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Does anyone have any data on this or can anyone make an experience-based suggestion on how many results to check?
So you don't think it is wise to check positions higher than 30, just to see any progress? Perhaps it is significant if I move from spot 72 to spot 31? I'd miss the move with just the top 30, so therein lies the dilemma.
The problem with automated ranking software is that it's showing you one datacenter out of hundreds, so you're not getting the whole picture.
I've finally reached the point where I have tens of thousands of search phrases used each month to find my site. As long as the percentages of visitors from each of the search engines remains the same, I assume that my rankings are stable. If something changes dramatically, I'll go looking for the problem (although that rarely happens).
When you are trying to rank for a given keyword, how many spots do you check? Top 10? Top 50? Etc.
Also, I'm not sure I understand the datacenter concept. Are you saying that my keyword may rank differently on Google in New York vs. California because there is a different Google datacenter or are you referring to the hundreds of search engines or something else?
As for the datacenter question, yes, your rankings can vary and it's not entirely dependent upon your locale. There's a Firefox extension you can get that will let you see which Google datacenter you're using. There's about eight different datacenters that I come across when doing searches. Usually the search results are the same or within one or two spots, but sometimes the results can vary widely, especially if the ranking is new.
Beavis, you have a setting in your software that lets you check only 30 results if you wish. Just go to Preferences -> Rank Checking Precision... and set the "Max. Results To Check" to 30 or any other number you choose.
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[edited by: tedster at 3:35 am (utc) on Sep. 15, 2009]
How many search results should I track?
None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Rank tracking is a complete waste of time, software dollars and search engine resources and should be completely avoided unless you have naive customers that insist on running those stupid reports to prove you've done your job.
Everything you need to know you can get from a good analytics package and that's where you should invest your time and money, along with educating those naive customers to do likewise.
If your rank goes up you'll see traffic in your analytics and likewise, if your ranks go down, you'll see a decline in traffic.
Heck, I rank in the top 10 for a high volume of terms (thousands) but some of them don't generate traffic and others that do generate traffic don't generate money.
Your ranking report won't tell you that and you'll just waste time working for position instead of working for ROI.
Analytics, that's the game.
However some of my clients demand it (even though I try to educate them otherwise), and if it has to be done to retain their business, then it will get done.
I have a script that does one query for each keyword set to have 100 results-per-page. It pumps the entire search results into a database so that we can do whatever with it i.e. get retroactive or check for competitors as well.
The downside of using 100 results-per-page is that the rankings are usually shown as worse than the really are, owing to the additional indented listings that come with the higher results-per-page setting. This I actually consider a positive sometimes, since it's the "pessimistic view" and things are usually better when the client searches for themselves.
The upside of using 100 results-per-page is that the script requires less hits than even checking 30 rankings at 10 results-per-page, so I never get banned by Google for being an automated program - plus the whole report takes less time to complete.
BTW... my company released that program into the public domain.
Analytics, that's the game.
Bill nailed it. I haven't used a rank checker in over 10 years. With good analytics you can see which keywords are the most valuable. You can also see what keywords phrases people are using to find your site and then create more content and keyword combos you may not have thought of.
It's also helpful to track what keywords people are searching for once they are on your site.
I've found it useful for monitoring the effect of changes both to content and site structure.
When I was green at SEO many years ago I fell for the old rank checking software nonsense too, it happens to everyone in the beginning. After a couple of months of comparing those reports with analytics it quickly became obvious that the ranking reports were nothing more than a badge of honor "look at all my top 10s!" and had nothing to do with how well the site was performing. In reality how well you rank in general is meaningless, it's how well your site performs for the keywords sending traffic that means everything.
Analytics tell you pretty much the same thing you used rank checking for because changes of both content and structure will result in increases or losses of traffic for terms and/or you'll see new keyword terms coming into play driving traffic.
Knowing what keywords people are searching for is the most important to know how they're going to find your site and optimize for that.
If you want to know what keywords to focus on you can get a ton of free intel from AdWords, Google trends [google.com], even the search engine suggestions as you type in the search box and they all show you top keywords that get the most traffic.
Once you've optimized for what people search for analytics will show you how well you did and you can literally tweak your SEO from that information alone.
However, if you just want bragging rights, run those ranking reports.
When I want bragging rights, I run my banking reports. ;)
If your in a race you don't constantly check to see what place you are in you just keep running like you trained.
For example, let's say that you already know from analytics that "widgets in location" is a great keyword. So you want to build additional sites to capture slight variations of the traffic, you can use rank checking to see how your efforts progress before you'll see the results in traffic analysis.
It depends on your goals.
A. If you're looking to track your primary traffic driving terms to monitor changes in the indexes and your own page tweaks, then you likely only need to look at a core group of terms in the top 20.
I agree with LtS: "I've found it useful for monitoring the effect of changes both to content and site structure."
B. If you're targeting certain types of terms that are sitting out beyond page 2, then you may want to check positions up to 100 or even 150 if you're making strategic efforts either across your content, structure or via linking efforts.
While you might not see traffic with a positional move from 75 to 45, it's good to know your moving down the right path.
Either way, you should never need to check positions for all your terms up to 100. Small representative sets should always do the job.
That rank tracking can also be very helpful. Testing over time to see how your moving up the serps can certainly in the early stages of site development be important. Giving insignts into keywords/phrases that need more work.
The number you are going to track will ovbiously depend on what you are trying to track. If its a keyword/phrase you have never worked on it will be better to track a larger range of results.
With regards tracking however i find it very difficult to get a good bit of software that retruns accurate regional results for google. I dont know if anyone has any suggestions ?
"Top search queries" in webmaster tools is quite helpful if anyones not looked at it i would check it out. However its not really aimed at tracking the long tail.
@Craven de Kere you mised my point. I said your analytics tells you when you get to the top. That is the only ranking report you need. You don't need to know that you are not at the top your analytics tells you that.
I think some of you almighty SEO's
I'm not an SEO and I don't play one on TV either.
I'm a programmer and just do logical things, basic stuff [webmasterworld.com].
Although I do have one 800lb Gorilla site which I could use to boost other sites I refrain from doing it, it's just not worth it when it's so easy to build and promote a new site to the top.
Pushing things to the top on many terms is a simple fact of good titles, good anchor text, good IBLs and well crafted content that get people to link to it.
It's not rocket science, never was.
If you can't write compelling content or provide a service that gains the attention of people reading it, they won't link it and it probably won't convert either, and you can forget ranking at that point unless you pay someone to make it happen.
You can easily kick start your efforts with Feed Burner, Twitter, etc.
As a matter of fact, Google loves content submitted via Feed Burner and you don't have to have a blog just to have an RSS feed of new content.
Think out of the box for site promotion and you'll be too busy to waste time and money on link checking.
Well, I was number one for the absolute biggest keyword in my industry. It got me a lot of very targeted traffic, and my competitors are also my target advertisers. They saw I was at number one, and they sought me out to advertise with me.
I let myself rest on that and it was great for 3 or 4 years. But they wised up and I didn't. Now for that phrase I'm typically anywhere from 4 to 11 and for a month or so, I was out of the top 50.
Things dramatically change when that happens.
I keep tabs on a ton of search phrases now, mainly the regular short one or two word phrases.
You can see the long tail phrase traffic you get via your analytics program, but it does matter where you rank.
I know if I fall, that means either I need to pick it up, or my competitors are picking it up. You simply have to keep up with them if you want to succeed.
Just one man's opinion.
I'm looking for a new program to check them since google did away with their soap api or whatever...