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What is rank tracking?
This week: Position (or rank) tracking – aka how to answer the question: Are my SEO efforts working?
Hello, and welcome back. Jessie here, back from the first truly, madly, deeply fall weekend in Toronto (and fine, yes, also, according to a calendar or whatever, the first actual fall weekend). I am happy to report that my Derry Girls-inspired jacket is out, the apple picking trip is planned and I have used the word “cozy” more than once.
This week: Position (or rank) tracking. This could also be known as an answer to the question: Are my SEO efforts working?
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Let’s get it.
In this issue:
What is position (rank) tracking?
What’s included in rank tracking?
Why should news SEOs track rank?
What is position (or rank) tracking?
Position (or rank) tracking is the process of monitoring where in search engine results pages your content appears for a set of keywords. This custom set of keywords – your target keywords – can be monitored to see the results of your SEO efforts.
Some degree of tracking can be done by simply Googling the keywords you’re targeting, then looking to see if and where your content appears. However, this requires active attention and you will miss important data: Your desktop vs. mobile visibility, when and how your position changes and performance in different regions. Personalization in Google’s ecosystem makes it impossible to see all the ways your stories show up in SERPs.
Instead, use tool to see a full view of the data. Rank tracking is valuable because it can help you …
Track progress: Look at improving/declining keyword positions over time for your site;
Monitor your competitors’ ranking: See how other publishers are performing on keywords you care about;
See changes in SERPs: See if a new feature, like a Top Stories or People Also Ask box, becomes available for a keyword. If your content isn’t in that spot, you can then look at why;
Uncover opportunities or find under-performing content: See the keywords where you are gaining or losing traction. From there, experiment and fine-tune your stories to try to improve your position or regain lost placement.
For popular pages: Don’t get complacent. Review pages that drive traffic to ensure they are still providing valuable information and fulfilling search intent.
For lost ranking: Review the SERP landscape. What are competitors offering that you’re missing? Can you expand a section, improve the content or add a feature?
Compare mobile versus desktop performance: How readers search is different on mobile and desktop devices. Use a position tracking tool to compare your visibility and how you show up by device;
Compare terms in different regions: The terms and phrases readers use changes by location. Are you speaking in the same language as your audience?
Tag related keywords: Segment different keywords into clusters, defined by you and your goals. Want to track evergreen keywords? The queries associated with areas you’re trying to improve topical authority? Group these queries into buckets for easier and more meaningful analysis;
Create a benchmark for your performance and do a gap analysis: What are the pages and keywords other outlets are ranking for, but you are not?
Why is position tracking useful for newsrooms?
Position tracking helps you see the impact of your SEO efforts – where your work is paying off and where you need to direct more resources. It measures the value of your work.
Position tracking reports can be run at regular intervals. The frequency depends on the needs and goals of your newsroom. Most regular SEO tools can generate and send an email with a PDF of a report on a daily or weekly basis.
As Shelby so effectively detailed last week, internal reports are hugely important, but unique to every organization. Sort, edit, filter and segment your data into a report that lets you focus on what matters most for your goals.
Tracking something for the point of tracking something is a tedious waste of time. The result of rank tracking should be easy analysis of performance and effective, actionable knowledge of what pages you should edit to increase the reach of your journalism.
Any tool or report that doesn’t make that easy is a waste (and, realistically, a lot of money). Sorry! Life's too short for bad PDF reports.
THE HOW TO
Tools that make position tracking possible
As we’ve covered previously, there are many great SEO tools for both general and news-specific SEO. A proper rank tracking tool will allow you to sort, filter or export the data for further analysis.
A few options to consider: Rank Tracker from Ahrefs, Position Tracking from SEMRush and Rank Tracker from Rank Ranger (owned by SimilarWeb). Of course, news SEO-specific tools such as Trisolute and NewzDash also have tools to monitor performance, too.
In a newsroom, SEOs may track rank for multiple kinds of keywords: newsier or event-specific, evergreen and branded keywords. The metrics you care about most, how often you analyze those reports as well as what change in ranking is of concern may differ for each kind of keyword set.
When it comes to what you care about for ranking tracking, it depends – as is often said in the SEO space.
The workflow for each tool will vary, but the general process is the same:
Establish the why for position tracking: What is your central objective? What will success look like?
Create your keyword groups to track: Segment in a way that makes sense and aligns with editorial goals.
Upload the keywords to the tool: Consult documentation or support as needed.
Establish the cadence for reports: This will depend on your editorial needs and segmentation. Automate the delivery of reports daily, weekly or monthly – whatever is most useful.
(Okay, this one is important!) Actually look at the report and discuss it with your team when you see fluctuations. If we’re drowning in too much data, the important part, the journalism stuff, won’t happen. For rising keywords: Do you know why you’re moving up? If yes, how can you apply those learnings to other sections? For falling queries: What changed? A report tells you what happened, but you – SEO editors – need to determine and communicate why it changed.
Do the journalism stuff: Make updates to your content based on the reports. Consult our evergreen 2.0, 10x content and keyword research newsletters for tips on implementing changes to your content based on research and search intent.
Continue to monitor your progress. Review your why from step one. Is this succeeding? Great! If not, keep experimenting.
A successful strategy is important, but, not to sound like a business bro: Execution eats strategy for breakfast. Don’t get distracted by too much data or tiny variations in your position in SERPs.
The bottom line: Position tracking helps us understand the result – and value – of our work. A loss in ranking for your keywords and pages can mean your journalism reaches a smaller audience. Start with position tracking, and then test, experiment and report your way to success.
THE JOBS LIST
These are roles across the globe we see that are audience positions in journalism. Want to include a position for promotion? Email us.
Hearst Magazines is hiring a Content Strategist for Commerce Diversity and Inclusion (New York City).
New Scientist is hiring a SEO and Analytics Manager.
Barry Adams: In the latest edition of SEO for Google News, Barry looks at the latest developments and updates in news SEO. That includes: the recent core algorithm updates, new and changed Search Console reports and the updated Article structured data documentation. Subscribe, then head over to NESS.io for your conference ticket.
Sistrix: Google Core Update September 2022: Winners, losers and analysis
Kam Jenkins: Five resources I still swear by after 10+ years in the SEO industry
Adam Gent: How SEOs and engineers can work together
Lily Ray on the Niche Pursuits podcast: Algorithm updates and avoiding penalties from Google.