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Mastering Keyword Research: The Role of SEO Software

Search engine rankings have long been dominated by keywords, given that businesses implement the right ones. The task of keyword research may seem simple on paper but it includes a lot of different concepts.

For example, you need to use rank tracking tools to monitor how the implemented keywords are performing over time. Then there is the relevance of search queries that seriously impact the SEO rank of any website.

rank tracking software

If you haven’t caught my drift yet, an SEO strategy starts with uncovering target keywords and implementing them through content. In this post, I’ll cover everything you want to know about SEO keywords, how to implement them, and what tools you can utilize to enhance your website’s SEO performance.

How Do Keywords Influence Search Engine Rankings?

In simple words, keywords define the idea and structure of your content marketing efforts. In SEO terms, these are phrases search engine users type in when they want to learn a topic. For this reason, keywords are also known as “search queries” among SEO professionals.

The relation between keywords and search engines is pretty straightforward. When a user enters a query, search engine crawlers scour the internet to find the most relevant content that satisfies it. The more effectively you can implement relevant keywords in your content, the easier it is for Google to find your website.

However, spamming web pages with target keywords doesn’t work. Search engines update their algorithms regularly to filter spammy content. To truly achieve a good position in search engine results pages (SERPs), you must use keywords in conjunction with search intent.

There are some basic ways of how keywords influence search engine rankings:

  • Relevance: Keywords are the first gateway to a page from the client’s side. This is the intent that they show to get the result and the search engine shows the relevant pages based on the query. Thus, keywords are the first gateway to the page.
  • On-page optimization: If keywords are optimized in the right way, that is, placed well in the meta-titles, meta-description, and in H2s, the search engine will find that it is better relevant to the search terms and will have an increased chance to be shown in the search results.
  • Quality content: It is not just the keywords that matter, the quality of the content is also very important. You cannot just churn out some content using AI and post it on your website and expect that your content will rank in the search results. You need to go the extra mile, do a proper backlink analysis, draft an amazing outline and create content that users will demand.

What is Keyword Research in SEO?

As the term suggests, keyword research is the practice of finding relevant keywords for a website. SEO professionals often use keyword research tools to find high-quality and relevant organic keywords to improve keyword rankings.

tracking keyword rankings

But reaching the point where you have a defined list of keywords is not an easy feat. It typically requires multiple research methods combined to achieve the same goal. Let me illustrate some of the methods.

Uncovering Seed Keywords

To use a keyword tool, you first need to find the “seed” keywords. These are broad-spectrum keywords that represent your industry, niche, and target audience. You must brainstorm these phrases and words before you can start using advanced tools.

If you’re at a loss, let me help. Let’s assume you own a roofing business where you provide both roofing supplies and services. Some typical seed keywords for your industry may include:

  • Roofing
  • Roofing materials
  • Flat roof repair
  • Flat roofing companies
  • Roof installation

You get the idea, right? Now, these may not be the best words to use in your content because you don’t know their search volume. That’s where a keyword research tool comes into play.

Keyword Research Tools to Target Better Search Terms

Once you have a general idea of relevant seed phrases, turn to your preferred keyword research tools. The process of conducting keyword research is mostly identical across all SEO tools. You enter a seed phrase, choose the location, and let the tool do its magic.

If everything goes right, you should end up with a moderate list of target keywords along with their SEO metrics such as search volume, difficulty, CPC, SERP features, trends, etc.

Google Keywords Planner is a great tool to start with. It’s free and easy to use. The tool also generates relevant and high-value keywords that may not contain the seed phrase. It’s a great way to find new keywords and content opportunities for better ranking performance down the line.

If you ask me, it’s worth every penny you spend on a professional keyword research tool. It’s simply because they do more than just find keywords. Take Semrush for example. It’s the most comprehensive SEO tool that includes a keyword rank tracker, competitor analysis, advertising, and content marketing components.

Competitor Keywords

Unless you’ve invented a product or service that didn’t exist before, you will always have competitors. For each keyword, you’ll find competitors that are occupying the top positions on the search engine results page. Don’t you think you should look into their keyword portfolio?

