YouTube SEO: Optimizing your channel in 5 steps

YouTube SEO: Optimizing your channel in 5 steps

Here at Search Engine Watch we have written quite extensively over the years about how to optimize your YouTube videos to make sure they really stand out.

Ann Smarty’s top 5 tips from last year is a handy list. And for YouTube best practice, Pius Boachie’s post is a great read too.

As 2019 gets going, video is still growing as a great way to ensure visibility online and to provide web users with useful and engaging content.

It is also an increasingly competitive medium.

YouTube doesn’t disclose how many creators use the platform. And there’s obviously quite some difference between someone who posts daily and has 100k+ followers, versus anyone who’s ever once uploaded a video. Estimates, though, range from 50m to upwards of 150m.

We do know that YouTube has more than 1.8 billion monthly users — nearly rivaling Facebook’s 2.27 billion.

Optimizing your YouTube channel, then, should not be an afterthought.

Those who are really succeeding on YouTube have great channels. They look good, they showcase their best videos and they connect with others in their niche. They are a destination in their own right.

And they promote better engagement and more views of the videos there. This is massively important when it comes to having your videos rank in YouTube’s (and Google’s) SERPs.

Here are five pointers for ensuring your YouTube channel is optimized.

  1. Add channel art

Channel art in the case of YouTube refers to the banner that stretches across the top of the page in-between the search bar and the title of the channel.

It goes without saying that this should be eye-catching and on-brand – as well as being sized to the optimal 2560 x 1440 pixels – but it can be so much more.

It can also be a place to share important information about the channel, such as what day of the week videos are uploaded. Sam The Cooking Guy is a good example:

youtube channel optimization, example of channel art

As you can see, this banner is prime real estate for getting some key information across with Sam telling us what days of the week he posts new content. He also has a Call To Action (right hand side) for persuading us to subscribe, as well as links to his merch store, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter right in the banner too.

  1. Featured video or channel trailer?

YouTube also gives you the option to have a featured video or – for users who aren’t yet subscribed – a channel trailer.

Many successful channels opt to place a video they see as good example of the rest of their content. But, of course, it is possible to have more success with getting users to subscribe by making a for-purpose trailer about your channel.

example of using a description box for youtube channel optimization

Either way, be sure to use the description box to full effect by including around 100 words (or about 500 characters) to signal to visitors and the Google/YouTube algorithm what your channel is all about.

In the above example, Binging with Babish is very kindly linking out to Vulfpeck. But I would also recommend there being a CTA with links out to your website from here – it’s a really visible part of the page.

  1. Playlists

Once you really start building up your YouTube content, playlists certainly help make things more navigable.

Grouping together popular videos or those with a similar theme are good options. You will know your content best when it comes to working out what videos work well together. There’s no hard and fast rule here.

Remember, from an SEO point of view, videos which are getting good traffic and engagement tend to rank better.

So, make videos as easy to find by grouping and linking out to other similar videos/playlists in your channel from each video description. This will make things easier for viewers.

Don’t just rely on YouTube to get your content next in-line after other similar videos.

Be bold with playlists and link to them.

  1. Don’t forget the ‘About’ tab

It’s not the most visible page, but YouTube does provide an ‘About’ tab for you to add a description for your channel.

By the looks of things, you can be as wordy as you like here. You can also add a business email and links to website/social media/etc.

Links within the body text there aren’t clickable – but there’s a designated link area at the foot of the page.

  1. Link to other relevant channels

Linking out to the competition might seem a little odd, but it is in keeping with the community spirit of YouTube.

I find it best to think about it in terms of giving value to you visitors/subscribers. Make it easy for them to browse other great and relevant content.

Be part of the conversation.

Make sure you are uploading the best content that you can. And you might just find other channels start linking to you.

Takeaways for YouTube channel optimization

YouTube channels can really be used to great effect to ensure your video content is as visible as possible.

Good channel art, putting your best content front and center, and making your growing collection of video content more navigable via playlists and links are really important.

Graham Charlton points out in his piece How to optimize your videos for better ranking in YouTube that there are a great number of ranking factors that go into YouTube’s algorithm.

I’d argue a well-optimized channel is a good way for pushing up some important ones.

Other YouTube ranking factors

  • View Count – “Still an important indication of popularity,” according to Graham. Better visibility in a well-optimized channel may give a new video a view boost before having too much time to rank. This may help keep the counter ticking up well after the video is established. In turn, this signals to YouTube that it’s still important.
  • View Density – Graham says: “View density matters to YouTube. If your video receives a lot of views in a short space of time, it’s more likely to be pushed up the rankings.”
  • Likes – “These provide an indication of the engagement around a video,” Graham says. And, simply, the more visible your video is thanks to your channel, the more potential there is for likes and positive sentiment. (Assuming your content is brilliant!)
  • Comments – “A way for YouTube to gauge the authority and relevance of videos,” according to Graham. And more likely to give you the opportunity to respond, generate buzz, and keep YouTube’s community spirit alive.

Note: the YouTube Creators Academy is also a great resource. Check it out!

YouTube is quite generous in what it allows you to do.

If your video content is strong and well optimized – you owe it to yourself to make sure the channel in which it resides shines too.

The post YouTube SEO: Optimizing your channel in 5 steps appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Content Freshness & Rankings | Does Fresh Content Impact SEO?

Content Freshness & Rankings | Does Fresh Content Impact SEO?

You keep hearing around that the same way true fans like their Apples fresh (I’m talking about iPhones), Google likes its content fresh. Well, it’s somewhat true, but not for the reasons you might think of!


Google doesn’t necessarily favor “fresh” content. Some search queries definitely deserve freshness, while others not so much. However, fresh content can impact SEO through some indirect “freshness” factors.




  1. What Does Fresh Content Even Mean?
    1. Freshness & Frequency
  2. What the Google Freshness Update Was All About
    1. The First Google Update (Caffeine)
    2. The Second Google Update (Freshness)
    3. Who Does the Freshness Update Actually Affect?
  3. Does Fresh Content Impact SEO?
    1. Queries that Deserve Freshness (QDF)
    2. Updating Old Content (Keeping It up to Date)
    3. Publishing New Content
  4. What Actually Affects SEO
    1. CTR (Possibly Impacted by ‘Freshness’)
    2. Quantity & Targeted Keywords
    3. Domain Performance


To better understand the concept, we first must detail a little what “fresh content” actually means.


What Does Fresh Content Even Mean?


What do you understand by fresh content? Content that has been published today? Content that is regularly updated?


The term “fresh content” represents content that is dynamic in nature (especially in meaning).


Therefore, it’s not as much “new” content in relation to time and when it has actually been created or published, but new in meaning and what the data behind it reflects.


Many people believe that fresh content is content that has been recently published. Sometimes, they even mix up freshness with frequency.


Let’s start with content that has been recently published. If I am publishing a piece on “The History of England”, would you call that fresh content?


Most likely not, because people have been writing about the history of England for probably hundreds of years. It’s nothing new.


The post is new on my site, of course, but common SEO sense says that new content without any backlinks and amplification will have a harder time ranking, especially in very competitive niches, such as history (where Wikipedia probably dominates). You’ll have to make huge link building efforts to dominate the results with a new page and we all know how risky that is! (it usually results in a penalty).


Freshness & Frequency


Now frequency is very similar to freshness and they often intersect, but it’s not always the case. I could post something fresh once per week, or I could post something fresh every day.


Frequency will ensure that your site gets crawled more often (thanks to Caffeine).


That means search engines will use more of their resources on sites that publish more often, because they need them.


If you’ve been publishing once per month for the past year, why would Google check your site daily? It would be a waste of resources.


However, if your site publishes 25 articles each day, then Google has to make sure it checks your site multiple times per day to index those results as soon as possible (thanks to Caffeine) and be able to display them to the users if they request it (thanks to the 2011 update).


One common misconception is that stale websites will be negatively impacted. That’s been proven wrong.


Brian Dean made this pretty clear with his blog. He publishes rarely, so his website is mostly still. However, his content always ranks at the top. I also have a blog in Romanian on which I haven’t posted in over 6 months. 9/10 articles are ranking on the 1st page and 6/10 are ranked in the top 3 positions.


If there’s something that has changed over time, it’s that those rankings have actually increased.


You see, you don’t need to publish too often when you can actually go into the Google Search Console and ask Google to immediately index your web pages by hitting a single button.


What the Google Freshness Update Was All About


This all started back in 2009, but just like many events, it has developed into a big conspiracy over time.


The First Google Update (Caffeine)


If you were in business back in 2009, you’d remember about the Google Caffeine update and how much of a big deal it was. The update is often referred to today as the Freshness Update, because Google used the phrase “fresher results”.


Although the update was announced back in 2009, it took almost a year until it finally rolled up.


The thing is, unfortunately, that many people got it all wrong.


The Google caffeine update has nothing to do with rankings. It’s main focus is indexing. Rankings and indexing are two very different things.


Indexing is when Google takes a first look at your content and adds it to the index. That means it has the potential to be ranked.


Ranking however, is a completely different story, with a much more complex algorithm behind it. This algorithm, which was updated in 2011, was actually older than you might think.


The Second Google Update (Freshness)


Ranking “fresh content” at the top was actually happening way before that. In 2007, Amit Singhal had developed an algorithm that favored freshness for some particular subjects and queries.


Note how I say “some specific queries”. Wait, let me make that bigger.


Google favors fresh content only for some specific queries that deserve freshness, widely known as QDF.


QDF stands for Query Deserves Freshness. If a particular search phrase is a QDF, then Google will show up the most recent results. This happens a lot in particular areas, as Matt Cutts explains in the following video:



In fact, in its official post about the update, Google specifies exactly what types of queries the update will impact:


  • Recent events or hot topics: Such as celebrity news or natural disasters (kind of one and the same)
  • Regularly recurring events: Conferences such as Brand Minds
  • Frequent updates: Anything that keeps having new content added to, such as product reviews or anything in the technology space


I know there have been some speculations that only by changing the date to an article you could make it look fresh and you could abuse the algorithm changes to make Google keep you at the top. However, they are what they are (speculations) and I promise you that for each example you give me of “fresh” content ranking at the top I can find at least 1 example of “old” content ranking at the top.


In fact, I’ll give you some examples right now, from the SEO field. It’s a field that frequently changes and you always have to stay up to date in order to be relevant.


There’s no way a guide from 2015 or 2010 would still be useful, right? Well… Google thinks otherwise:


does fresh content affect seo


And here’s another example:


old articles still rank well in Google


You might argue that “fresher” results rank better than those. Well, you’re right but that doesn’t prove anything, because one can say “fresher results also rank below and they even come from big sites such as Hubspot”.




There are factors that might influence rankings in this situation and we’ll talk about them soon, so keep reading!


But thinking that you’ll rank better just by having a more recent publish date is silly. And I’ll crush it even more soon.


Who Does the Freshness Update Actually Affect?


Both Caffeine and the 2011 Freshness Algorithm Update affect mostly news sites. This is the broader category, in which you can include celebrities, general news, politics, technology, you name it.


I’ll give you an example:


query that deserves freshness SEO


Notice a difference from the SEO examples I gave before? No article from 2009 or 2010 here, right? They’re all from 2019, posted hardly one month before me writing this post. The second article doesn’t even list the date, but instead the number of days it was posted ago. It can also be hours sometimes instead of days.


Why do you think this is the case?


