How Keyword Monitoring Can Transform Your Online Presence

Semrush Team

Nov 20, 202313 min read
Keyword Monitoring

Imagine playing a board game and “strategically” moving the pieces around without following the rules or knowing the game’s objective. You're just going through the motions without complete comprehension of the strategy or the end goal. 

That’s what it’s like doing SEO or PR without keyword monitoring. 

Today, you’ll learn what keyword monitoring is, why it is important, and how you can do it yourself.

What Is Keyword Monitoring?

Tracking specific words, terms, or phrases online is known as keyword monitoring. It’s a way to keep tabs on your marketing performance and spot public commentary that relates to your business. 

You can use keyword monitoring in two key ways:

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO): Track how well your content ranks for specific keywords
  2. Public relations (PR): Track conversations on topics relevant to your business to see who’s talking about them and in what way

These activities are similar, but keyword monitoring functions differently for each. And you don’t measure the same things. 

Keyword Monitoring for SEO

For SEO, keyword monitoring involves tracking how well specific pages of your website rank in search results for particular keywords.

For example, let’s say you wrote a blog post about “top gardening tools.” Your goal is to rank highly for that search phrase, so the blog can attract more visitors to your site. You’d use keyword monitoring to track the keyword “top gardening tools” to see if—and in what position—your blog post appears in the search results.

Staying on top of your keyword positioning is a must in order to optimize your website traffic. After all, the first link in Google search results averages a 27.6% click-through rate (CTR), according to research from Backlinko.

Google organic CTR breakdown by position

That means a link is 10 times more likely to get a click in the first position than it would in the 10th position for the same keyword. Generally, the higher the link position, the better the CTR, the more traffic you’ll receive.

Keyword monitoring makes it easy to track your progress toward ranking goals and spot opportunities to rank highly for relevant terms. You can use the insights to refine your SEO strategies and attract more organic traffic to your site.

Keyword Monitoring for Public Relations

When it comes to the public perception of your brand, keyword monitoring involves tracking all instances a particular keyword or phrase appears on the web, in press, and on social media.

For example, if you work at Pepsi and you're monitoring “Pepsi” as a keyword, you’ll get notified every time it’s mentioned on a website, in a blog, in a social media post, or in the news. 

This is also known as “mention tracking.” 

Advanced keyword monitoring tools also conduct sentiment analysis. This means that in addition to tracking the mention, the tool can determine if the context was positive, negative, or neutral towards your chosen keyword.

This type of monitoring makes it easy to find out how the general (online) public feels about your product or brand. You can use those insights to improve sales, marketing, and customer experience.

Why Is It Important to Monitor Keywords?

Monitoring your keywords gives you critical data you can use to understand and improve your SEO efforts and brand perception. As well as your overall marketing performance.

Here are six specific ways it can help. 

1. Track Your SEO Success

Ranking for a large number of relevant keywords, and in higher positions, typically equates to more organic traffic from search engines. That’s why keyword rankings are a critical key performance indicator (KPI) for your SEO strategy. 

Keyword monitoring provides data on how well your pages rank for your target keywords.

Keyword monitoring report dashboard

Creating new blog posts, launching new landing pages, and optimizing your website are all examples of activities that will impact your keyword rankings. 

Use SEO tools with keyword monitoring capabilities to track those ranking changes and gauge the success of your content marketing and SEO strategies.

2. Improve Your On-Page SEO

A drop in keyword rankings can signal that something is off with your on-page SEO

For example:

  • Missed search intent
  • Poor readability
  • Poor internal tracking
  • Lack of title tags and alt tags
  • Errors with heading structure

Keyword monitoring can flag a drop in the rankings for a specific keyword. That way you know to check for errors in your on-page SEO elements. 

You can fix these errors. Then use keyword monitoring to keep an eye on the rankings to make sure they improve over time.

3. Understand How Algorithms Affect Your Rankings

Keyword monitoring can help you understand how search engine algorithm updates affect your rankings.