Modern SEO tools simplify competitor analysis so there is no excuse for you not to look into competitor keywords. Tools such as Semrush and SE Ranking provide the full list of keywords your competitors are ranking for. If you’re not using those search terms, maybe it’s time you start doing it.

Doing a proper keyword analysis is crucial in this step, you do not want to use difficult keywords that others are using and start competing with them where there are scope of other keywords that they might not be using.

Knowing about keyword relevance is also very important. If your competitor is not using a certain keyword, there might be a good reason why they are not using it, it might not be relevant and will reduce your page relevance and lower your score in the search results.

And if you are using the same keywords but can’t rank, your content may be a culprit. Analyze the quality and structure of the ranking competitor content to derive inspiration. Your goal should be to create better content by providing a more comprehensive answer to searches.

Track and monitor the keywords in the long run. Doing research, creating a great piece of art and posting it online doesn’t end your task. Your competitors are smart, and they might be outdoing you, this keyword ranking tracking on a regular basis and tracking and monitoring them, in the long run, will keep your hard work updated.

How to Choose The Right Keywords for SEO Optimization

 To use a rank tracker effectively, you first need to find the right keywords. Otherwise, your keyword tracking efforts will go in vain. In this section, let me share how you can find the right keywords that fit your business needs.

best keyword tracking tools

Define Clear Business Goals

Well, the first step of improving keyword rankings has nothing to do with keywords. To find the best target keyword for any web page, you first need to know the purpose of that page. In fact, it applies to all the pages you add to the website.

If you ask me, the right place to start is defining business goals. Only business owners can define goals and the keyword tracking tools follow the path. The approach to ranking for the same keyword will vary depending on the goal.

Ask yourself. Do I want more leads or more sales? In marketing, leads come first because to sell, you first need interested prospects. But I still recommend asking this question. Broadly speaking, you can’t answer it wrong because proper lead nurturing eventually leads to sales.

But there is a caveat. The position of the prospects in the sales funnel.

Top-of-the-funnel (ToFU) prospects are less likely to purchase than bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFU) prospects.

ToFU brings in new leads who are trying to solve the problem. They’re aware of the available solutions and looking forward to finding the best solution

BoFU prospects are already interested in your product or service. They’re finalizing the purchase decision.

If you push keywords better suited for ToFU leads to BoFU leads or vice versa, you’re obstructing your own success. And this is why you need to define clear business goals and acknowledge customer intelligence.

Once you have a clear idea about both, sort relevant keywords that address those goals and craft content that converts.

Understand Search Intent

This is somewhat an extension of the previous point. As you define the business goals, you should identify the search intent. If you’re having a hard time understanding intent, you use a rank tracker to gather insights on the target keywords.

Search intent typically refers to the searcher’s intention behind the query. Are they looking to buy something or simply gathering knowledge about a product/service? Unless you can match the intent in your content, it will be hard for you to track keywords effectively. Keyword tracking tools rely on search rankings for reporting.

Needless to say, the goal of understanding the intent is to provide exactly what the searcher is looking for. If you can make it happen, you will gradually establish yourself as the authority. Your keyword rankings will improve, ensuring proper visibility for your business.

Learn About Keywords

The term “keyword” is quite broad. There are different types of keywords used for different types of rank tracking campaigns. To minimize inefficiency in your SEO practices, you need to use the right keywords in the right context.

Traditionally, there are 2 types of keywords. Short-tail and long-tail.

  • Short-tail Keywords: As the name suggests, short-trail keywords are shorter in length. They boast very high volume and traffic, making them extremely hard to compete against. These are also broad-intent keywords meaning the terms alone don’t have a clear purpose. “A cup of coffee” is a generic example of short-tail keywords. Millions of people search for coffee every hour but you can’t tell what exactly they are looking for. Due to the lack of clarity, these keywords are hard to convert.
  • Long-tail Keywords: These are low search-volume search terms with very specific intent. If I use the same “a cup of coffee” example but make it “Where can I get a cup of coffee in Orange County”, it’s clear that the searcher is looking for coffee recommendations in Orange County, Los Angeles. Long-tail keywords are harder to detect but easier to convert.
  • Besides the primary distinctions, many SEO professionals recommend sorting fresh and evergreen keywords. Fresh keywords suddenly go viral, bringing in lots of traffic but the hype doesn’t last long. Evergreen keywords, on the other hand, are always relevant as they climb the keyword rankings ladder gradually.