Because in this case, a 2009 post would be horrible as a search result. People want to know the latest phones, not the outdated ones from 2009. Google knows the user’s intent so it tries to match the results to fit it.


Does Fresh Content Impact SEO?


Do we have an official answer? Sort of. And it’s pretty recent:



I have to say, I’m not quite pleased with the answer, because John has the habit of being very vague in his answers. I mean… I’ve just proven above that Google favors fresh content in certain cases.


Sure, we also have to get the context of his answer. That question about freshness has been asked after John tweeted this:


“As a user, recognizing that old content is just being relabeled as new completely kills any authority that I thought the author / site had. Good content is not lazy content. SEO hacks don’t make a site great. Give your content and users the respect they deserve.”


So, basically, John Mueller, Google’s representative, is trying to tell you that updating the post date every day is a bad digital marketing strategy and it won’t help you rank better.


I have to admit, I miss those days when Google used to be a lot more detailed and explicit in its answers. Why?


Because, as discussed, before, Google does favor fresh content, but in certain areas! And John’s answer should’ve reflected this reality, which also includes QDF.


Queries that Deserve Freshness (QDF)


Queries that Deserve Freshness is a reality! Matt Cutts talked about this before. There are certain search phrases, such as “best android phones” which I’ve shown above as an example, that deserve freshness. Users want to see the latest posts, so here, you might have the upper hand if you keep everything up to date.



Does that mean that you can keep ranking at the top by constantly changing the post date? No.


Does it mean that some articles will outrank other articles because of the date when they were posted? Yes.


But there are a lot of factors that signal freshness. Not just the date. Is the topic growing popular on social media platforms? Are the articles getting any new backlinks? In other words, is it something that’s happening now?


Are those answers contradicting one another? I don’t think so. In the end, Google’s not perfect. It’s just an algorithm. Do you think a human person could determine better what the best result for the masses would be? I highly doubt it.


Updating Old Content (Keeping It up to Date)


Will updating old blog posts help you rank better? Probably. But not just by changing the date. Google sees those changes and it accounts for “hacks” like this.


In this article, Search Engine Land stated that Google told them about one of the factors that determine freshness. It’s not the date!


“Google now tells us that one of the freshness factors — the way they determine if content is fresh or not — is the time when they first crawled a page. So if you publish a page, and then change that page, it doesn’t suddenly become “fresh.”


One of the factors that determine freshness is the time when Google first crawled the page.


So no, Google doesn’t care if you keep changing the date.


Does that mean you shouldn’t update your articles? No!


You should always keep your articles up to date. But not just with the date. Also with the content, quality and relevancy!


Has something changed since you’ve first written the article? Go and update it. Make your updates visible. This will allow users to also have a historical view on the events.


As Cyrus Shepard put it in this article:


The age of a web page or domain isn’t the only freshness factor. Search engines can score regularly updated content for freshness differently from content that doesn’t change. In this case, the amount of change on your web page plays a role.
Cyrus Shepard Cyrus Shepard
Owner @ Zyppy / @CyrusShepard


So the page’s age (when it was first crawled) is important, not just the publish date in the article, which can be faked. If you’re going to make small, insignificant changes, there are small chances that you will see any effects on the rankings.


If you feel like your post is outdated but you don’t know exactly how to improve it, use our Keyword & Content Optimization Tool.


optimize your content with cognitiveSEO


On the right side, it will give you a list of keywords that you should use in your article in order to make it more relevant. You can view them as topics you should cover when you’re writing. The ones with dots are the most important ones.


If you want to know exactly what we did to gain 70% more SEO visibility, you can take a look at our content optimization results.


Keep in mind that any changes to your content might also result in negative impacts. Be prepared for this in case it happens. If you have an article that’s already ranking #1, it’s probably a better idea to leave it like that!


Publishing New Content


As mentioned before,  new content lacks authority, distribution and links. It’s unlikely that it will outrank older content.


However, publishing new content does expand the number of keywords your site is targeting and thus it results in more traffic.


It’s just simple math. Will a higher post frequency increase your rankings overall? Probably not, although it can result in more backlinks which leads to higher domain performance over time.


However, a higher post frequency is almost guaranteed to increase traffic. No matter what others say, if you have 1000 followers and they read you once per week, if you make them read you twice per week, you’ve increased your traffic. It’s simple math.


But remember, you also need to post good content. You have to structure it well. You have to account for your audience’s needs. Not just blindly post things there.


Make sure to use the Keyword Tool to maximize your chances of ranking higher on Google when you create new posts.


What Actually Affects SEO


I don’t want you to be upset with me, so I’ll tell you some things that will actually impact your rankings and they’re closely related to freshness.


CTR (Possibly Impacted by ‘Freshness’)


Click Through Rate is a ranking factor. This has been tested and proven countless times. If users click your headline more and stick with your website, it signals Google that your site is a good result.


But what impacts CTR? Well, mostly it’s the position you’re ranking for, but the 3 things that affect CTR are the Title tag, the URL and the Meta Description, because they’re all shown in Google’s search results.


I hope you can see where this is going. How many times have you seen the current year or “Updated 20xx” in a title? Probably often. I mean just take a look at the “best android phones” example! It’s full of it! Why?



Using the current year in your title might positively affect CTR, which can result in higher rankings.


Should you change your title anually to feature the current year? Probably. But make sure your article is still up to date, otherwise Google’s going to catch that and punish you for it. If the article is still up to date, you can leave it like that. If not, you should probably improve it.


You can also reshare and redistribute your content as “new” on you social media platforms. This will help you gain new backlinks and traffic if the article was previously successful.


Quantity & Targeted Keywords


If you post new content frequently, you can expand your search visibility by targeting new keywords. This is almost guaranteed to bring more traffic if you do it right.


We’ve started doing this since November 2016 and the results have been promising. Have our rankings improved overall? Yes. Was it because we published more content but with the same high quality? It certainly had an effect (more backlinks, more shares, more topical authority).


Domain Performance


Closely related to quantity is the performance of your site’s domain. This is dictated by the number of unique domains that link to your website and, very important, also by their quality. 


If you publish more content, target and distribute it properly, then you can increase the number of backlinks to your site, which will result in a better domain performance.


If you want to check your domain performance, you can use the CognitiveSEO Site Explorer.


find broken pages on your website


The domain performance has a positive impact on all your articles, because Google starts to trust your site as being qualitative. Just think about it. If you buy a domain today and write something about SEO (let’s say it’s the same quality), do you think you can outrank cognitiveSEO right away? It’s hardly the case.




Still confused? Here, I’ll summarize everything, just for you:


  • Google does favor freshers results, but only in certain cases, such as news sites.
  • Freshness factors, like the current year in your title, can impact your CTR, which may result in higher rankings.
  • Publishing more new content can also help you gain more links, which leads to more authority.


What do you think about fresh content? Are you in a niche where fresh content is vital? How often do you publish on your site? Have you ever tried changing the date to rank higher? Has it worked? I doubt it has, but prove me wrong in the comments section. 

The post Content Freshness & Rankings | Does Fresh Content Impact SEO? appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

65 Experts Reveal Best Keyword Rank Trackers (With Leaderboard)

65 Experts Reveal Best Keyword Rank Trackers (With Leaderboard)

*** In a hurry? Check out the final leaderboard here. ***

What are the best tools for tracking keyword rankings?

Run a Google search and you’ll get over 9.5M results:

Google results after searching for best keyword rank tracking software
You’ll see posts listing dozens of different rank tracking tools. And, while a lot of the posts are comprehensive, you often leave paralyzed by all the options.

(i.e. you realize how many tools are available to monitor keyword rankings, but don’t know which one is actually the best for different use cases).

Here’s the thing:

Pretty much all rank checkers will track multiple keywords and URLs across multiple search engines, but the top performing tools will allow you to:

  • Get on-demand ranking data
  • View historical rankings
  • Check rankings at any level – from zip code to international
  • Monitor rankings across mobile and desktop devices
  • Measure performance against top competitors
  • Tag and monitor visibility across keyword (intent) buckets
  • Track ranking distribution (1-3, 4-10, 10-20 etc)
  • Provide ranking and algorithm alerts
  • Integrate with third party tools

So, how do you cut through the noise and find the best rank tracker that provides this level of analysis?

To provide an unbiased answer, I decided to reach out to 65 SEO practitioners and ask the following question:

What is your favorite tool for tracking keyword rankings? Why?

Respondents listed their top tool, and explained which specific features provided the most value for their business and/or clients. The votes were tallied and used to create the leaderboard below.

Whether you’re looking for a standalone rank tracker, or one that is part of a broader SEO toolset, this post will give you a shortlist of field-tested tools to consider.

You can use the jump links below to quickly navigate to sections of interest in the post:

  1. Overall leaderboard
  2. Close look at the highest voted tools
  3. Top 8 features of rank tracking tool (based on votes)
  4. Expert responses

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this article. If you decide to purchase a tool through one of those affiliate links, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

Let’s jump in.


Final Leaderboard

 Here is a list of the 10 best rank trackers (by vote count):

#1. SEMrush (23 votes) [Free 30 Day Trial]
#2. Ahrefs (21 votes) [7-Day Trial]
#3. Accuranker (6 votes) [Free 14 Day Trial]
#4. Google Search Console and Moz (5 votes) [Free 30-Day Trial]
#5. Advanced Web Ranking (4 votes)
#6. STAT and Agency Analytics (3 votes)
#7. SEOmonitor and SERPROBOT (2 votes)

Honorable mentions (1 vote): Authority Labs, SERPWoo, Pro Rank Tracker, SERPWatcher, Conductor, BrightEdge, SEO Powersuite, Microsite Masters, PlacesScout and SmallSEOTools.

Note: SEMrush was also voted the #1 keyword research tool by 133 SEO practitioners.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the three rank tracking tools with the highest number of votes.


A Closer Look at the Top 3 Rank Tracker Tools (By Vote Count)

Here’s a closer look at the three tools sitting at the top of our leaderboard. What are the stand-out features of SEMrush, Ahrefs, and AccuRanker.


#1. SEMrush


SEMrush is an all-in-one SEO toolset for marketing professionals. Its main selling point has always been its competitor analysis. So it’s no surprise that you can monitor competitors in the Position Tracking tool.

Although some experts would like to see the UI improved, SEMrush was still the top choice with 23 votes.

Here are the top 3 keyword tracking features mentioned by the experts:

  • Visibility across keyword/intent buckets
  • Accuracy of ranking data
  • Competitor rankings and visibility

Pricing: Starts at $99/month (get a free 30 day trial here)


#2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs homepage
Ahrefs is also an all-in-one SEO toolset. Better known for its backlink analysis (15 trillion links in their database), the tool has evolved a lot over the last two years to provide strong keyword analysis and rank tracking functionality.

Some experts stated the rankings data in Ahrefs is not as accurate as SEMrush. But with 19 votes, it was a close second in our poll.

Here are the top 3 keyword tracking features mentioned by the experts:

  • Intuitive UI makes it easy to understand rankings data
  • SERP overview report data integrated into the Rank Tracker
  • Filtering options – tags, device, location, position, competitors etc.

Pricing: Starts at $99/month (get a 7-day trial for $7 here)


#3. AccuRanker

AccuRanker homepage
Unlike SEMrush and Ahrefs, AccuRanker is a standalone keyword rank tracking software, dedicated to delivering the most up-to-date and accurate rankings data.

It has all the features provided by the other tools in this post, but its key differentiator is providing on-demand keyword rankings data. AccuRanker is the third choice in our poll with 6 votes.

