Sometimes you turn into a mad scientist when you start a new SEO project.
You dive deep into it and give it your all, often forgetting about everything else.
But you need to be careful here:
You can’t forget to periodically check on the results of your work, too!
This step is too important to overlook.
Without analyzing your results, you won’t know if you’ve taken the right path to achieve your SEO goals.
That’s why, if you optimize your content and backlinks for keywords, you need to perform a keyword ranking analysis from time to time.
Things like ranking volatility and SEO difficulty over time can tell you plenty about your current strategy and how you can improve it to get better results.
In this post, I’ll show you how to perform a detailed analysis of your keyword rankings with Monitor Backlinks.
This tool will get most of that headache out of the way so you can focus your energy on the next steps in your SEO plan.
Let’s get to work!
Keyword Ranking Analysis: How to Track and Improve Your SEO Rankings with Monitor Backlinks
Tracking Your Keyword Rankings
First up, you need to know your keyword rankings in order to analyze and improve them.
Monitor Backlinks comes to your rescue with automatic keyword rank tracking—all you have to do is add the keywords you want to track your rankings for, and Monitor Backlinks will do the rest.
If you’re not a current user, you can sign up for a free trial here to add your keywords right away and follow along with the rest of this post!
When you’re ready to go, just click on Rank Tracker in the left sidebar.
If you haven’t added any keywords yet, you can do so by clicking the “+” button in the top-right corner of the screen.
Type your keywords in the dialog that appears. You can add multiple keywords at once by separating them with a comma.
After your keywords are added, Monitor Backlinks will start tracking your ranking position for those keywords.
Rankings are updated automatically once per week, and the historical ranking data covers a span of five weeks.
This is how the list of keywords and data will appear in your Rank Tracker:
The indicators for each keyword include:
- History — a chart that shows how your ranking fluctuated over the last five updates (one update every seven days)
- Ranking — your current ranking position in Google
- Competitors — add competitors to Monitor Backlinks to see how they rank for the keywords you’re tracking
- Page — the URL on your site that ranks for the keyword
- Best — the best ranking position you’ve had so far (and if you’ve moved up or down from it)
- Volume — how many monthly searches the keyword gets on average
- Competition — how competitive the keyword is (the lower the percentage, the easier it is to rank for that keyword)
- CPC — the cost-per-click value of the keyword
The Preliminary Keyword Ranking Analysis
Now, what does all this data suggest at first glance?
Let’s take a closer look at two example keywords that we’re tracking in Monitor Backlinks:
What can you say about them?
Here are a few hints:
- Rankings for “facebook seo” (a nice, medium-volume keyword worth $0.05 in CPC) were rather stable for four weeks, with a slight improvement on the fourth week. Then it dropped eight positions, landing on Page 4 of the SERPs.
You can also see that our competitors don’t rank for this keyword, which gives us an advantage over them. The best we’ve been ranking for this keyword is on Page 3 of the SERPs, which is where we’d want to get back to, and then up our game from there.
- Conversely, rankings for “guest post link building” (an easier, low-volume keyword but with no advertising value) have been increasing steadily after an initial mild drop on the second week.
We’ve landed a place on Page 1 and are outranking the top ranking competitor, whereas our other competitor ranks pretty low in the SERPs (Page 10). So, we’ve done a good job on this one!
A preliminary analysis of this kind already puts you on the right path.
Just from looking at your keyword rankings like this, you’ll know where there’s something to improve in your SEO strategy and where things are going well—and thus you won’t need to spend time and energy on them, for at least some time.
But there’s more.
It’s hard to develop a good SEO keyword strategy based on a single ranking check.
You’ll need more, recorded at regular intervals and over a fixed time span, to really make this thing work.
The ranking history graph in Monitor Backlinks covers a span of five weeks (just over one month), with each node of the graph representing a weekly ranking check from the tool.
As I’ve shown you in the previous section, the graph gives you valuable insights into how well you’re doing in the SERPs for that specific keyword over time.
These insights include keyword volatility vs. stability and the ranking ratio.
Just take a look at the graph:
Have your rankings been up and down over the last weeks/month? Or are they pretty stable, with little volatility?