Fresh keywords are typically associated with random events such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Evergreen keywords are more laid back and searchers look for them throughout the year, year after year.

Competitor Analysis

Well, I’ve already gone over the importance of finding competitor keywords. While you’re at it, conduct a thorough analysis of the top competitors to get a better idea of their practices. Besides the implemented keywords, look into the content structure, writing quality, formatting, backlinks, etc.

Of course, you don’t want to copy anything from anyone as Google will penalize your website. But you can always inspire yourself and your SEO team to do better. And to craft a better execution plan, you need to know the ins and outs of the mediocre one.

 Never Underestimate a Manual Check

While SERP tracking tools, keyword ranking tools, and other tools have made SEO a lot simpler, you can’t ignore the power of manual research, especially when it comes to rank tracking. Of course, you won’t get the detailed analytics but that’s not your goal either.

The goal of manual research is to ensure all of your efforts are in line with the goals. At the end of the day, search engines prioritize human readers over anything and only a human can see through loopholes. For example, a rank tracker may show the highest ranking website for a target keyword but you can’t find it during a manual search.

I’ve seen it happen and if you pay attention, you’ll be able to spot such instances as well. The goal is not to waste any SEO sources on SERP features that don’t matter.

What is Keyword Tracking and Why is it Important?

Keyword tracking is an intermediate SEO practice that enables professionals to monitor website rankings for certain keywords. It helps to evaluate whether your SEO efforts are working or not. Keyword tracking is perhaps the most important task in building a solid online presence after finding the right keywords.

Thankfully, the task of rank tracking is not as complicated as it sounds. There are rank tracking tools you can use to find keyword positions for organic search results.

Keyword tracking is important for SEO for the following reasons:

It Helps with Competitor Monitoring

I have a comprehensive blog explaining competitor analysis and its benefits for SEO campaigns. Using a rank tracker plays an important role in the process.

With a rank tracker, you can not only find the keywords your competitors are ranking for but also find keywords they’re missing out on. This enables you to create content targeting those keywords to improve keyword rankings.

Rank tracker software often includes the functionality for backlink analysis. It’s a great way to find high-quality linking sources. If you read my link building guide, you’ll know why an impeccable backlink profile is critical for SEO success.

To summarize, a rank tracker tool provides a holistic view of the competitors’ SEO practices and whether they’re working or not. You can make informed business decisions to either follow the practices or implement new practices to get the upper hand.

It Increases Business Visibility

The primary purpose behind all SEO activities such as keyword research and link building is to increase website visibility. You want to rank on the first page of Google or other search engines, right?

Well, keyword tracking may be the missing link here. Although keyword rank checker tools don’t contribute to rankings directly, the decisions you make from ranking reports do.

A racker tracker identifies the best-performing and worst-performing keywords on the SERPs. You can also monitor other metrics such as search volume, monthly traffic, clicks, and impressions. All of these data points should provide valuable insights about your target audience’s preferences.

By implementing these preferences in your SEO strategy, you can essentially deliver exactly what your customers want. When that happens, Google will automatically rank your web pages higher than your competitors, ensuring maximum visibility on search engines.

It Helps Identify Keyword Opportunities

I’ve said it many times in my other blogs. Search rankings are not an overnight game. It requires dedication, consistency, and most importantly, clever execution. To give your website an edge in your niche, you must update the content regularly while publishing new content consistently.

But how do you know what to write about?

Well, look into the keyword rankings tools! What you have to understand is that the search engine paradigm is changing constantly. Keywords that ranked well last month may not rank at all this month. The key to success lies in updating your efforts to match the industry trend.

A rank tracker in tandem with a keyword research tool will maintain an influx of new keywords you can implement. Of course, it means crafting relevant content that answers the search query better than any other page on Google.