Here are the top 3 keyword tracking features mentioned by the experts:

  • Instant ‘on-demand’ keyword ranking updates
  • Keyword tags with notes and dates
  • Integration with Google Data Studio

Pricing: Starts at $49/month (get a free 14-day trial here)


8 Features to Look for in a Rank Tracker (According to the Experts)

This section calls out 8 features (in no particular order) the experts found most valuable in a keyword tracking tool. 


#1. Get Accurate Rankings Data

Refreshing ranking data inside AccuRanker

(Image: Refreshing rank data inside AccuRanker)

Accuracy, along with frequency, is critical to keyword tracking. There’s little point monitoring old data, so our experts want rank tracking software updated with the latest rankings on a regular basis.

In most cases that means daily updates. But with standalone tools like AccuRanker and AWR Cloud, you also have the ‘on-demand’ refresh feature, which means you always have access to the freshest rankings for your business and/or clients.


#2. Granular Tracking (Geo, Device & Engines)

Tracking rankings on different devices inside SEMrush(Image: Filtering rankings by device and location in SEMrush)

Experts also look for software that offers the right level of tracking. While high-level dashboards are useful, they also need tools that provide granular details.

For instance, is it possible to differentiate data between mobile and desktop, track rankings at different geographic levels, or compare results from Google, Yahoo, and Bing?

Keywords perform differently across devices as they serve different audiences. So having a tool like SEMrush which lets you track and compare keyword positions for desktop and mobile is essential.

They also want the ability to choose to track keyword rankings at country, state or city level, maybe even as far as postcode and address, so they can serve local and international clients.


#3. Track Ranking Distributions (Against Competitors)

Keyword distributions in SEMrush
Image: Comparing rank distributions against competitors in SEMrush)

Rankings are continually fluctuating, so it’s crucial to be able to track performance over time.

Software that distributes keywords into groups or buckets by position – e.g. 1-3, 4-10, 11–50, etc. – allows you to track historical progress and compare keyword rankings against competitors.


#4. Tag Keywords and Monitor Visibility Across Intent Buckets

Tracking keyword tags inside Ahrefs
(Image: Tracking visibility, av. position and traffic across keyword tags in Ahrefs)

When you’re tracking thousands of keywords, you need a way to segment your data. The experts prefer tools that allow you to tag/label keywords individually (or in bulk).

For instance, tagging helps you monitor keyword performance through different parts of the sales funnel. Using the results, you can adjust your content to fill content gaps and/or better match search intent.

AccuRanker lets you add notes and dates along with your keyword tags, which is useful for cross-referencing position changes with content and algorithm updates.

And Ahrefs includes a feature where you can view aggregated data for a specific tag. So, for example, you could tag your brand keywords and monitor ranking/visibility trends across that segment.
Similarly, if you wanted to track performance across top, middle or bottom funnel terms, the tagging feature would enable this.


#5. Map Keywords to SERP Features

Ahrefs Featured Snippets report
(Image: Filtering keyword rankings by SERP features)

Experts pay particular attention to keywords that have SERP features, including featured snippets, image packs, knowledge graphs, and direct answers.

Ranking in featured snippets is one of the fastest ways to increase your organic traffic. So, tracking how many terms you have generating snippets can help identify short term opportunities.

A sudden rise or fall in traffic could be down to gaining or losing a SERP feature on your keywords, so it pays to monitor them closely. And according to our experts, the ability to inform clients that they’ve won more featured snippets is a big win.

Both Ahrefs and SEMrush allow you to map keywords to SERP features.

For example, Ahrefs Rank Tracker can alert you to keywords that have either gained or lost SERP features. Using that information you can prioritize content improvements to ensure you keep hold of the SERP feature, or regain them from competitors. You can also easily filter the results to see which specific keywords you already rank for in the featured snippets, and which ones you don’t.


#6. Schedule Ranking Alerts

Ahrefs alerts
(Image: Setting up keyword, backlink and mention alerts in Ahrefs)

Experts valued software that allows scheduling of ranking alerts.

For example, you can configure Ahrefs to send weekly or monthly alerts via email highlighting changes in rankings, lost and gained SERP features, and performance trends across keyword tags. You can also click through directly from the email into the application dashboard to investigate further.

Some tools will also create custom alerts that are triggered by an event; for example, when a tracked keyword enters the Top 10 or drops out of the Top 20.


#7. Integrate with Third Party Reporting Tools

AccuRanker integration
(Image: Integration options inside AccuRanker)

Tracking keyword rankings is one thing, but reporting on progress is another. Stakeholders including clients usually want easy-to-read weekly or monthly reports. And to achieve that, the consensus with our experts is that it’s better to integrate with third-party reporting tools like Google Data Studio or Agency Analytics.

Google Data Studio lets you convert your data into branded, informative, and interactive reports by connecting and pulling the keyword ranking data from tools like SEMrush and AccuRanker.

Agency Analytics offers real-time dashboards and custom reports with charts and graphs, which gives clients an up-to-date visual summary of their keyword rankings.

Check if your software can integrate with third-party tools, or if there is a connector for a tool like Supermetrics.


#8: Assess SERP Volatility (By Category, Feature and Device)

SEMrush SERP Sensor

(Image: Analyze SERP volatility across industries with SEMrush’ SERP Sensor)

Google is updating and tweaking their algorithm every single day. This often results in ranking volatility across certain industries.

A tool like SEMrush’ SERP Sensor shows you how volatile the SERP was over the last 30 days. If you see high volatility on a specific day and notice it corresponds with a rankings and/or organic traffic drop, it could be a sign that your site was impacted by an algorithm update. These insights can help you pinpoint the issue, and put a plan in place to minimize damage.

You can also sign up to receive email alerts when there is high SERP volatility.

AccuRanker also provides a similar report through its Google Grump rating.


65 Experts Reveal Best SEO Rank Trackers for 2019 (and How to Use Them)


That’s a quick recap of the top keyword ranking tools (and features to look for). Now it’s time to dive in and find out how the experts are using the different tools to monitor keyword rankings and track organic search visibility across the entire funnel.


Ian Howells

AccuRanker has recently become my go-to tool for tracking keyword rankings. They’ve got a lot of the same features I was already used to getting elsewhere – daily tracking, city level data, and mobile/desktop results. However, the thing that really got me using them heavily in the last month or two is their Google Data Studio connector.

Google Data Studio KW rankings dashboard
I’ve moved my client reporting, as well as the dashboards for my personal projects into Google Data Studio. Rankings were the one piece that was still really muddy. Relying solely on Google Search Console data was less than ideal, because it’s not a good solution for defining a set of terms and tracking progress against those over time.

Combining the tag feature, as well as the Share of Voice metric from AccuRanker’s been a big help in making these reports immediately digestible. Share of Voice by tag gives a quick glimpse into the overall health of a particular keyword set. I’ve found this especially helpful for clients, as it reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed by rows of hundreds of terms, but doesn’t have the noise of an “Average Rank” metric.

Average Rank is, more or less, garbage. You can rank well for a bunch of terms that get no search volume and artificially boost an average rank metric. You can also drop from #1 to #3 for a huge term and barely move the Average Rank for a bucket of terms, never mind the whole site.

Share of Voice within AccuRanker is more or less a click estimate (though I don’t know that they claim that anywhere.) If you export and divide SOV by Search Volume, you can see the assumption curve they use. I like this a lot because it gives more weight to small movements within the top positions for high volume terms, and significantly less weight to stuff that’s moving around on page two and beyond. It only really moves when something important happens.

So, aside from the normal stats like terms by page, etc I can now roll in Share of Voice reporting and break it out by tag, all automatically updating in Google Data Studio reports.

Chris Grundy


My favorite keyword tracking tool is SEMrush. The feature that first attracted me to it was the ability to segment rankings by country.

I typically deal with clients from around the world, so this is a must-have. Another feature I love is the historical data for keyword rankings. It’s really powerful to be able to identify trends early and prioritize struggling keywords. The final thing I love about SEMrush is the ease with which I can view country-specific SERPS for keyword rankings. I can easily scope out the competition and craft better content.

A.J. Ghergich

Ghergich & Co.Founder

For tracking multiple client rankings, I use SEMrush. I love being able to track between mobile, desktop, internationally as well as via state or city. SEMrush has a great visibility map of you vs your competition.

The results are refreshed daily, and they make it easy to export client reports and drill down on things like featured snippets or videos. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the top choices like Moz or Ahrefs, but If I had to pick one it would be SEMrush every time.

Aleyda Solis

Orainti | Founder
My favorite rank tracker is SEOmonitor because it allows me to track my client pages positions vs competitors daily for both mobile and desktop search results, including the existence of search features and inclusion in them, providing the impact in traffic and conversion with the integration with Google Analytics; as well as suggesting potential reasons of rankings decrease.

Kevin Indig


I like rank trackers such as SEMrush or Ahrefs for a couple of reasons.

First, I think it’s important to track a custom keyword set and a general one to assess and track your site and competitors.

Second, it’s very important to build your own keyword index, meaning a set of keywords that reflect your industry – not just the keywords you’re ranking for. Ranking factors seem to be more and more adjusted to industries. So, if you’re not tracking those keywords and check how rankings for them change over time you lose a feeling for what’s important.

Third, you need to track SERP features like featured snippets, knowledge graph integrations, or direct answers. That will help you figure out why organic clicks spiked or dropped – something search console can’t tell you!

Christina Blake

Seer InteractiveSEO Account Manager

My main tool for tracking keyword rankings is STAT. Although the UI takes a little getting used to, the granularity in tracking and ability to create organized tags and generate dynamic tags makes it my go-to for accuracy over time. Their reports also offer tons of opportunities for competitive & content gap research, and scheduling is a breeze which I love.

The only drawback to STAT is that you’re paying for each keyword you track – however that’s why I temper a tool like STAT with one like SEMrush or Ahrefs. STAT is far more accurate, but SEMrush or Ahrefs is great for directional rankings and ideas for keyword expansion since it returns all keywords ranking to a site/URL, rather than just the keywords you’re tracking.

James Norquay

Prosperity Media | Consulting Director

At the moment we use a mix of methods for tacking rankings. These include using SEMrush, Ahrefs, SERPbook and Google Search Console (average rank). In the past we also used AWR cloud.

Ahrefs has definitely impressed in terms of updates in the past year, but we do still need to cross check with Google Search Console on some commercial head terms for clients.

Ahrefs ranking alerts are useful, SERP features such as featured snippets rankings are also very useful.

Robbie Maltby

Search Alchemy | Lead Consultant 

Ahrefs Rank Tracker – Ahrefs Rank Tracker is ideal for finding opportunities to compete in SERPs. It alerts me every week to keywords that have either gained or lost SERP features, and with a few clicks I can filter the report by my target features, check their search volume, then export the report to send to my clients to help prioritize projects.

For example, I use it to keep tabs on when my clients competitors are using Google Ads to compete in SERPs. This allows me to recommend pivoting to paid ads when necessary.

Sam McRoberts

My favorite by far has been Agency Analytics. It has a clean, easy to use UI, and the ability to create customized, white-labeled reports that run as scheduled and are delivered to clients automatically, saving me a ton of time.

It also lets you set-up rank tracking to check rankings from a specific location (or many locations, both country and city-level), which is extra helpful for local SEO or clients with an international presence.

Last but not least, it integrates with what feels like everything under the sun (GA, GSC, GMB, CallRail, AdWords, Facebook, etc.), allowing me to pull in more granular data from different sources that can paint a more complete picture of what’s going on.