The ranking trend should give you a glimpse of how strong your positions are in the SERPs, or if you get easily outranked at every update.
The ranking ratio can also give you helpful information. You can look at your ranking ratio in two ways:
1. Average rank: Find the sum of your monthly rankings and divide by five (the number of updates showing in your ranking history). That’s your average rank this month for that keyword.
2. Rankings up vs. down: How many times has the rank gone up compared to down? More downs are worth investigating to see what happened during that time span (e.g. a competitor published a super piece of content that outranked yours, your site was down, etc.).
Search intent is the “why” in search dynamics:
Why is this user searching this key term? What kind of information are they looking for?
It goes without saying then, that search intent can hugely impact your search rankings.
As an example, think about the key term “nursing:”
- A mother searching for “nursing” wants to learn something that will help them breastfeed their baby (“nursing” intended as “breastfeeding”)
- A medical assistant or nurse searching for “nursing” will want to learn about the nursing practice in a hospital (“nursing” intended as “assistance to a patient”)
Same keyword, two entirely different meanings!
And two entirely different types of content, too.
So, ask yourself these questions when you analyze your keyword rankings:
- What search intent is your content ranking for?
- Is there a mismatch?
- Does your analytics report a high bounce rate for some keywords?
Sometimes all you’ll need to do is fix your keywords by adding longtail elements.
For example, if you’ve been trying to rank breastfeeding tutorials for the generic term “nursing,” you’ll probably find that your content gets ranked among results for hospital nurses (which will be the majority of results for “nursing,” since it’s more likely to be searched by nurses than by breastfeeding moms).
So, you might want to try improving the relevancy and search intent of your content by including additional keywords like “nursing bra” or “tandem nursing toddlers.”
The easiest way to find these additional keywords is to go to a keyword research tool like KWFinder, type in “nursing” and get a list of relevant keyword suggestions with SEO difficulty that you can add to Monitor Backlinks for tracking.
Oh yes, it happens. And when it does, it isn’t nice.
Keyword cannibalization is the phenomenon that occurs when you create content for keywords in the SERPs that ends up “stealing” the ranking position from the rightful keyword you want to rank for.
Look at this example of my site rankings from a couple of months ago:
The post URL “/seo-businesses” ended up stealing the top positions for the keyword “business without seo,” when I was actually trying to rank a different post—”/business-without-seo”—for that keyword instead.
Essentially, one page ate another in the SERPs. Ugh!
Check your keywords in Monitor Backlinks to find out exactly what content is ranking for your tracked keywords, and take note of any keyword cannibalization occurrences that you run into.
These are a top priority fix for your SEO: Review the content and optimize it for the right keywords.
Or, if you see fit, you could also consider merging the content that’s already ranking for that keyword with the one you meant to rank, and create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one.
The Strategic Keyword Ranking Analysis
You can’t have an effective strategy without data.
That’s especially true of SEO—one of the most data-driven areas of marketing.
On top of a preliminary keyword ranking analysis, you should also conduct a more in-depth strategic analysis of your keyword data. This is what makes you aware of the validity of your keyword strategy, as well as all your other work that uses keywords as the pivot, such as content production, promotion and link building.
Doing so ensures that your strategy is constantly adapting, and that you have the tools to modify it if necessary.
Are You Tracking the Right Keywords?
Keywords are your ticket to get found on search engines, and I’m sure you’re tracking all the important ones that you absolutely want to rank for.
When I first set up my Monitor Backlinks account for keyword tracking, I wasted several keyword slots with low priority keywords that I didn’t need to track.
Put simply: They were not the right keywords for me.
Instead, I needed to focus on niche or industry keywords that could bring in customers or build my community. (And I did, at last!)
You want to get quality organic traffic that will help your business or website grow, not just random traffic from search engines. The traffic should come from your target audience and eventually convert, thanks to the CTAs placed in your content.
The keyword conversion process should go like this: User’s keyword search → content → CTA in content.
Here’s an example of how it works:
So, are niche keywords with high traffic and sales potential the ones you’re tracking?
Make sure you regularly review the keywords you’re tracking in Monitor Backlinks and update them as needed.
Is the SEO Difficulty Doable?
