Use a Ranking Monitor Before Changing Your Web Site
Before you change your Web site, you should first use a ranking monitor to establish a benchmark of what’s currently working. You need to find out which of your Web pages already rank well in the search engines, and for which keywords. For instance, if you have a page on your site that’s already ranking in the top five listings for one of your keywords, you should just designate that as the main page for that keyword and leave it alone. Check on which keywords are working for you and which aren’t and don’t fix something that’s not broken. Conversely, if you have a page that is consistently not ranking for any keywords, it’s time to fix that page.
To help you evaluate your keywords, you can take advantage of a ranking monitor. This tool is extremely helpful for keyword research and keeping track of how your pages are ranking, both now and further on down the road as the market grows and changes.
A ranking monitor tells you where your pages rank in the search engines for each keyword, or if they rank at all. Subscribing to a paid monitor is worth the cost. For example, the monitor available with the subscription SEOToolSet is fully integrated with many useful tools. The full suite of tools is available for $39.95 a month, but you can search online for others. No matter which you choose, you need to be looking for a ranking monitor that
Checks multiple search engines (domestic and international)
Includes historical data, so you can see trends over time
Is “polite” to the search engines by automatically spacing queries over time, or allows you to customize the crawl rates to use time delays
Supports proxy (remote location) queries
Offers multiple languages
Runs from a server and not from your desktop
Integrates with other tools to allow for analysis
The following figure shows a typical ranking report from the SEOToolSet. For every one of the site’s keywords (which are pre-entered), the report shows if any page on the site ranks for that keyword, what number rank it has in each of the search engines, and the search activity (roughly the number of search queries per day). Clicking on the keyword reveals which URLs specifically are ranked.
The following figure is a chart showing your page rankings, giving you a history of how your site ranked overall over time and a handy bar graph to go along with it. It's important that you be able to track your rankings over time so that you know whether your search engine optimization efforts are working. Keep good records of all your changes so that you'll be able to relate it back to the rise and fall in your graph.
Choose a ranking monitor that either auto-spaces its queries or lets you request delays between searches because scraping at the search engines constantly gets you into trouble and will produce inconsistent data. The SEOToolSet ranking monitor waits several seconds between each query, just to be polite.
You should rerun a ranking monitor at regular intervals, storing up a history of biweekly or monthly ranking reports that you can compare to each other. There's no real benefit to running monitors more often as search engines change algorithms regularly, and less frequent monitors give better history and don't take up so much data. (Not to mention that you need to wait to see if your SEO edits on your Web pages were picked up by the engines in the first place.)
Having an archive of dated reports allows you to see your progress over time because each one is like a snapshot of your current SEO work. Especially as you begin implementing search engine optimization throughout your Web site, you want to run a ranking monitor regularly. You will definitely appreciate the trending reports in the long run.