I’ve been using them off and on for clients for the last 7 years and couldn’t imagine using anything else.

Chris Dreyer

I have two favorite tools for tracking keyword rankings and reporting data: Agency Analytics and Ahrefs.

Ahrefs is extremely useful as a granular analysis tool for keyword metrics. They are very strong when it comes to generating multi-faceted data for keyword research.

Of course, you always want to know keyword volumes, difficulty, and similar phrases to rank for, but Ahrefs takes it much further with paid vs. organic click metrics, SERP features (which show you how Google is displaying content for any particular phrase), and their Questions feature (which is an invaluable tool for managing a long-term content strategy).

Their visual approach to representing the data (in graphs and charts) is also very intuitive. However, one of Ahrefs’s drawbacks is that the reporting interface just isn’t the best for client-facing tasks.

Agency Analytics, on the other hand, is an excellent tool for client-facing reporting. They have a mobile dashboard, custom reports, the ability to showcase local SEO data, and great data visualizations (i.e., charts and graphs). Their interface is much cleaner, which is helpful for clients who might get overwhelmed by an abundance of granular information.

Automated reporting features are a huge time-saver as well. For reports that can be standardized from month to month, it’s much faster to automate them than to have a team member manually organize information for client reporting.

Alexandra Tachalova

Digital OlympusDigital Marketing Consultant

I want to clarify a few things before I give you an explanation for why I prefer to use AccuRanker. Normally, I try to stay away from tracking keywords since this metric doesn’t really say much about how well you’re doing SEO. From my experience, it makes much more sense to look directly at Google Analytics regarding the growth of organic traffic and whether or not that is hitting the predefined goals.

However, there are a few specific situations when I need a position tracker tool:

1. I want to evaluate the current level of competition in a particular niche/industry in different countries by the most important. AccuRanker is the best choice for this sort of analysis since it gives you results within a few minutes. After this, I can check each and every SERP manually. Here’s a great post by Aleyda Solis that shares more cases about how and why you need to evaluate the competition before starting to expand your SEO efforts to other markets.

2. I need to check which set of keyword pages are ranking in the top 20 results in Google and whether there’s any chance I can improve the situation with internal links. With the help of filters in AccuRanker, you can build a report where you can see the list of search queries showing how a page you’ve analyzed appears in Google.

João Aguiar

MobideaHead of Online Marketing

Personally, I’m not paying extra bucks for a specific keyword tracking tool. With that said, I’m using the Ahrefs Rank Tracker. If you’re an Ahrefs user there’s no reason for you to spend more money in an additional tool just for SERP tracking.

Ahrefs has a very clean and easy-to-use dashboard, and the same applies for their keyword tracking tool which comes inside your regular Ahrefs account.

The Ahrefs Rank Tracker allows you to easily create different dashboards based on your different projects/websites.

Here are the main features at your disposal:

– Select a specific time period
– Filter by location
– Filter by search volume
– The SERP features (Featured Snippets, Schema, Ads, etc.)
– Filter keywords by difficulty level
– and more.

Another useful feature is the keyword position alerts, so you can receive an email notification with the keywords position changes on a Weekly, or Monthly basis.

I’ve been using it for a few years now and it gives me a clear overview about everything I need to know about my SERP presence.

It’s good to mention that Ahrefs’ team is constantly improving their tools with new cool features and updates.

Last but not least, If you’re not an Ahrefs user and you’re looking for a keyword tracking tool, here are 3 great options that deserve a mention: SERPWatcher, SEMrush, Google Rank Checker (Free) and SERPROBOT (Free).

Jon Morrow

I use SEMrush, because I can see at a glance how our rankings are changing for dozens of keywords. The graph of overall rankings over time is also useful in reporting progress (or lack thereof) to other stakeholders.

That being said, I’m not a fan of obsessively checking rankings. As the CEO, I really only need to see them about once a week or even less. I’m much more interested in tracking the execution of our strategy to rank a given post.

For example, internal links created, outreach emails sent, shares by key influencers, and so on. Those are the leading indicators of ranking, and I can reallocate resources based on progress. In other words, the data helps make better decisions about how we spend our time and money.


AthanasiadisDigital Marketing Consultant

SEMrush is a great tool for tracking your keywords. I enjoy using the dashboard and that the platform has a diverse range of other metrics and information you can access. I have used rank trackers in the past that only track keywords which means you need to access multiple platforms to dig into your campaigns and you can track competitor rankings alongside your own.

I have also found SEMrush to be very accurate compared to other platforms. I like to cross reference the data with the averages found in Search Console as well.

Steven van Vessum

ContentKingSEO Consultant



Because after initially setting it up with the right tags, it gives me all the insights I need to keep track of ContentKing’s SEO performance and that of competitors, and more.

When you’re tracking thousands of keywords, it’s essential to use tagging otherwise you can’t see the forest for the trees. They’ve got a handy feature where you can use tags as a dimension to look at your rankings. You’ll see aggregated data for all keywords with a certain tag, so you can easily see the big picture.

Ahrefs automatically puts rankings in buckets, so you can quickly filter on keywords ranking in top 3 for instance. You can also quickly switch between desktop rankings and mobile rankings and you see what features are present in the SERP at a glance.

Under ‘Metrics’ they’ll show the split between SEO and PPC clicks, as well as what percentage clicks on a result rather than leaving without clicking. Very useful information when you’re gauging keywords’ potential.

Aaron Agius

Louder OnlineManaging Director

I’m partial to AccuRanker. It’s a great value for the cost and very fast. The instant refresh feature means I always have access to the most current information for our clients.

I also appreciate the ability to check both local and global rankings, as well as the number of tools and technologies it integrates with out of the box.

Michael Salvo

Whitecap DigitalChief SEO Strategist

Accuranker – We tried many other rank trackers over the years and have been using Accuranker now for about 18 months. The most important features for us are

1. Accuracy
2. Speed
3. Rich Snippet reporting.

First, we’ve found the tool more accurate than others.

Second, we can get the rankings of large keyword sets relatively quickly (same day) with accurate search volume estimates from Google. Other tools we used in the past might run the rankings once per week or in the case of some backlink tools, less often than that. Day to day, that’s not going to get the job done.

And third, the clients we’ve worked with long-term are ranking highly so seeing which rich snippets we’re winning is a great feature for our regular client calls.

The Accuranker team also works to improve functionality and has updated the look of their reports, but frankly we haven’t seen a need to use these, though it’s a good sign the tool is being further developed.

Kristen Vaughn

KoMarketing Associates | Associate Online Marketing Director

While I use a variety of tools to track keyword rankings, SEMrush is my all-time favorite. There are a few unique features that come to mind, including the ability to monitor keyword visibility trends over time, easily understand SERP features, and access granular data.

Keyword visibility trends: From my experience, one of the most common hang-ups when it comes to reporting on keyword performance is that rankings are constantly fluctuating.

Google is always changing and updating search results, causing keyword rankings to vary day-to-day. What’s important is being able to track keyword visibility trends over time, and SEMrush does a stellar job with this.

With the tool, you can show bigger picture improvements like: “At the beginning of the quarter, the site ranked in position [X]. Now, (3 months later) the site ranks in position [Y].”

Comprehensive SERP analysis: For each keyword, you can easily dig into what SERP features are appearing to help guide your content development efforts.

For example, there may be a Featured Snippet or Answer Box appearing for the term, which presents an immediate opportunity to create a question-based article. Or, there may be reviews appearing, which requires an entirely different strategy.

Granular keyword data: Last but not least, I’ve found SEMrush to have more granular and accurate keyword data than other third party tools. The key metrics that I need include position, ranking URL, estimated CPC and search volume.

Brian Jackson

KinstaChief Marketing Officer

I’ve tried dozens of different keyword tracker tools over the years as I’m always on the hunt for better tools, and none of them compare to Accuranker. In my opinion, it’s by far one of the best on the market.

A few features I use on a daily basis include:

1. Keyword updates on demand (instantly) as I’m auditing content are crucial. A lot of times I’ve updated a particular article with more content, re-crawled it, and I need to see updates quicker than a few days later. Google is very fast in terms of recalculating positions.

2. Ability to tag keyword(s) with notes along with specific dates so I can keep track of changes. Make a bunch of tweaks to a post? Perhaps you change the title, headers, etc., and want to see if it impacts the ranking. Jotting them all down in a note can make sure you attribute the change correctly. Correlate your notes with the up or down movement in SERPs.

3. Accurate monthly search volume. This is very important! Search volume changes over time and being able to see this ensures you’re optimizing for search volume. The opposite can also happen, sometimes more long-tail keywords might drop off the board altogether, in which case, it might be better to optimize them for something else.

Richard Missey

GrouponSEO Program Manager

Preface: I should lead with the fact that I HATE keyword tracking. It’s a useful directional tool in the hands of a reasonable SEO pro, but it never stays there. In the hands of those with too much power and not enough training/experience, keyword rank tracking can be disastrous for a business.

All keyword rank trackers suffer a fatal flaw: manually maintained keyword lists. The organic search universe is not static. As long as we keep talking about these lists, we’re stuck in the past.

With that out of the way…

Tool: STAT

Why: Flexibility. I’ve never encountered a tool as flexible as STAT. The tagging functions – manual and auto – allow for an incredible amount of insights and trend identification. The reporting is flexible, the API is incredible, and provides more information than any other service. Who else lets you snag the whole SERP HTML through an API call?

(to the person that provides the answer: Touche, my friend)

You can get basic keyword tracking damned near anywhere – Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc. – but if you want deep insights, go to STAT.

Craig Campbell

Craig CampbellFounder

My favorite rank tracking tool is SEMrush.

I know there are many other tools out there, but in terms of keyword data I think SEMrush have been the leader for many years and are constantly striving to improve their tool.

For agencies, the fact you can get API integration for Google Data Studio to do custom reporting is excellent. But the real reason I like it is down to the accuracy of the data, that is massively important to me, but you can also brand the reports using SEMrush too, which is simple and easy to do.

William Harris

ElumyntFounder & CEO

Ahrefs is definitely my favorite. I’ve used a lot of tools, and there are lots of reasons to use some of the new ones in conjunction with Ahrefs – but if I was going to pick just one – that’s the one.

My number one reason for this, is because it’s the most accurate of all of the different ones that I’ve tested. It goes without saying, that accuracy is critical to keyword tracking.

The second reason why it’s still number one for me is because the UI is the most thorough and easy to use in my opinion. I don’t have time to dig through a clunky UI – and Ahrefs has enough users that they’ve figured out a way to streamline things for people that know SEO.

Ady Berry

CTI DigitalSEO Consultant

My go-to keyword ranking tool is now SEOmonitor. It’s great for individual keyword monitoring, but it also allows me to track keyword groups in a campaign format – highlighting group rankings and keyword group visibility and scoring the difficulty of ranking for a specific keyword (based on competitor research).

It integrates with both search console and analytics to provide key data such as search volume, clicks, revenue etc. and has a built in forecasting tool which allows you to forecast traffic and revenue performance of keyword groups (based a projected ranking position).

On top of this there’s a handy alerts tool / app which will inform you when rankings / site visibility increase or decrease.

Benjamin Beck

Online StampedeGrowth Marketing Consultant

I like using SERPWoo because they do not just track your websites rankings for a keyword. They track every single domain ranking in the search results over time and keep it in a database for you.