SEO difficulty is a metric that tells you how hard it is to rank for a given keyword based on competition.
It matters when you choose what keywords to rank for and track, because the higher the difficulty (i.e. the more competition there is for that keyword), the harder it is to rank.
Have a glance at your keywords:
- Have you chosen any with a high difficulty?
- Are there too many high-difficulty keywords compared to low-difficulty ones?
If this is the case, ranking your content might not be easy.
A solution is to add more low and medium-difficulty keywords to the mix and try to rank your content for those first, with high-difficulty keywords acting as complementary keywords in the content.
Below is a screenshot from the latter for the example keyword “seo for nonprofits:”
Looks like I chose well—it’s a nice, low-difficulty keyword that’s still easy to rank for.
Also, take monthly search volume into account when considering keyword competition.
Search volume is, in a nutshell, the average number of monthly searches for that keyword in Google.
Once you’ve added your keywords to Monitor Backlinks, it shows you their updated monthly search volume for that month:
Did You Give Your Strategy Enough Time?
Your keyword ranking analysis must also take into account the timing of your SEO campaign.
In fact, SEO takes time to bring results—at least four full months of work (even six).
Is your campaign at least that old?
Moreover, you must be sure of what you’re looking for by analyzing your keyword positions in Google.
For example, you can study how, in the course of four months, your main keywords have changed position in the SERPs.
To do this in Monitor Backlinks, start saving screenshots and exporting keyword data from month one, at regular intervals. Ideally every five weeks, since that’s the time span that the ranking history chart covers.
Exporting is easy. Simply select your keywords (manually or by using the “Selected All” drop-down menu at the top of the list) and click “Export:”
The other aggregate charts at the top of your Rank Tracker page are also helpful here, to give you an overview of your ranking trends and see if you’ve been improving over time or not.
You can select the time span that you want to analyze for these charts by clicking on the “3 Months” drop-down menu, and view your average rankings over a specified time span:
And your average rankings compared to your competitors’ average rankings:
Are Your Keywords Up to the Game?
Observing the ranking trend of your keywords in the SERPs (through Monitor Backlinks, as you learned in this article) can help you understand which keywords are a priority for your SEO, and tell you the successful ones from the not-so-successful ones.
It’s critical to know which keywords need more work to rank well.
Below is an example from my Monitor Backlinks account. I drew red boxes around keywords that need work and green boxes around keywords that are doing fine:
You can also work out the statistics that tell you, on the totality of the keywords you’re tracking, what percentage of your keywords work and what percentage don’t or need to be improved.
In my example above, I need to put in some extra work on seven out of 10 keywords, which is 70% of the entire group (ugh!).
Naturally, keywords can only lead you so far.
It’s your content that matters, and if the quality is low, search engines won’t reward it in the SERPs, no matter how well-optimized your keywords are.
A Helpful Keyword Ranking Strategy Spreadsheet
At the end of all this analysis, it’s a good idea to make up a simple spreadsheet for yourself with all your tracked keywords.
This is a nice, organized way to have an overview of which keywords are a priority for your SEO strategy and which ones need work.
Below is an example spreadsheet that I use for my own keywords. You can use it as a starting point to create a similar (or different) one based on the information you collected from your own analysis:
In my case, business keywords are extremely critical for my website (as they’re the ones that bring in clients!). So I’ve highlighted that in the spreadsheet to remind myself that these keywords are high priority and need more substantial work on my part (I haven’t been doing too well, it seems).
Niche keywords are next in order of importance and need some more work.
I also used a green highlight for keywords that I rank #1 for in the SERPs (one of which is a branded keyword), and a yellow highlight for keywords that I rank on Page 1 of Google.
Of course, this spreadsheet only serves its purpose when it helps you move on to the next step without further headaches and get things done, so make sure it works for you.
Keyword Ranking Analysis Wrap-up
It’s tough when it comes to keywords, I know it is.
But when you have the right tools and know what to look for, it becomes not only doable, but an interesting and insightful experience.
Ultimately, a thorough keyword ranking analysis is what can push your SEO results forward.
You’ll be working with the data that matters the most to search engines and users, and on the areas that need real improvements.
Focus your efforts without wasting your time.
To your success!