Search engines such as Google roll out thousands of algorithm updates every year, big and small. With each update, they slightly modify the factors that determine which pages rank well in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

These updates can lead to “SERP volatility,” or shifts in which pages rank for which queries. 

“SERP volatility for the last 30 days" graph

By monitoring your keywords, you can keep a pulse on how your rankings are adjusting in the wake of algorithm updates. You can then apply the learnings to your strategy in order to keep your search engine rankings intact. 

4. Track What Your Competitors Are Doing

The brand and product-related keywords you monitor don’t have to be yours. 

Keyword monitoring tools can help you spot pages your competitors are using to attract new customers. Or even track their website position directly. That way, you can see if (and where) they’re investing time and resources into SEO and content creation.

If your competitors use SEO as a key part of their marketing strategy, this is a handy way to stay informed of what they’re doing. You can also use this information to predict how your content might be affected in the SERPs, spot unique opportunities you have to compete, or just keep a pulse on how they’re positioning themselves in the market.

Brand sentiment and PR analysis tools can monitor keywords in a way that helps you understand what’s happening in your industry. 

Results for "digital marketing tools" query on X

For example, let’s say you’re a SaaS company selling a new suite of digital marketing tools. You might want to track the term “digital marketing tools” to find out which tools people mention frequently, how they feel about those tools, and how their attitudes are shifting over time. This allows you to spot trends and jump on them with new marketing strategies or product updates that are sure to resonate.

6. Avert Public Relations Crises 

A social media crisis can produce a deluge of negative comments and even press, which can be challenging to overcome. 

Imagine launching a new software feature without realizing it contains a critical bug that erases users’ data. Those affected will likely voice their frustration online before they contact you. 

By monitoring keywords and trending topics, you can detect such incidents quickly. And promptly address customer concerns. Because you had an early read with keyword monitoring, you can navigate through the crisis more effectively.

How to Monitor Keywords for SEO

We’ll use the Position Tracking tool in Semrush.

Start by clicking “Position Tracking” in the left-hand menu of Semrush.

“Position Tracking” highlighted in the left-hand menu of Semrush

In the text box, type your website’s domain. Then click the “Set up tracking” button.

"" entered into Position Tracking search bar

Next, you’ll arrive at the “Targeting” screen.

You’ll be prompted to choose a “Device” and “Search Engine.” Adjust the settings based on your average user profile. If you’re not sure, the Google and desktop options are good default choices.

Click the text box under “Location” and use the drop-down to select the country or location you want to track. 

When you’re done, select “Continue To Keywords.”

"Targeting" screen of Position Tracking settings

Next, specify which keywords you want to track on the “Keywords” screen.

"Keywords" screen of Position Tracking settings

If you have a list of keywords prepared, type or paste them into the text box. 

If you’ve prepared a list of keywords using another Semrush tool like Keyword Manager, you can import them by clicking “Import from…” You can also use this option to import keywords from Google Analytics or a CSV. 

Once you’ve added your keywords, click “Add keywords to campaign” > “Start Tracking.”

“Add keywords to campaign” and "Start Tracking" buttons highlighted

Next, you’ll be taken to the “Position Tracking” report. 

"Landscape" report in Position Tracking tool

The “Landscape” tab will show you high-level metrics across all the keywords you’re monitoring. Here, you can see your overall visibility, an estimate of the organic traffic your site receives, and the average position for which you rank. 

Drill deeper to see each of your keywords by clicking the “Overview” tab.

“Overview” tab highlighted

This will take you to the “Rankings Overview” section.

“Rankings Overview” section of Overview report

Here, you can see the keywords you’re tracking alongside your current and historical rankings. This view helps you spot changes or fluctuations that might require further investigation or intervention.

