’t anything else. That means it does one thing very, very well.
I operate a small SEO agency, so we are in the position to use different tools like this. But if you’re looking to minimise your SEO tools budget, you not have the luxury of investing in a standalone rankings checker, particularly if you’re checking a relatively small number of keywords. But if you do have that option, this one’s worth looking at it.
It’s mega easy to use. Add your domain:
Fill the details in and then you have the option to add your keyword list.
Once you’ve added your keywords, Accuranker will fetch rankings immediately and also fetch data about the number of searches per month.
As time goes on from initially adding them, you can see comparison with the previous day, week, month or year at a glance.
Accuranker checks DAILY and you can go back and look at rankings for any day you’ve had the keyword in its system. You can also see the page that ranks/ranked for it that given day. And in addition to having daily checks, you can request an immediate check every 2 hours. So if you’ve made some significant changes and found they’ve just been picked up by Google, you might want to check something right now.
It also lets you check Bing, Yandex and Baidu depending on territory and perform separate checks for mobile and desktop.
The feature list is sizeable and the accuracy is very good (I’ve only had one or two little discrepancies in the 2 years I’ve been using Accuranker to monitor a large volume of keywords).
Check out the full list of features for yourself. There are way too many to go into detail with in a roundup post.
- Automate the whole process
- Easy to use
- Check multiple search engines in multiple countries
- Great historical data reporting
- Specialist rankings checker
- 14 day free trial
- It’s not free. 🙁
- ^ That’s literally the only thing not to like (imho)
I’ve already mentioned that I use Accuranker for check rankings across my own sites and client websites. But I’m also a subscriber to SEMRush. Now, unlike Accuranker, SEMRush is not a standalone specialist rankings checker. But it does have rankings checking functionality within its extensive suite of SEO tools.
So, if you’re looking for a comprehensive multifunctional tool set to cover most of your SEO needs, it might be something to consider as an alternative to going down the (more expensive) route of standalone specialist tools for individual tasks.
In the case of SEMrush, the feature you need here is “position tracking.”
Within your SEMRush dashboard you simply setup your domain as a “project” and add your keywords:
SEMRush will then go off and check your rankings for you:
I’ll be honest. I don’t find the accuracy as high with SEMRush (for UK rankings) as I do with Accuranker. And it doesn’t update as frequently. However, the reporting is great. And there are lots of other ways to dig keywords out. You don’t have to add keywords to a position checker to see where you rank. You can view all keywords your website ranks for and the queries your competitors rank for – not something everyone needs, but very insightful information.
- Automate rankings checks at scale
- Easy to use
- Check multiple search engines in multiple countries
- Competitor insights
- Lots of extra functionality on top of rankings
- 7 day free trial
- It’s not free. 🙁
- It’s not a specialist rankings checking platform, so your subscription also pays for features you might not want or need
- In my experience, accuracy isn’t as high as Accuranker (possibly down to frequency of checks)
- Checks not as frequent as with Accuranker
Free or Paid Rankings Checks?
Whether you decide to go free or paid with your rankings checking will depend on your budget, how much revenue SEO is generating for you, what you organic revenue targets are and how many keywords you want to track.
The overwhelming majority of paid tools offer you a free trial. A few tips when taking those trials:
- Don’t start the trial until you have time to really engage with it. A 7 of even 14 day period can go by pretty fast and if you don’t get time to really use it, you don’t know whether it’s worth your while
- Test two at once and compare their readings with manual checks to determine accuracy
- Cancel a trial immediately if you realise a tool isn’t for you – don’t end up getting accidentally charged
- If you’re in a position to, go for an annual subscription. It can mean quite a discount on the annual cost of a monthly one
Happy rank tracking 🙂
Got another one we should include?
Using a rankings/SERP checker better than these? Or an alternative we should include. Get in touch.