At the same time, you can explore new keywords to include in your existing content, bringing them up to speed with the rest of your actions. If you see the keyword rankings changing, it may be time to focus on new keywords. This way, you’ll never run out of content ideas.

You Can Monitor Rank Drops to Fix Them Quickly

A rank drop in SEO simply refers to a website losing its SERP position for a keyword. It happens to the highest-authority websites. Typical reasons for a rank drop include a competitor outranking your content, changes in search engine algorithms, broken links, increased keyword difficulty, and a myriad of other reasons.

How to approach the issue is more important than the rank drop. Whatever the reason is, a rank tracker allows you to monitor it in real time. This also means you can start implementing resolution measures right away. If you’re outranked by a competitor, update your content to make it more comprehensive and use more relevant keywords. If it’s broken or expired links, replace them with better ones.

What I’m trying to establish here is that a rank tracker is your ultimate monitoring tool to identify rank drops and resolve them.

Important Features of Rank Tracking Tools

Now that you know why rank tracking is important for your overall SEO performance, it’s time to choose a rank checking tool. But there are hundreds of options out there. How do you know which one is the best fit for your business?

Well, I believe I can help. Here are the most important features you should look for when buying a keyword rank tracking tool.

Search Engine Compatibility

This is a no brainer. You’re planning to deploy a rank tracker because you want to improve your search engine rankings. And to do it right, the racker tracking tool you buy must be compatible with the major search engines.

Of course, Google is the undisputed king of search engines in terms of market share. But it shouldn’t be the only one you focus on. People still use other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and Baidu.

Ideally, the tracking software you purchase should be compatible with all of them. If not, it should at least be compatible with the major ones such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Location Support

The same keyword may show different rankings for different geolocations. It makes complete sense because user behavior is not location-independent. When you search keyword opportunities, you must factor in the location attribute.

Most racker tracking software on the market offers location functionality. When you run tests, make sure to choose your primary serving area. For example, if you sell your products or services in the US, the rank tracker must have the option to track keyword rankings for the US.

For local search needs, you may want to go even deeper and track rankings for different zip codes. High-quality rank tracker options such as SE Ranking or Ahrefs allow more granular control over your location settings.

But if you sell digital products or services that are location-independent, you may get away with a rank tracker that doesn’t offer the location feature.

Language Support

Websites that offer multiple languages or serve a diverse range of countries need language support for keyword tracking. If you’re an international business owner, you must consider this feature. Otherwise, you’ll end up ranking for the primary language only.

When you use this feature on a rank tracker, you can typically select the language for tracking in countries where multiple languages are spoken. Canada, for example, has a massive population of both English and French-speaking people. Spain, on the other hand, needs support for Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and Galician.

SERP Feature

When Google first introduced featured snippets, it was a game changer. Since then, websites are trying to push snippets of their content in there. Of course, only the best and most relevant pieces of content make it there.

As a website owner, SERP features should be one of the priorities as they can change how your audience perceives your business. It can dramatically improve your traffic portfolio as well.

If you manage to make it to feature snippets for particular keywords, I highly recommend tracking it over time. Many rank tracking tools like Ahrefs offer featured snippet trackers. The goal is to keep the answer relevant so that you don’t lose the position. It’s because if you do, it can get really hard to get back up.

Frequency of Ranking Updates

How often you want updates is an important factor when choosing a rank tracker. The more frequently you check, the sooner you can amend any outstanding issues. My experience says daily ranking updates are the way to go. The tool you choose will most likely allow you to choose the duration based on your plan.

Device Compatibility

Yet another cliché but important feature for rank tracking software. The same keyword may not rank identically on desktop and mobile devices. Site load speed on mobile devices is typically slower and it can impact how your keywords rank among mobile users. Similarly, if your website is not optimized for smaller screens, you can lose keyword rankings.

Most modern rank tracking tools offer seamless switching between desktop and mobile. If you anticipate a significant number of mobile users among your target customers, this should definitely be an important consideration for you.

Automated Reporting

Just like all other software solutions you use, the rank tracking software should also offer detailed ranking reports including all important data points. Reports, especially visual reports are critical for business growth.