This feature allows me to quickly see competitors who start to surge upwards in rankings. Then I can try to reverse engineer what they are doing for my own sites to improve rankings.

Eli Schwartz

elischwartz.coDirector of SEO

My absolute favorite tool for rankings is Ahrefs. Whenever I compare their index to others, their data is always the most recent and closest to what I see when I manually spot check rankings.

In addition, Ahrefs allows me to do some real cool deep dives on rankings so I can see specific ranking URL’s and the type of ranking that I am getting.

Adam Rowles

We use SEMrush for tracking keyword rankings. Their ‘Position Tracker’ overview dashboard enables us to quickly take a snapshot on their visibility (rankings) against competitors.

Obviously keyword positions are very important, but it’s more important to utilize the ‘Estimated Traffic’ graph because higher visibility doesn’t always equal more traffic (depending on keyword search volume of each keyword).

We use the ‘Organic Research’ tool to track keywords for specific pages. This becomes quite useful when we’re optimizing a page, we can review which long tail keywords and variations we must consider.

Anthony Kane

One of my favorite tools for tracking rankings would be SEMrush.

Even with actual rankings fluctuating SEMrush has, historically, had a pretty accurate representation. It is great to be able to see where a site ranked for a term 6 months ago. I also really enjoy the ability to pinpoint queries that bring back featured snippets.

Devin Schumacher

Serp Co | Founder

The rank tracker I currently use is SERPROBOT.

I like it because the UI is simple, and it’s super cheap. The primary feature about it that I like (that I didn’t have with previous rank trackers) is that I can look at an entire domain and see an average for all the keywords I am tracking, and also a weighted average. These two metrics help me understand how the general “group of keywords” I’m tracking for the page is trending. It’s a quick snapshot that tells me “is this page as a whole improving or not”.

Also their notes feature is handy – very similar to Google Analytics annotations. Surprised more rank trackers don’t have this.

Konstantine Gegeshidze | SEO Manager

I use Google Search Console (GSC) combined with Search Analytics for Sheets and Google Analytics.

With Search Analytics for Sheets, I pull out the data from GSC and map in the spreadsheets alongside the other relevant data that I need for making certain decisions. E.g. Google Analytics data – Goal Completions from “Acquisition>>>Search Console>>>Landing Pages”.

From there I can see the clear correlation between the impressions, positions, clicks and goal completion. That gives me ideas how to better optimize the page and on what to focus first.

I also like using filters in GSC such as data from a specific country, device, etc. Comparing dates as well so I can see how updates impacted or changes in the title made sense in terms of CTA.

There is a lot of ways you can use the provided data.

Tyler Tafelsky

Yisoo Training Senior SEO Specialist

I have found SEMrush to be one of the most comprehensive, accurate, and actionable keyword ranking tools.

Not only can you view real-time ranking data of a given website, but you can also include competitor domains. The tool also shows which URL of a domain is ranking for a given search term, as well as more granular insights like if a piece of content is ranking in Google’s featured snippet, image search results, etc.

Because SEMrush is far more than just a keyword ranking tool, the platform also comes equipped with a lot of valuable tools to help pinpoint site health issues and precisely how to fix them.

Katie Kirchner

Seer InteractiveSEO Account Manager
I prefer STAT for keyword tracking because of their ability to calculate Share of Voice (SoV), a metric that allows you to see which competitors are owning the most market share for keywords important to your business. This is calculated based on click-through-rate (CTR) and search volume. However, STAT actually allows you to upload your own click-through-rates so you can estimate what gains/losses you could see should you increase/decrease your marketshare for a particular keyword/set of keywords.

Joe Howard

WP BuffsFounder
AWR Cloud. It’s the tool I’ve used for years and it allows me to easily track hundreds of keywords easily over time. Plus, I can group keywords and see how individual blog posts are performing overall for a collection of keywords. Love it!

Greg Mischio

Winbound LLCOwner

Currently, we’re using SEMrush for our keyword tracking, although we may be transitioning to Ahrefs.

What’s nice about SEMrush’s tool is it allows a pretty seamless transfer from the Keyword Magic tool, which we use to generate keyword ideas. I’m sure Ahrefs has a similar feature. We’re thinking of using Ahrefs mainly because SEMrush doesn’t allow you to input a long list of seed keywords, which is disappointing. So at the moment, we’re a bit on the fence.

The one thing I don’t like about SEMrush’ tracking is that it’s hard to get a read on your success over time, as you’re always adding new keywords, which means your overall visibility rate doesn’t go up (you’ve always got old and new keywords.) This may be user error on my part, but it’s where we’re at.

Venchito Tampon


My favorite tool for checking keyword rankings is Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.

1. “Parent topic” feature – shows you the pillar topic you can create as a pillar content on your website (topic cluster model).
2. “Questions” filter – easily see “what”, “how”, “why” and other question-type keyphrases you can target for your content. This is best to integrate to your content creation campaign, as you can produce pages just targeting question-type keywords.
3. Filter keywords by “SERP features – allows you to see which keywords have many features in their SERP or identify keywords which have a very specific feature.

Adam Chronister

Enleaf | SEO Strategist
We still use SEMrush more than any other tool for monitoring, tracking, and reporting of keyword placement. The ability to segment rankings by page placement and date are particularly valuable. We also regularly utilize the filter feature to exclude branded terms from our ranking reviews. The traffic and trend chart is also great because it helps us see where things are headed.

Tom Pick

Webbiquity LLCFounder

No question, my favorite tracking tool is Authority Labs.  Three reasons:

First, value for the money. You can pay more for a tool with more bells & whistles, or pay less for a more bare-bones tool. But few alternatives can compare for this level of capability and price. Second, it makes it easy for me to monitor both improvement (or not) in rankings over time as well as comparison to competitor websites.
Finally, as a digital marketing consultant who monitors multiple client sites, I appreciate the ease of setup for multiple sites and competitor groups, comparison, and data export.

Dicky Phillips

Media ResultsSenior SEO Strategist

Search Console – Now that Search Console can provide me with upwards of 16 months worth of data/information, it has without a doubt become my favorite tool for nearly everything, not just keyword research.

I prefer SC, as it allows to me see exactly what organic search queries are being made, and from that I can make adjustments to content, meta descriptions and title tags to encourage better CTR. Or for paid search, I can help provide them a list of low-medium competition phrases they may not have been targeting before, and could help improve conversion rate.

The interface is fresh, friendly and fast to navigate. And best of all most dashboards like SEMrush allow you to sync up with Search Console.

Jacob Wulff

AWR Cloud.

The tool provides ranking updates daily, weekly and on demand which is important due to the fast changing pace of client expectations and last minute reporting requests. The tool provides data on mobile, desktop and even local geo-targeted results from Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

My team loves the white label report reports which makes it easy to provide concise and easy to read reporting for our clients. The dashboard is also accessible from any device which is incredibly convenient for on the fly data.

The tool allows you to segment data based on top 5, top 10, and top 20 rankings, which presents powerful opportunities to adjust content, paid, and on-page strategy based on these results.

Sam Hollingsworth

Elevation Ten Thousand | Director of Search

SEMrush is currently on top of its game. The tool has come a long way over the last decade, and it can do a bunch of high-value SEO tasks and offers a bunch of high-value SEO data and resources.

It’s simple enough to be able to learn your way around for all marketers, from analyst-level to intermediate SEOs right to the top. The platform itself offers some of the best features on the market, and its organic keyword tracking is one example of that.

For each keyword, it doesn’t just offer the rank, change in rank, estimated site traffic, visibility numbers, URL, and search volume; it also offers details for each triggered SERP feature (local pack, Knowledge Panel, featured snippet, reviews, images, video, site links, People Also Asked, PPC ads at the top or bottom of the SERP, etc.).

The most commonly criticized aspect of SEMrush is usually cost, but if used correctly for the right size company and clients, it can make great sense for your business — for organic keyword tracking, but also for a lot more.

Tyler Thursby

Zion & ZionSenior Search Analyst

There’s a lot of great tools available for tracking keywords, so it’s kind of splitting hairs — whatever works for you and keeps you organized is ultimately your best option. I’ve used Agency Analytics for years because it does exactly what I need for my reporting. What I particularly like about it is the interface is very clean, there’s not a ton of extraneous features just for the sake of billing you more.

One feature I really like is the ability to create a dashboard; you can provide your client with access and provide real time reporting with it. If you’re looking for an easy way to build campaigns and report on keyword movement, Agency Analytics is a solid option.

Gabriella Sannino

Level343, LLC Managing Partner

For keywords, it’s a two-fold kind of thing. You know there’s never just one tool that does it all, and all of them have strengths and weaknesses.

We use MOZ because placements are accurate. -And, with the keyword tool, we can put in the site or a page and find terms they’re ranking for that we didn’t even know about – gives opportunities to find those golden terms. I like the dashboards as well.

However, we also use SEMrush. Placements aren’t as accurate, but it has a really strong keyword dashboard. The same information is provided by MOZ (CPC, keyword difficulty, ranking, etc), but laid out in a much easier way. Less hoops to jump through.

One feature that I really like in SEMrush that isn’t in MOZ is the keyword graph. It gives you a line/bar graph showing your site’s overall number of key terms in the top 100, and notates whether there was a confirmed Google Update or just a lot of activity. We’ve found that very helpful in understanding how our overall rankings are doing.

Sean Si

SEO Hacker | Digital Marketing Consultant

Our favorite keyword rank tracking tool is AccuRanker.

We’ve been using AccuRanker for years and it has helped us create accurate reports for our extensive list of clients. The reason why AccuRanker is a great tool for tracking keyword rankings is because their UI allows us to access different data sets with minimal clicks. From share of voice to estimated clicks per keyword, AccuRanker has everything we need.

Another feature AccuRanker has that not many rank tracking tools have is their Google Grump rating wherein they notify users if Google rankings are fluctuating at an abnormal rate that can signify an algorithm update or just normal movement for our rankings.

Corey Northcutt


Conductor Searchlight is my favorite interface. The way it layers opportunities and extracts handfuls of low-hanging opportunities is impressive. But since it’s tough to justify six figures a year and not get a lot else in return, it’s between SEMrush, Moz, and SEO PowerSuite.

SEMrush for reliable daily tracking, Moz for tracking new SERP features, and SEO PowerSuite for when you need the data faster and in much more robust reports than all of the above.

Stacy Caprio


Ahrefs is my favorite keyword ranking tracking tool.

My favorite part about Ahrefs’ keyword tracking is that it includes the vital information you need, and makes it very easy to one click filter from biggest to smallest using any data column. In addition to showing you the volume for each keyword, which is key, it shows you the traffic that keyword gets and what page gets the traffic.

Lastly, and the feature I find most helpful, is it shows you the ranking of each keyword, including recent up or down movements, so you know if improving it would make a huge difference or not.

Jesus Meca

Real Focus Marketing | Founder/ CEO

Pro Rank Tracker.

It has all the features.  What I like the most is:

1. Simple dashboard (no complicated nonsense).
2. Able to see all clients in one screen by expanding keywords (don’t have to change screens per client).
3. Focuses on rank tracking ONLY. Again simplicity.

Nate McCallister

Ahrefs is by far my favorite.

Although the price is “high” relative to some other all-in-one tool sets, I have used this tool to find articles that make me much more than the monthly payment. This tool is fantastic if you have an existing blog, as well with content that could be optimized.