With Semrush, you can do the following types of keyword monitoring:

  • Rankings: Track your keyword rankings and their movements daily
  • Landing pages: Find out which pages on your website rank for which keywords
  • Devices and locations: Compare rankings between devices (e.g., mobile vs desktop) and locations (e.g., United States vs. Canada)
  • Competitor discovery: Find competitors that rank for the same keywords you do
  • Ranking distribution: Compare rankings for relevant keywords between you and a competitor
  • Featured snippets: Find out which keywords return results with featured snippets

Best Keyword Monitoring Tools for SEO

Semrush Position Tracking

The Position Tracking tool is the easiest way to monitor your rankings—whether you’re working with one website or 20. 

Open the tool and click on the name of a project name to view your most recent results. 

"" project highlighted in Position Tracking tool

The “Landscape” tab will show your recent movements, including your overall visibility, estimated traffic, and average position. Scroll down to see top-performing keywords, keywords for which your position improved, and keywords for which your position declined. 

"Landscape" report in Position Tracking

Besides keyword monitoring, Semrush offers an entire suite of tools for keyword research and discovery, competitive research, backlink analysis, and much more.

Price: You can track up to 500 keywords with the Pro plan ($129.95/month), 1,500 keywords with the Guru plan ($249.95/month), and 5,000 keywords with the Business plan ($499.95/month).

Ahrefs Rank Tracker

Ahrefs Rank Tracker tool

The Rank Tracker by Ahrefs is another popular keyword monitoring tool. You can add or import your keywords and track their positions across 190 countries worldwide. 

Ahrefs has a solid number of useful features (such as the Keyword Explorer) that make it a common choice for agencies and SEO teams. However, you’ll have to upgrade past the lite plan to access more advanced features such as Content Explorer and Competitive Analysis.

Price: Track up to 750 keywords with the Lite plan ($99/month), 2,000 with the Standard plan ($199/month), and an unlimited number of keywords with the Advanced plan ($399/month).

SE Ranking

Keyword Rank Tracker tool

SE Ranking is ideal for agencies because it allows users to easily monitor keywords and simultaneously dispatch reports for multiple websites. That means you can deliver insights to clients easily. The platform also boasts data accuracy per user feedback. 

Price: Track 750 keywords with the Essential plan ($55/month), 2,000 keywords with the Pro plan ($109/month), and 5,000 keywords with the Business plan ($239/month). The Pro and Business plans include the option to increase the number of keywords for an additional cost.


SerpWatch dashboard

SerpWatch is a keyword rank tracking tool designed mostly for marketing agencies.

You can create multiple projects each with their own keywords and track rankings over time. SerpWatch also provides a range of reporting tools and automations. You can set up alerts and have ranking updates posted directly in Slack.

Pricing: Track up 250 keywords with daily updates (7,500 tracking updates per month) for $49/month. Track up to 2,500 keywords (75,000 checks per month) for $349/month.

Best Keyword Monitoring Tools for Public Relations

Google Alerts

Google Alerts

This free tool lets you choose the keywords you want to monitor, where to monitor them, and how often you want to receive reports. 

It’s ideal for users on a budget who want to receive notices about brand and popular term mentions. 

Keep in mind that Google Alerts provides coverage for web content mentions only (like in blogs and news). You’ll need to use another monitoring tool for social media. Additionally, it’s important to know that Google Alerts are not delivered in real time. It may not be a good fit if your brand needs more timely reporting.

Price: Google Alerts is free to use.


BrandMentions tool landing page

BrandMentions combines web and social listening capabilities. The tool provides comprehensive brand and topic reports that show you all the instances your tracked phrases and terms were used around the web.

One of the major use cases for BrandMentions is competitor analysis. (They call it “spying”.) These features allow you to monitor your competitors to identify trends and strategies that may help improve your own marketing and PR efforts.

Pricing: Their most popular plan allows you to track 30 keywords or topics and provides real-time reporting updates. It’s $299/month.


Mention landing page

This platform provides tools to monitor key phrases and topics and engage in social listening. It also allows you to plan and schedule social media content for your own channels. 

Mention helps individuals and teams turn keyword monitoring data into actionable insights. As well as craft and execute a consistent social media marketing strategy of their own.

