Back in October of 2011 Google linked its Webmaster Tools data to a new tab in Analytics called “Search Engine Optimization”.
Very cool stuff because this included your position for a given keyword. Finally a way to track your ranks for keywords offered by Google! (other than manually checking them, which if you work with more then a few keywords is super time consuming, and just plain nuts)
As it turns out, this tab reported an average of your link positions based on the given time frame. So, for example, if during the month of June your rank improved from 12 to 6 to 3, leaving you with a final rank of #3 for a given search term, Google would report your position as 7, the average of the 3 ranks.
While if you continually improve (or decline) in the rankings you can identify your overall trend, the data provided by Google using the “average” over time was really not very useful to accurately track your rankings and see the results of any search engine optimization efforts.
What we really want to know is what our specific rank was on each day, allowing us to see changes in our rankings over time, and work to associate them with actions on our site or by our visitors.
Then I got excited again…
On January 25th 2012 Chris Anderson from the Google Analytics team posted an “Update to Search Engine Optimization Reports” on the analytics blog. The update essentially does away with the old average and only shows your “best” position during the given time frame.
To bad, I thought they had figured out what we wanted and gave it to us…
This works ok for our example above showing our best and final rank of #3 for the given term, but lets look at at another scenario:
Lets say after some search engine optimization you rank #3 for a popular term that sends you lots of good traffic.
You start off June with your awesome-traffic-driving rank of 3, but during the month something happens and several other sites begin to outrank you driving you down in the rankings to the 11th position (top of page 2’s results).
Now your site is going to experience a dramatic drop in traffic for the keyword, however because at the beginning of the month you were ranked #3, Google’s new report will show your best result and still report your position as 3, even though your actually at position 11.
Can you see the problem here? Your site has experienced a significant decline in traffic, however your Analytics data provides you with no insight as to why.
Even more frustrating is the case where you have multiple pages ranking for a search term, for example we have a client that has both the #1 and #2 ranking for one of their target keywords.
I LOVE it when this happens – lots of good traffic! It’s a great accomplishment from an SEO perspective and really shows the site as an authority in the market.
As a site owner this is the kind of data you want to know about.
Unfortunately Google Analytics does not show any data (or indication) of multiple pages of your site ranking for a given search term, again they will simply show the best rank, regardless of current rank, and they don’t tell you what page on your site is ranking!
Now, I’m not a Google hater, in fact I really love the majority of what they do and offer. The Analytics tool is a great service who’s data can provide lots of good insights for website owners, and its free (hard to beat that)…
But here’s the thing… Google tracks and stores just about every piece of data they can get. They certainly know the rank of your site in their directory at any given time, why don’t they provide the data we need to make better choices about your sites and content?
I’m not sure of the answer.
But I do know this: our clients, and anyone else who owns a website that is included in the search results needs actionable data with real ranking reports broken down by keywords and ranking pages (all ranking pages).
Take it a step further and update that data on a weekly or daily basis and graph the results and presto! We now have some data we can work with. You can see how a page on your site preforms for a given search and monitor any changes in the ranking for that search.
Get serious about Search Engine Optimization
If your serious about Search Engine Optimization you absolutely must have a means of tracking your rankings in the search engines for your keywords. Our clients demand it, and so should you.
It would be awesome if Google provided everyone with actionable data for their rankings in the search results, and I hope they do one day soon.
Until that happens we will have to resort to outside data sources available online or rank scraping desktop software to monitor where we stand in the search engines.
To that end we have recently released our new rank tracking package for our clients and the feedback so far has been amazing. We have contracted with a new outside data provider (the best we have ever seen) to provide daily updates on where our clients stand in the rankings for their keywords.
Maybe someday soon Google will provide us with this valuable data, but until then we will each need to find a working solution to the problem of tracking our search engine optimization efforts and how they have impacted keyword rankings.
And I’ll be posting soon with some screenshots and a tour of the new Incoming PR Rank Tracker. It provides our search engine optimization clients with the data they need to make an informed decision about their SEO efforts.