Tribe SEOCEO & SEO Trainer

My favourite ranking tool is SERPWatcher. It‘s accurate and has the regular things like keyword tagging and filtering. What sets it apart is its elegant design and split screen. On the left side, you get the granular keyword ranking data, and over on the right, it’s the higher-level stuff which makes for a great user experience.

At a glance, it’s easy to zoom in out, so you can see how your SEO is progressing over time. This includes the ‘movers and shakers’ keywords, how they impact your predicted search volume, and it also predicts the market share you are currently are receiving as a handy percentage.

As part of the Mangools SEO ecosystem, it seamlessly integrates with (1) KWFinder which provides more accurate search volumes than Google Keyword Planner and is easier to use (2) SERPChecker which is a great tool for competitor research and real time global ranking checks, and lastly (3) LinkMiner which pulls in some useful backlink data from Majestic.

Julia McCoy

One of my favorite tools for tracking keyword rankings is SEMrush. I find the data most accurate in this tool, as well as the placements I can track for my content.

For example: under Organic Research in the Organic Search Positions, I can see at a glance hundreds of content pieces ranking for exactly what keyword, and click the arrow to expand and open the exact blog URL in a new window. If I stay in Organic Search Positions and click the keyword to expand the data, I can also see what SERP features our content piece is showing up in – sometimes it’s a Featured Snippet (and might be a higher priority to update, if it contains irrelevant or old info), News, or Google Images.

Super useful to have on hand all from one dashboard, which is why I love SEMrush so much. I go here frequently to look for content to update and maintain, so we continue to position our brand and content well in the SERPs.

Josh Spilker

ClickUpContent Manager


I like using their Rank Tracker function to see how certain keywords are performing on desktop vs mobile, and tracking the SERP ranking over time. Their top keywords feature is also helpful to see which words you may be gaining on that you didn’t anticipate. Combined with its research functions, Ahrefs is the best tool for SEO.

Chris Makara

Chris MakaraFounder

Ahrefs is my favorite tool for tracking keyword rankings. Their Rank Tracker is pretty solid. Among the things I like about it are the filtering capabilities, tagging options, and SERP features information.

The filtering options are excellent. I can easily filter by date range, ranking positions, search volume or even custom tags.

Speaking of custom tags, the tagging feature is really useful in that you can tag/label your tracked keywords to identify brand, top of funnel, bottom of funnel keywords. This is helpful in really understanding what parts of the sales funnel are doing well.

And the third feature that I find really useful is the SERP features option. This allows me to easily see if a particular keyword is ranking for things like a featured snippet, image pack, or even a knowledge card.

These three features along with everything else Ahrefs has makes it my favorite keyword tracking tool.

Mary Beczak

WpromoteSEO Manager

BrightEdge, the reason I love using this tool is because the depth of insight into keyword rankings goes beyond just what position we are in. We can easily compare against competitors, see historical data, get specifics on which page we are ranking for each keyword and even forecast what kind of traffic we could expect should we rank in a higher position for specific keywords.

Another feature is being able to see recommendations for improvement to help increase our chances for ranking a keyword on a specific page.

Miles Anthony Smith

Imaginasium | Director of Digital Marketing

For smaller scale websites, I typically use the rank tracking tools within other SEO software I already use. I’ve been happy with the dashboard provided in Ahrefs and SEMrush to track specific keyword phrases that are the most important. You do have to upgrade your subscription to a higher level if you want to get past historical rankings instead of just tracking the rankings going forward once you input the specific keyword phrases.

For larger scale sites, I recommend using SEOprofiler since it is a standalone tool, and as such, has more functionality like a nice visual view, integration with Google Analytics, and suggestions for your site based on tracking your competitor’s rankings.

Shane Barker

SEMrush is an effective tool for tracking keyword rankings, and it’s my personal favorite. It goes in-depth and tells you your national, regional, and local search rankings for any keyword. The data is updated on a daily basis. You can also track the rankings of up to 10 competitors and make direct comparisons against your ranking.

The tool also has a Competitors Discovery feature that shows you the local competitors that are ranking in Google’s top 100 search results for your target keywords. The Position Tracking dashboard also shows various metrics like estimated traffic, average position, and domain visibility, for every keyword that you’re tracking.

Andrew Dennis

Page One PowerContent Marketing Specialist

At Page One Power, we love using AWR Cloud for granular tracking of a single keyword or small set of terms. The Visibility Score provides a quick check to see trends and understand how your site is performing in regards to specific keywords and themes.

For a more holistic and high-level view of keywords and a website’s overall performance, we rely on a combination of Google Search Console and SEMrush. Search Console is an excellent source of keyword data for your own site, straight from Google. And SEMrush is best-used for competitive research and tracking keyword rankings for your top competitors.

Ryan Mendenhall

Big Leap – a top Utah SEO agency | Digital Marketing Manager

I’ve used lots of tools to track rankings during my time in SEO, but my favorite is Ahrefs. With it I can not only see the ranking, but I can see key stats associated with those rankings that give me context about the value of those rankings.

For example, I can see search volume, keyword difficulty, position change, referring domains, and other metrics like CPC, traffic estimates based on click data, how I fare against competitors and the parent topic of my keywords. I can also filter my results by SERP features I rank or don’t rank for and much more. I am a big fan of simply looking up my site in Site Explorer to see everything I rank for and how they’ve performed over time. Ahrefs gets my vote! Here’s more on why.

Ilan Shabad

One Egg DigitalSenior SEO & PPC Consultant

Microsite Masters has been my go-to ranking tool for several years. I don’t consider their UI great but if you are looking for a professional and cost-effective ranking tool you should consider it. They also offer a free 10 keyword tracking account, so you can test it out yourself.

My favorite features:

– Fast daily ranking updates (the basic account offer 1,500).
– Ranking graph for individual keyword over time (see how ranking fluctuates).
– Unlimited domain tracking.
– Tracking specific URLs.

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

I use more than one really good keyword tracker so I can cross-check data. And each one does something a little different and sometimes offers insights the others don’t.

I use Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz as my keyword trackers. I also dig into Google Analytics and Webmaster tools to determine what keywords are already driving traffic and leading to conversions.

I use Ahrefs to find new opportunities. I like it provides data on keyword difficulty, search volume, and traffic potential.

SEMrush has the largest keyword database on the market with their Keyword Magic tool (9.4 billion keywords to play with). That sounds overwhelming, but you can easily segment by topic and analyze a list of collected keywords to choose the best ones. It’s great for gathering ideas for content strategies.

And, finally, I use Moz to track keyword rankings and compare them to Ahrefs. Moz also offers quick on-page analyses that are great for people who are just getting into SEO who want a little guidance.

Steve Barringer

InventHelpDigital Brand Manager

SEMrush has many great features although I feel some of them need some work. I find their keyword tracking to be one of best and fits all of my needs while, being cost effective. The UI makes it very simple to track historical data on desktop and mobile with relevant Google updates marked.

The frequency of the updates is also very important where you can see top position changes for your website daily. The most important factor that also goes along with frequency is accuracy of data.

I feel that SEMrush gives a decent estimate where you can make informed decisions based on the keyword tracking data. Whether it’s tracking your own site, a competitor site, or looking to see if a site ranks for any related keywords that may be a good fit for a guest post opportunity.

Sam Davies

SleeknoteHead of Content

My favorite keyword research tool is Ahrefs. This is for a few reasons:

1. Organic keywords report. This allows me to see which organic keywords our competitors are ranking for and create “skyscraper” content, often from a unique angle (thus, bridging out content gap).
2. New keywords report. With it, I get an email once a week with new keywords our competitors are ranking for. Plus, blog post topic ideas I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

Nirvana Guha

I personally love SmallSEOTools Keyword Rank Checker. Here’s why:

1. The UI is clean and straightforward.
2. The tool allows you to check SERP rankings for both mobile and desktop platforms.
3. The tool allows you to check for 10 keywords at a time.
4. There is no conventional dashboard. Just a list of tools that you can switch back and forth from.
5. It is completely free. If you are just starting out and you don’t have a ton of money, SmallSEOTools is a safe and reliable bet for you.

The only downside is that the process is entirely manual and the limit on 10 keywords can be a bit frustrating if you have a lot of pages. If you have a fat, juicy, budget, then by all means – go for paid tools.

But if you are just starting out, especially in a non-US region, I’d recommend SmallSEOTools without a second thought.

Eugene Farber

This will be a two-part answer depending on what exactly you’re trying to track.

For general/national-level keyword tracking, most tools in your arsenal will work. I actively use both SEMrush and Ahrefs, simply because they both have the functionality and I have accounts with both. They do the job and it’s convenient to use the functionality of a tool you already have access to for other purposes.

For local rankings, on the other hand, I’m a big fan of PlacesScout. It allows you set location-level tracking to see how you show up in searches that take place in a specific location. This is obviously what you want to see when you’re tracking local rankings (and it’s extremely useful when tracking for companies with multiple locations).

Evgeniy Garkaviy

Hope Spring EcardsSocial Media Business Strategist

SEMrush. It is one of my favorite tools. All you need to do is to enter website URL and it will show you which keywords you are currently ranking for. You can structure the report based on the amount of traffic you get, keyowrd difficulty, average monthly searches etc.

Data from Google is updated daily so it provides very detail and accurate report.

Rhona Aylward

Rhona Aylward

Psoda | Deputy Everything Officer


It’s not the best looking UI in the world but I find the functionality is exactly what I need.

1. I really like their backlink report as it’s better than the others I’ve tried in the past. It’s really comprehensive and helps me target people that have removed our links. On saying that, sometimes it shows up links that haven’t been removed but I can work with that.
2. Their competing domains and pages report is amazing. I love being able to see what our competitors are up to. I really like that I can click through the results and get excellent granular data.
3. The 3rd feature I love is that they split organic and paid results so that I can see exactly what our competitors are chasing and how much they are spending per month.

What Tools Are You Using to Track Keyword Rankings in 2019?

There you have it – 65 SEO experts revealed the tools they use to monitor keyword rankings for their business and/or clients.

Here’s the list of the 10 best rank trackers (by vote count):

#1. SEMrush (23 votes) [Free 30 Day Trial]
#2. Ahrefs (21 votes) [7-Day Trial]
#3. Accuranker (6 votes) [Free 14 Day Trial]
#4. Google Search Console and Moz (5 votes) [Free 30-Day Trial]
#5. Advanced Web Ranking (4 votes)
#6. STAT and Agency Analytics (3 votes)
#7. SEOmonitor and SERPROBOT (2 votes)

Honorable mentions (1 vote): Authority Labs, SERPWoo, Pro Rank Tracker, SERPWatcher, Conductor, BrightEdge, SEO Powersuite, Microsite Masters, PlacesScout and SmallSEOTools.

Which tools are you currently using? Any new ones that deserve a mention? Any new ones you’re going to try?

Let me know in the comments below.

The post 65 Experts Reveal Best Keyword Rank Trackers (With Leaderboard) appeared first on Robbie Richards.

Open source design: claiming ownership over design conventions

Open source design: claiming ownership over design conventions

Design sameness

Inspiration is at the heart of design. When we – as designers – try to solve a problem we tend to look at what others do. We are often tempted to copy what other companies or websites are doing. This because of their authority: “I’m following Material Design to the letter because Google made it.”. Or because stakeholders point us in that direction: “I want that thing that Airbnb uses on its website.”.

This has led to a point where the entire web starts to look the same (well, kind of). In my opinion, there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with this so-called ‘design sameness’. It’s ok to be inspired and I personally don’t really care that so many websites look alike.

