Why track keywords?

Keywords are a seemingly inescapable aspect of the SEO world. SEO professionals encourage clients to focus on more meaningful metrics besides the humble keyword ranking, but the fact remains that ranking well in Google for keywords with significant search volumes, will (usually) result in traffic to your site.

Of course, keeping track of keywords isn’t free. Whether you spend your time manually checking rankings or your money on a keyword rank tracking solution, you have to limit how many keywords you track per page and per website. So, that begs the question, “how many keywords should you track?”.

Are you ready for this one? It wouldn’t be an SEO article if it didn’t have the following sentence: “It depends.”

Start With Keyword Research

Unfortunately, keywords don’t just appear out of thin air. Even more, you can’t just assume you know what keywords people use to search and what you should be ranking for. That’s why you should always start with keyword research.

To generate the most valuable insights from your rank tracking tool, you must choose the right keywords to track. The categories of keywords you should track are:

  • Branded Keywords: These are keywords that include your company's name.
  • Best Performing Non-branded Keywords: These are the keywords that don't include your company's name that drive the most traffic to your website.
  • Keywords for Each Product or Service: These are groups of keywords specific to each distinct product or service that your company offers.
  • Keywords for Each New Initiative: These are keywords related to the new initiatives you are pursing.
  • Competitor Top Keywords: These are keywords that generate traffic for your competitors, but not you.

Which Pages Rank for What?

We recommend starting keyword research by looking at what you already rank for. I like to go straight to Google Search Console (GSC) as soon as I get my hands on it. Despite the evidence that Search Console data is quite unreliable, it does come straight from the search giant itself, so we can’t ignore it.
Hop into your site’s GSC Performance section to see a table of queries that domain ranks for.

Choose Landing Pages

Once you’ve identified the keywords you want to rank highly for, assign them to appropriate landing pages. In all likelihood, you will have already identified your target pages while performing the keyword research.
The number of target organic landing pages will directly influence the answer to our main question about the appropriate number of keywords to track.

How Many Keywords Should You Track?

You’ve decided which of your pages you want to optimise as organic landing pages, but how many keywords should you optimise each page for?

At the bare minimum, one; some pages may have a singular focus that answers only one query. It’s much more likely that you’ll want to target two or three keywords per page, even if they’re just close variations. Any more than four is a bit crowded; after all, each page only has one title tag and meta description. With a range of keywords per page determined, we can estimate how many keywords we’ll track.

  • Take the number of organic landing pages you’ve chosen
  • Multiply that number by the range of keywords per page (1-4) to get your range, or
  • Multiply the number of organic landing pages by 2.5, the average of the range.

For example, let’s say you’re working on a services site with five unique offerings and three blog posts that you want to target as landing pages. Between these pages and your homepage, you should expect to track 9-36 or about 22 keywords on average.

Of course, rules of thumb are meant to be broken. We work with a manufacturing client that offers ten unique manufacturing products. Without including their blog-focused keywords, we’re tracking 62 keywords for their site.

How To Track Keyword Rankings

Although I did mention it as a possibility, you’re probably not going to want to manually track keyword rankings by doing a Google search every day (from the same machine, using a private browsing window, at the same time of day, etc.) and looking for your site. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for keyword tracking.

Rather than specifying which keywords you’d like to actively track, Ahrefs updates daily with all keywords that your tracked sites rank for. You may not be able to keep tabs on that ambitious keyword you’d like to rank for but never have, but it’s still incredibly comprehensive.

Our choice of tracking platform, offers reliable rank tracking, an aggregate score called visibility, as well as other useful tools. 

What to Monitor In Your Keyword Tracker

Once your keyword list is organised into groups with the proper tags, you can upload it into your keyword rank tracker. The keyword tracker will query Google on a regular basis and report back on how your website is doing in Google search.

Here are the top data points to keep an eye on using your keyword rank tracking tool:

  • What is the general trend of your search rankings?
  • Have there been any major changes in your ranking in the last day or two?
  • How is each category of keywords performing?
  • How do your rankings on desktop and mobile compare?
  • What keywords have experience the biggest positive or negative changes in ranking in the last few days?
  • Having a properly implemented rank tracker will provide deep intelligence into your SEO performance. It's best to review your SEO reports at least once a week to see the progress your company is making.

Our rank tracking policy

  1. For clients on SEO plans or marketing retainers which include SEO, we will track a number of keywords for your campaign to help us monitor our changes.
  2. Rank tracking is expensive, as the service needs to use a virtual machine to visit Google at certain times of the day and perform a search, then record the ranking position where your site appears. 
  3. As an example of competitor tracking costs, Ahrefs offer 500 keywords for $99 which is  £0.20 per keyword.
  4. We charge £0.12 (+VAT) per keyword, per month for rank tracking.
  5. For most campaigns we track less than 100 keywords, and the cost of tracking is logged against your campaign retainer each month.
  6. For larger campaigns we will let you know which keywords are worth tracking to ensure your keyword tracking fees are proportional to your SEO plan. Eg: we would generally aim to spend less than 10% of your monthly plan on tracking keywords.
  7. If we reach a point in your campaign where you/we feel its necessary to track more keywords than average, we will likely point you to read this article to make sure you are aware of the costs of keyword tracking and the extra costs this will incur against your campaign.