Monitoring search engine rank (position) for critical keyword phrases is the key to an effective SEO campaign.  All too often site owners spend a lot of money doing a keyword analysis, creating a strategy, modifying content, and partner linking, and then struggle to determine the impact of their expenditures.

Andy LoCascioFlying Blind – Months later even when their campaigns are effective they have little or no knowledge of what worked best and how long it took to get a result that actually increased their traffic, and hopefully maintained or improved their conversion rate.  Worse, they do not have visibility to potentially harmful drops in rank for specific keyword phrases!

And the Answer is…Graphs – By using a professional rank monitoring tool, webmasters can determine exactly how changes in rank correlate to changes in traffic.  This cannot be done simply by viewing a snapshot of rank at a moment in time,  it can only be analyzed using a graph!   A graph will not only show trends, but also increases in rank that can be compared to traffic statistics to determine if specific keywords were effective.  It will also show when keyword phrase rank is sacrificed for one term in favor of another.

Typical graph of rank acquisition for a new site over a 4 month period
Typical graph of rank acquisition for a new site over a 4 month period

Bare Minimum – There are very few professional SEO keyword rank tools that allow a webmaster or website owner to monitor the rank for multiple phrases.  Almost none have graphical displays.  The minimum features required in any keyword phrase rank monitoring tool are as follows:

  • Graphs – Graphical presentations are the only way to properly analyze keyword rank changes.  A good graph tool allows the user to select one or more keyword phrase/domain combinations and look at the rank for a specific search engine for a given period of time. 
  • Automated Rank Capture– Most free SEO tools only capture rank when you manually request it.  These tools typically require you to have a Google SOAP API.  A professional  SEO  tool gathers rank data automatically, typically every 48 hours.
  • Multiple Domains – One of the big problems with relying n the Google dashboard or Google Analytics is that they only show you data for domains where you have proved ownership.  A good rank monitoring tool will allow you to specify and multiple domains including competing domains.
  • Import Tool– Webmasters will typically have a spreadsheet containing a list of keywords, a good rank monitoring tool will have an import feature that will allow a quick and easy upload of keyword phrases.
  • Export Tool– A rank monitoring tool must have a feature that allows you to export data that can be imported into a speadsheet for further analysis.
  • Google API Not Required– Any tool that requires you to supply a Google SOAP API should be avoided.  Providing third parties with access to your Google API must be avoided at all costs!
  • Email Reports – A great keyword rank monitoring tool will allow you to schedule periodic (daily/weekly/monthly) email reports to multiple emails.  These can be sent to the webmaster, SEO specialists, the site site owner, and any other concerned parties.  This will ensure that action can be taken to reverse any serious decrease in rank.

Penny Wise – In summary, the SEO marketplace is relatively new.   There are many practitioners, very few are consistently effective.  Even fewer provide comprehensive solutions that start with keyword analysis and focus heavily on keyword rank monitoring.  Anyone spending money for SEO should be using a rank monitoring tool to track the progress and effectiveness of their expenditures.  As with most other things, there are always free solutions available and unfortunately the old adage that you get what you pay for holds true.