The danger – in my opinion – lies in the often heard reasoning that designers make decisions because they follow design conventions. And in doing so, they think they’re putting their users first. But, do they really? What exactly are these conventions? Where do they come from? And why do we so eagerly hide behind them?

To help answer these questions, I dove into some of my research from when I was studying spatial planning. I found out that concepts from the domain of public decision-making apply fairly well to the design domain as well.

In this article, I want to walk you through these concepts and the tension field that is present in decision-making. The tension between the complexity and diversity of the context in which we make decisions, on the one hand. And concepts of universally accepted norms (like the public interest and conventions), on the other hand. I also want to try and propose how we can reshape the concept of convention. To claim ownership over it for the use in our design practices.

The public interest as an analogy for design convention

‘The public interest’ is a concept stemming from the domain of governance and public decision-making. And I think that it works very well as an analogy in the domain of design. In the sense that it is very similar to the way us designers tend to use conventions in our work.

In public decision-making, we have two ways of dealing with the public interest:

  1. A substantive way (meaning we treat it as ‘the greater good’, as an abstract norm that decision-makers strive for)
  2. A procedural way (meaning it’s a product of different insights and claims shaped through dialogue)

The distinction lies in a top-down versus a bottom-up approach to decision-making. It’s this substantive, top-down approach that I want to highlight at this point. It reminds us of our attitude towards conventions in design. Accepting the existence of a concept in our practice that is so abstract and elusive holds a danger. It can be used (or abused) by decision-makers to legitimize their decisions: “Our policy is in the public interest, so it benefits everybody.”. Design convention works somewhat the same way. It basically says: “Everybody’s using this, so it must work.”

“In its most limited sense ‘public interest’ is used to express approval, approbation or commendation of public policy.”

R.E. Flathman (1966)


Utilitarian philosophy and liberalism (which center around the individual) argue that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the above reasoning. Namely, the total lack of care about individual needs. And this is odd (to say the least), considering we live in a world that is both complex and diverse. This diversity is called pluriformity. It means that there is recognition for different ideologies, cultures and political preferences. And the norms, values and interests associated with it. The concept is therefore often associated with the rejection of the existence of universal norms.

If we translate this to our design domain, we can argue that it is unlikely that universal solutions exist. At least in practice. Considering the diversity and complexity of the different contexts in which problems occur. It seems that the public interest is used as a legitimization for decision-making. Just as convention is used to hide behind the fact that the design lacks research and critical thinking.

Tried and true conventions

Yes, it is a much heard argument that trends and conventions actually do exist in design. We might even need them for our users to understand how our websites work (the most famous example probably being the hamburger menu icon). But how did these conventions originate? That is a fundamental question, that I believe doesn’t get asked enough. The problem with ‘getting inspired’ or ‘following convention’, is that you lack context about problem definition and – solution. We risk losing ourselves in studying the solution and lose track of what the initial problem was.

This leads to information gaps, as Stephen Hay, Creative Director at Rabobank, so strikingly described it in his presentation about design sameness at this years’ Refresh Conference (which served as an immense inspiration for this article). It means that, with each blind application of a convention, problem and solution drift further apart. The problem gets, sort of, lost in translation.

The most striking example of design convention going haywire is probably the use of sliders on the web. You can read our opinion on sliders here.

Isolate the problem with critical thinking

This doesn’t mean that we have to fully reject the concept of convention. Problems re-occur and are not always unique in nature. And not every solution needs to be different or unique. I dare even say that every problem that you face as a designer, has probably already been faced by someone else. Even if you consider the diversity and complexity of the different contexts in which we work.

But what’s critical, is that you first isolate and define the specific problem that you’re facing. And only then move on to the solution. Blindly using a convention as a solution without exactly knowing what it is you’re trying to solve, is simply wrong. Stephen Hay argues that relying on conventions is cutting corners. Especially, considering critical thinking is one of the biggest assets you possess as a designer. Therefore it’s essential that you use just that.

“We rely on conventions because they will often give us an acceptable solution with a minimum of effort.”

Stephen Hay (2018)

The fear of isolation leading to waste

We’ve arrived at a moral crossroad…

Although I very much encourage Hay’s plea for critical thinking. And although I understand the value of isolating the problem you are trying to solve. I also think in doing so, there’s a lurking danger of isolating yourself. Of forcing yourself to come up with something original, different and unique. And in doing so you risk your process becoming a costly effort. Wasteful even. Because, what if every designer tries to fix every problem over, and over again? It would feel like we’re constantly reinventing the wheel. That’s why I opt for actively claiming ownership over conventions.

We think that the open source model is able to prevent wasteful processes. How? Read more about it here.

Scale down and claim ownership over convention

Let me take you back to the domain of public decision-making and the aforementioned public interest. While we’ve established the trouble with treating the public interest as a given. The concept actually is – in a procedural sense – existent and is something that we can control and claim ownership over.

“The public interest is the compromise that comes about with regard to the policy, with the help of the actors involved, within the boundaries of the project.”

Ernest R. Alexander (1992)

It is something that can originate as a solution to a problem that is defined through dialogue. This, within an enclosed context. But, for this to happen we need designers to come together and:

  1. share the problems they face, and;
  2. share the solutions they come up with

What this means is that we need an arena (just like politicians and decision-makers do). An arena where designers come together and debate the problems they face. And for this to really work it’s critical that the context in which problems (and solutions) occur is also shared. This, to the end that designers can learn from each other. Learn to identify situations more easily. And find fitting solutions more quickly. This, to avoid the risk of getting stuck in a wasteful process.

This way we can turn the concept of convention from something that magically applies to all similar problems, into a commonality. A commonality that’s actually shaped by designers and applicable within a well defined context.

The open source design arena

But how do we create this arena and bring these designers together? Actually, these arenas exist all over the web. They’re called communities. Whether they’re platforms like Behance, Dribbble, GitHub (or even Twitter and Facebook). Get-togethers like Meetup. Or movements like the Open Design Foundation. They all have the potential to bring designers together and discuss design.

I’m a firm believer in the concept of open source design as presented in a manifesto by Garth Braithwaite. It lies at the heart of everything this article discusses. And it’s something that we, at Yoast, firmly believe in. It’s about us designers actively participating in discussion. About helping each other by sharing our work. About sharing the context in which we work and the problems we’re facing. And about sharing the solutions we find within this context.

This, to the end that we, designers, look further than just ‘getting inspired’ and seeking individual advancement. But are really able to claim ownership over our work and start creating meaningful conventions and conversations. And, through this, help push design forward.

The post Open source design: claiming ownership over design conventions appeared first on Yoast.

How to Write for SEO in 2019. The Step by Step Guide

How to Write for SEO in 2019. The Step by Step Guide

Writing for SEO has become an adventure, a complicated math problem we are all trying to calculate by finding the secret to get the results faster. The number of search engine factors advanced, the Google algorithm updates increased, the number of businesses that use SEO increased, the number of SEO agencies increased and more and more people became aware of its importance and the market is pretty cluttered and the competition is very high. And we know how important it is for you to stand up in the crowd.


There are some things that are still available in terms of SEO, and also lots of new ones. We’ve put together a guide to find out how to write for SEO in 2019 to be above the pile.




  1. Do Proper Keyword Research
    1. Use Contextual Results
    2. Find Topics That Pass the Test of Time
  2. Make a Summary List with All the Information Gathered
  3. Craft a Visual Template Having UX in Mind
  4. Write for SEO Your Amazing Piece of Content
    1. Include Tags in Title and Body
    2. Animate Your Text by Adding Images, Audio, Video Content
    3. Make Use of the Power of Internal Linking
    4. Make Your Content Mobile Friendly
  5. Spread the Word



How to write for SEO guideline


We’ve said it lots of times before, and we’ll continue to say it as long as everybody understands the importance of its meaning: content must be written for the user. Contextual content is the new icon in terms of SEO at the moment. It is one of the important changes that took place in the last period. Lots of SEO experts talk about semantic and context-based results.


Step 1: Do Proper Keyword Research




The first step in SEO has been the same for quite some years. We’re talking about keyword research. Deploying the topics of interest and the killer questions, we can elaborate a descriptive terminology. Keywords will help us describe the topic at its best for the users and make it optimized for search. 



Finding keywords shouldn’t be hard. You need to have a starting point and based on the targeted keyword you can find many derivatives. There are tools that can help you find the best examples and generate traffic. Keyword Tool and Content Assistant are two awesome helpers, that work best together. They’re like your best buddies you can call in the middle of the night to get you out of trouble.


We are talking about producing content for SEO, which means valuable, evergreen and quality all-in-one. And for that, you need to raise your head up the crowd and don’t get flushed away by all the people that are “writing” and creating worthless content. There are lots of noisy environments with “too much” SEO content.


Without strategy, content is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff.
Arjun Arjun Basu
Award-nominated author


You have to become an SEO content writer, not just a simple writer for succeeding at SEO. You need to ask and answer the right questions so that your content helps the users, and keeps them on the page.


Valuable content is found at the intersection between your customer’s needs and your business expertise.
sonia_sharon Sonja and Sharon
Founders of ValuableContent


What is valuable content



Valuable content breaks the glass and goes beyond the screen. Imagine that your visitors come from all directions and you need to make them feel that they’ve come to the right place. They need trust so you’ll need to offer the information they need and think: “Wow. This is the place for me. Somebody really understands me.”


1.1 Use Contextual Results


To get to the previous situation described above you’ll have to understand the context of your potential customers’ search and fill in the gaps. It’s mandatory to know your potential customers’ needs and interests.


Google discovered that the conventional keyword search, as we know it, has some limitations and doesn’t offer topical results based on the query search. For a simple keyword, there are lots of topics related and information available online.


Google developed patents to understand the context from knowledge bases for more accurate results. It wants to focus more on topic-related results so the whole process works based on probabilities. For example, when a user performs a search on Google, the search engine uses a system to return landing pages with topics related to the query by looking at the text on that page.


Topical search results


You may ask how you can you take advantage of that and get ideas for contextual keywords. Focus on the user, the user’s search intent and how to steal their heart so to convert them.


Let’s take an example. You have a pastry in the US and have a new receipt of cronut. For those who don’t know, a cronut is a croissant-doughnut invented by a pastry from New York City.


keyword research for contextual topics


Since you want to tell the world about your new cronut, there are multiple ways to do so. It is very important to decide whether your content will be information or brand. If you go with the second one, then search for the keyword and see the volume and who your competitors are. If you go with the first type of content – informational, then check to see what other people are searching for.


Based on our example, you can see what people from the US searched for. Most of the keywords are informational and all of them want to know and understand what cronuts are. If your target audience knows about them, then choose directly the keywords that are more relevant and descriptive such as: “cronut flavor of the month”, “cronuts with puff pastry”. Based on these two keywords you can perform other searches and first more relevant keywords.


Since we’ve talked about context, then it’s very important to collect as many keywords as possible to select a topic in the second step. When we get to the onpage optimization part, you’ll need focus keywords. Don’t end up with just one keyword, look for a second keyword, similar to the first one.


1.2 Find Topics That Pass the Test of Time


The second step in the research phase is finding topics that will keep drawing the audience to your website. Usually, the articles that are evergreen have information that doesn’t alter in time, and also a type of content that solves a problem that lots of people are struggling about.