When you set the automatic report feature in your keyword rank checker, you keep getting the reports when they’re due. You don’t have to spend any extra time generating the report. The reason I prefer visual reports is that they’re easy to interpret. Instead of squinting your eyes to read the numbers, it’s easier to look at graphs or pie charts.

Best SEO Keyword Tracking Software

Finally, the section you’ve been waiting for. I’m about to list the best rank tracker tools available on the internet. Go through them and try to contextualize the features to your needs. Here it goes.

Google Search Console

If you’re in search of free tracking software to gather ranking data, it doesn’t get any better than Google Search Console. Keep in mind that it’s a first-party tool which means you can only gather data for your websites. But it’s not a problem because when you’re starting out, knowing your own metrics is all you need.

Google Search Console has also made a name for itself by providing accurate results. I’ve never found any discrepancies in the console data and manual checks. Many SEO professionals will agree with me when it comes to the accuracy of Google Search Console.

free keyword rank tracking software

The dashboard provides important information such as what keywords are triggering search results along with their click-through rates (CTR) and keyword positions. You’re also allowed to set a date range to check keyword positions over time.

Along with being an excellent ranking tracking tool, Google Search Console can double as your primary SEO tool. It offers valuable insights into marketing campaigns, search traffic, and search locations. Many professionals have seen amazing results when they use Google Search Console in tandem with Google Analytics.

Semrush

Very few SEO tools in the world are as comprehensive as Semrush. If you decide to invest in it, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t regret the decision. Let’s cover the rank tracking features before going into the details of other SEO features.

Of course, Semrush is a third-party tool which means you can not only track your own keywords but also your competitors’. You get to generate new content ideas based on the competitor keywords and their positions.

best ranking tool

The tracking program on the dashboard allows users to input keywords they want to track instead of spamming the interface with unnecessary data.

Consumers across the board agree that Semrush is very easy to use, making deployment a walk in the park for all businesses. For every rank tracker feature you want to use, you can find them on the dashboard.

This rank tracking software not only allows you to set what keywords to track but also provides insights into keyword positions, location, and device metrics. The results are also quite accurate as many professionals compare it with Google Search Console. The provider also updates its database every day to keep the ranking data uniform across the board.

Besides rank tracking features, Semrush also offers a keyword research tool, a competitor analysis tool, a featured snippet tracker, PPC campaigns, an on-page SEO checker, public relations (PR), marketing insights, and campaign management.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a household name in SEO and rank tracking is one of its finest qualities. The software solution is very comprehensive, similar to what we’ve seen with Semrush. It provides pretty much all ranking data you can hope for in your keyword regime. It also offers a complete list of organic keywords for different pages on your website or your competitors’ sites.

keyword rank tracking software

Another reason Ahrefs has gathered universal popularity is its ease of use. The dashboard is quite clean considering how in-depth the data goes. For the rank tracker, you can input keywords with preferred locations and devices. It’s an excellent mobile rank tracking tool in my opinion because I’m yet to see other rank tracker tools offering such a holistic view.

In terms of accuracy, it’s on par with Semrush and Search Console. The ranking data on Ahrefs reports reflect what’s actually happening on Google.

The alerts function is a great addition if you ask me. Every time one of your keywords changes positions or loses rank, the tool will notify you. It updates the ranking database constantly to avoid false alerts.

Another unique feature of this rank tracker is the keyword tagging system. It helps you track individual groups of keywords based on your intention. You can slice the entire keyword list into different segments and track them separately for better control over your search rankings.

Of course, it offers SERP features and it’s one of the best in class. You can track the SERP feature for all listed competitors and aim for the top spot by following their footsteps.

Last but not least, the reporting feature of Ahrefs. Data visualization features such as progress graphs make tracking critical metrics like traffic, distribution, and visibility quite easy.

SE Ranking

One of the most affordable rank tracker tools out there. SE Ranking is a reputable software solution for SEO people. The low price makes sense because it’s a barebone rank tracking software that primarily focuses on keyword ranking.

excellent rank checker

Along with your own keywords, you can track your competitors, clients, or any other third-party website. It helps businesses to identify high-quality keywords that bring organic traffic. It alerts you when one of the keywords drops ranks so that you can promptly resolve the issue.