In the example above I was talking about cronuts. For some, it might be an old story, but for others a new discovery. It is more unique than other types of deserts, it has two things into one. That type of product/topic might be what makes it last. When it first appeared in NYE, people stood in line for this hybrid. Nobody knew how it tasted, but everybody was intrigued. So the mystery draws attention and uniqueness keeps it alive. Word of mouth was a good trigger. The lesson here is that you need a topic that will engage the community.


You can create a receipt with steps and tips because according to the research (performed in the first step) there were lots of people who want to find out how to make a cronut. The basic receipt won’t change, but there will be variations to it. So people will go to basic before trying something new for the first time.


There are some other tricks you could use to take advantage of content immortality:

  • appeal to the historical evolution of a certain product/topic/service and so on;
  • create how-to guides or helpful documents;
  • make a list of frequently asked questions;
  • share best practices;
  • write strategies;
  • elaborate case studies, studies results and examples;
  • best of niche blogs, influencers, experts – for outreach;
  • explain the history of your business or your success story;


I got my inspiration after I read an interesting blog post on the furniture store Furniture of Dalton’s blog, intitled Sofa Story: A Brief History of Ten Iconic Forms. And after reading through it, I thought that article might be a very good example of how content used to evolve. And the Sofa Story can be correlated to content evolution, with a more visual effect.


In the early days, sofas were hard, harsh supports made out of stone, wood, steel and lots of other material without any cushion. Over time, they gained popularity, and some types of sofas started to become a little too tawdry, with lots of cushions until they made their way to a more contemporary soft seating in a range of styles.


Roman sofa

Roman sofa made of Terracotta (form the second half 4th BCE) displayed at Louvre

Grecian couch (from 1825) displayed at High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Grecian couch (from 1825) displayed at High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Modern sofa

Modern sofa you can find in stores nowadays


If we were to compare it to content, it pretty easy to see the similarities; content started small, then there was the stuffed keywords era, and afterward it got more complex and more accurate.


You’ll have to spy on your competition and see what their focus is to outrank them. Competition might be very high on some niches. Content Assistant is here to guide you. For a specific query, the ones that we’ve discovered above we can see the type of query we pursue – brand, informational, and commercial.


Ranking analysis for cronuts with puff pastry


In our example, we have an informational query. Looking at the competitors we can see what SEO pages are ranking. Skimming through the first 10 pages we find lots of cooking blogs, a video tutorial for a magazine (that ranks twice – once with the video from youtube, and secondly with the article published on site).


In this case, we see what our competitors are, and get inspired by them. Since your a business, you can write your pieces of content using more unconventional methods.  Remember how important visuals are in this industry, but we’ll talk more about this in the third and fourth step. Numbered, highlighted or bulleted steps make the recipe appear simpler and easier to make.


Glazing you over the competitors will lead into the next step – the final one from the research phase.


Step 2: Make a Summary List with All the Information Gathered


make list


Once we’ve collected your focus keywords and the words and phrases recommended by the tool for your SEO article, you can make a list. A simple document is enough. My method is pretty simple and you can use it.



  1. First, I write a topic or title (that will be modified when I finish the article).
  2. Then, I add my focus keywords.
  3. I have a section named ideas or a structure of the article, where I add using bullets all sorts of information that I want to discuss. Here you’ll add all the ideas that you have and that you’ve discovered by looking at your competitors because our goal is to create the best piece of content there is out there. Use quotes with the source attached, save URLs, images and more.
  4. Conclusion / final note – left in blank. This will be added only after I finish the article and I can sum up a final idea based on my findings.


Now you can start working on visualizing the template for your article. Would you follow a basic look or try to make it more attractive?


Step 3: Craft a Visual Template Having UX in Mind



visual appearance

Every article that you write needs to have a template, a natural flow. If we go further with our example, the web content needs clean visuals – images, videos, gifs, and a very important step is to create a cover photo that approaches and has the title written on it. It is easier to share it on Facebook, Pinterest and more. If you can, create a longer picture – similar to an infographic picturing the final look of the desert, if we follow our example, and then the ingredients and steps you have to perform.


Make it simple and easy to follow. Below is an example:



Cronut sample


The way you structure your article is synced with the design of the website. That means the design of your website can make it easier or not to perform some magic tricks with your content. If you’re using an open-source content management system and not a customizable HTML website, then it is easier to implement a layout.


The way information is displayed has high importance. For a receipt, you need to have a first section with ingredients that need to be separated from the main body of the article. And visuals have a higher significance. Below you can see a good example you could inspire from.


Receipt layout



The trick of this page is that Print button which makes it easier for people to have it in physical format. Somebody really knows the audience and their behavior. When you cook, you make a lot of mess and a printed format of the receipt is a very good way to make the content more useful. Lindsay, the blogger of this website, got an extra point for this little feature because her content breaks the virtual space. UX is well applied on this receipt page.


UX – the holy light that brightens the page and triggers the appreciation of the user. Depending on the type of content there are some things you shouldn’t miss in order to keep the user and don’t scare them. Besides site speed and optimized images, you should also have sharing buttons (if possible for images have the Pin icon – if visuals have high importance, like in our example for pastries, deserts, and everything related to cooking, in general).


Pinterest button


Some other elements that you should keep in mind are:

  • adaptable screen resolution;
  • simple font with reasonable size and line spacing;
  • separate sections of images and text, not overlapping content without white space;
  • user location integration for local personalization;


There’s an explanatory image of what UX means, created by Stephen P. Anderson, an internationally recognized speaker.


holistic header


UX means also to know your user and their behavior so you can anticipate and give more freedom to use and read your content. Just like the example above, the print button is a great integration for receipt pages.


Step 4: Write for SEO Your Amazing Piece of Content


Write SEO content

After we’ve got you these preparation steps for gathering all the information and SEO tips that you need to make a great piece, you’ll have to put to work your writing style and skills. Here you put your magic into action. The content creation process begins. Beside the natural language and creative abilities, there are some SEO technicalities that are almost mandatory for success. Writing SEO friendly blog posts can be difficult and time-consuming. However, it’s time well spent, as SEO helps us rank better in the search engines.



Correct grammar, descriptive topic where you reach all the points related, personal opinions, real conclusion and unique content are necessary for creating highly readable web pages.


4.1 Include Tags in Title and Body



Since we are talking about writing for SEO, you need to include tags to let search engines know how your piece is structured. Title tag has a high influence on your piece of content because it will be displayed as the big blue link in search engine results:


Title tag


You need to have a relevant, engaging and attractive title to make the user click  on it and stay on page. Also don’t make a promise from the title that you can’t fulfill in the body content. There might be cases when Google will rewrite your title tag with information from meta description and page content if Google doesn’t like the one you added. Chances are this won’t be as good as the one you’ve created, so you must ensure that your own title tag is completely relevant, descriptive, has the right length and the focus keyword phrases included.


There are some tips you could follow for generating CTR:

  • Create actionable titles, asking to the user’s question: What’s in it for me?
  • Use the brand leverage. For well-known brands it is in their best interest to use the brand name in the title.
  • Don’t use title case.
  • Create unique title tags.
  • The body tag shouldn’t miss. You need to highlight that part and explain to the search engines where’s the main part of your content. Where other tags are incorporated, such as heading tags (H1, H2, H3, ..H6), image alt descriptions. There are some other HTMLs that you should integrate for a better optimization: URLs and meta description.

4.2 Animate Your Text by Adding Images, Audio, Video Content



Video content can boost your content and increase your conversion rates. If we follow our previous example regarding cronuts, for the query “cronuts with puff pastry,” we have a website that ranks first with the video and then with a webpage where the video was embedded. If you take a look at the print screen below you can see it ranks in Google both on the second and twelve positions.


Video content


In this case, the video tutorial can push the webpage higher in rankings. Visual content appeals to emotion, creates intimacy and engages the visitors.


80% of consumers believe demonstration videos are helpful when making purchases. – Blue Corona


If you decide to add video content to your webpage, my recommendation would be to use Youtube, Dailymotion, Vimeo to upload the video and then embed it into your page. This way, you’ll have it on two supports that can bring twice as much visitors.


4.3 Make Use of the Power of Internal Linking


Internal links provide extra value for a webpage. The have two main advantages:

  • it helps search engines understand your content.
  • it helps the users stay longer on the website and navigate to the topics of interest.


The best way to use internal links is when you are writing about something and want to bring extra explanations, and link to a page where you’ve previously talked about that. For example, now as I am explaining the internal linking power, I’ve linked to a page where we previously tackled the topic more in depth.


A bad internal linking is a sign of bad architecture and you might risk misleading and confusing the user. Make sure you point to valuable, live and accurate pages and link to the proper anchor texts.


The process isn’t so hard. You should know the website pretty well, or at least search to find the proper article. And the more internal links you have, the more value Google will give it. You all know the saying “Too much of anything isn’t good for anyone”, which applies in this situation also. Make sure you don’t overuse the method because too many links will drop the value on the page. There’s a limitation of 10-15 links for every 1,000 words written.


4.4 Make Your Content Mobile Friendly


It wasn’t long ago when Google rolled out the Mobile-first index. At that moment things took a different turn. Basically, Google might show different search engine results on desktop compared to mobile. Now, Google’s system for crawling, indexing, and ranking for the desktop version of the website is different than Google’s system for those processes on mobile. If, in the old days you could have content about dental cleaning on desktop and content about a completely different topic on mobile on the same website, now that’s not possible. Website are bound to make the shift to a more mobile-focused index. 


Google mobile-first indexing is about how we gather content, not about how content is ranked. Content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way or desktop content. Moreover, if you only have desktop content, you will continue to be represented in our index.
Google logo Google


When talking about mobile friendliness, there are 5 ways to rank in mobile search results:

  • Create a responsive website and dynamic serving website
  • Serve structured data for the desktop and mobile version
  • Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify the mobile site
  • Add your mobile site in search console





Mobile accounts for half of all global web pages served and we are on an ascending evolution regarding mobiles searches. According to Statista, in 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3 percent in the previous year. Even if the mobile searches have experienced a continuous growth that doesn’t mean the desktop search decreased, but rather more people are using multiples devices to different actions and want to be always informed. 


Moreover, as of February 2017, mobile accounts for 65.1 percent of all web traffic in Asia and for 59.5 percent of all web traffic in Africa. 


Share of traffic


Step 5: Spread the Word

amplify content


Content amplification is a powerful method to reach a wider audience and multiply your links by hundreds. Amplifying your content should be mandatory if you want people to know about it and increase your website traffic.



After you finish writing your article, the process shouldn’t stop. You have to create awareness around it and push it to other people who might be interested. We are not talking about traditional social media marketing or emailing. That’s not amplification. You can look at the amplification process as a way to strengthen the signals of your post.

  • Reach new audiences through native advertising
  • Use storytelling to receive a social boost
  • Build a solid community around your brand
  • Use content syndication on Medium to build your blog audience
  • Collaborate with influencers to earn links
  • Post on StumbleUpon and absorb targeted traffic
  • Develop advocates through GaggleAMP
  • Integrate promotion messages or buttons on your webpage




Writing for search engine optimization purposes can be difficult and can become a hardhanded job. You can save any limping piece of content you might have with the strategies explained above. Every action well-invested will bring you results. We’ve tested multiple times the best practices and the most efficient ways to get your results by doing the right thing and not waste your time testing yourself. 


We’ve compressed our guideline by talking about the crucial elements that cannot miss from your SEO content writing process in 2019. The SEO friendly content pillars are contextuality, mobile friendliness, HTML tags, evergreen roots, user experience principles and video correlation. 


The post How to Write for SEO in 2019. The Step by Step Guide appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.