I really like the “prevent cannibalization” feature where you get to identify pages competing for the same keyword. While it’s not a problem for a competitor site, it can be devastating for your own site. Google may even penalize your website for doing so.

Last but not least, SE Ranking keeps its features up-to-date according to Google and other search engine updates.

AccuRanker

AccuRanker may not be the most accurate rank tracker out there but it’s definitely one of the fastest. Most users agree that the user experience is unmatched thanks to the rapid report generation. The dashboard is pretty straightforward with all the menu options located at the left-hand side.

comprehensive rank checker tool

You can sort the keyword rankings by search location and browser on AccuRanker. Although the browser data may not do you much good, it’s an extra data point to monitor. There is no limit on how many websites you can check which makes it a high-productivity tool for the entire team.

As for keyword ranking, you can upload the list of terms to track and tag them for better organization. Any changes in the rankings show up on the reports to allow you to fix it quickly.

 Moz

It’s hard to finish a keyword rank tracker post without Moz. The brand holds a legendary status among rank tracker tools thanks to its automated checking and reporting features. The interface is fairly simple to use. And if you’ve used Moz Pro for keyword discovery or other purposes before, figuring out the rank tracking dashboard should be a walk in the park for you.

keyword tool that tracks ranks

The in-depth analysis of which keywords are working and why is perhaps the best feature of Moz. It includes search visibility, keyword rankings, keyword positions, etc. data points to keep you up to date with the best SEO practices.

Advanced Web Ranking Software

As you may already guessed, Advanced Web Ranking or AWR is intended for businesses with more advanced keyword rank tracking needs. It’s a great blend of affordability and functionality, making it a prime choice for small and medium businesses. It’s also a great option for SEO agencies as it allows automatic reports to be dispatched to clients.

best keyword rank tool

The “Visibility Score” is perhaps the most important feature of AWR. The score represents how well search engines can crawl your website given the search queries. The score is based on global keyword rankings aggregated into the formula, updated every week.

If you’re not ready to commit to the rank checking tool just yet, you can use it in free trial mode for 30 days.  

Which Rank Tracking Tool is the Best Fit for You?

When it comes to a rank tracking tool, you can use any rank tracker you see fit. But as an experienced individual in this space, I do have some recommendations.

For example, if you’re just starting out with SEO and still haven’t covered the other aspects of your strategy, you don’t need a rank tracking tool just yet. Invest in SEO tools instead and stick to Google Search Console for a rank tracker. It’s a powerful rank tracking tool as long as you stick to your own website. The best thing about the Search Console is that it’s completely free, leaving room for you to invest in other tools that matter more.

But if you’re a business owner or an entrepreneur with a growing audience, I recommend SE Ranking or Semrush for keyword rank tracking. In fact, these are full-fledged SEO tools that you can use to optimize local search, identify keyword difficulty, and drive more organic search results.

Among the 2, Semrush is more expensive. If you have a budget constraint, SE Ranking will do the job of a rank tracking tool perfectly. Consider investing in Semrush as your audience grows and you need more SEO features.

FAQ

How do I track SEO keywords?

To track SEO keywords, you need a rank checker tool in your software arsenal. A third-party keyword tracking tool will likely allow you to track competitor SEO rank, missing keywords, location data, device data, and even Google Ads data. It all comes down to what ranking tool you opt for.  

What is the cheapest keyword tracking tool?

From what I’ve seen, SE Ranking is the cheapest keyword tracking tool out there. For only $18.6 per month, you get to keep an eye on your competitors. The option to employ unlimited users in this rank tracker is one of its primary selling points.

What is the only way to track SEO results?

Well, there is no “only” way to track keyword rankings. Different businesses track rankings with different tools. For me, a third-party rank tracker is the best way to go about it. You get to monitor your own websites as well as competitors. Physical businesses often focus on local rank tracking so they may use Google Search Console or Google Analytics to keep the costs down.

How many keywords should you track for SEO?

There is no question to this answer. You can use the tracking software to track as many search terms as you want. Unless, of course, the tool itself restricts how many keywords you can track.

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