Pricing: There are four plans to choose from.

  • Solo: 1 user, 2 alerts, up to 5,000 mentions ($49/month)
  • Pro: 10 users, 5 alerts, up to 10,000 mentions ($99/month)
  • ProPlus: unlimited users, 7 alerts, up to 20,000 mentions ($179/month)
  • Company: unlimited users, 10+ alerts, 100,000+ mentions (contact for pricing)

Reporting features are unlocked in plans $99/month and above.


Brand24 landing page

Brand24 calls itself the #1 artificial intelligence (AI) social listening tool. It can track keywords and mentions for over 108 languages around the world. 

The AI element means the tool can provide context alongside brand monitoring. It sorts your brand mentions according to user sentiment (how the poster spoke about your brand). This allows you to easily discover how your audience perceives you. 

Price: There are four plans.

  • Individual: 3 keywords ($99/month)
  • Team: 7 keywords ($179/month)
  • Pro: 12 keywords ($249/month)
  • Enterprise: 25 keywords ($499/month)

What Sort of Keywords Should You Monitor?

The types of keywords you track should be dictated by your goals and your marketing strategy. 

Understanding the most common keyword types can help.

Branded Keywords

Simply put, branded keywords are those that relate specifically to your brand. This includes your brand’s name, e.g., “Pepsi.” And the names of your products, e.g., “Pepsi Wild Cherry,” “Aquafina,” and “Mug Root Beer.”

It’s a best practice to always rank #1 in search results for your branded keywords. 

This is essential for attracting organic traffic. And it might be more competitive than you think. 

If you have a strong online presence, you may naturally rank #1 for your brand terms. But competitors often try to steal this real estate. In many industries, it’s common for competitors to write content that will earn them a high ranking for your branded keywords. They’re trying to persuade search engine users to visit their website instead of yours.

You should fight hard to rank first in the SERPs for branded terms. Then protect that ranking with continuous monitoring.

Branded keywords can include more words than just your brand or product name. Using the Pepsi example, other branded keywords might include:

  • “Pepsi logo”
  • “Pepsi products”
  • “Pepsi careers”
  • “Mug Root Beer ingredients”

Working on a PR campaign? Branded keywords are even more important. Monitor their mentions to find out what your audience posts online concerning your brand. For example, whether they like a particular Pepsi product or not.

Money Keywords

Money keywords are words or phrases that indicate potential for sales, conversions, or revenue.

For example, if you sell gardening tools, “buy gardening tools” would likely be a money-generating keyword for your business. 

Other related money keywords could include:

  • Great garden trowels
  • Purchase gardening overalls
  • Best rakes

For SEO purposes, keep track of how you’re ranking for your money keywords. A drop in just one position could significantly impact your revenue.

For PR purposes, tracking ranking for these kinds of terms is less important. But tracking real-time mentions of these keywords can come in handy.

Target Keywords

Target keywords are those you’re deliberately trying to rank for as a part of your SEO strategy. 

For example, if you want to rank for “CRM software,” you’ll be creating content and adjusting your pages in that direction. Track your performance for this specific keyword to find out if you’re successful.

There are different types of target keywords, such as:

  • Customer-defining keywords include a reference to the type of customer you’re trying to attract, for example: CRM software for real estate
  • Product keywords include mention of a specific type of product, for example: folding chair for camping
  • Competitor keywords include mention of a rival business, for example: Home Depot vs Lowes

Industry Keywords

Industry keywords describe your specific industry. These keywords are relevant both for SEO and PR. 

For SEO, ranking highly for industry keywords is important if you want to be perceived as a top voice in your industry. Doing so can also bring targeted traffic to your website. 

For PR efforts, rank isn’t as important. But it’s hugely beneficial to track industry keyword mentions online.

For example, if you’re in the healthcare industry, here are a few keywords you might track:

  • Medical insurance
  • Private health insurance
  • United healthcare
  • Health insurance companies
  • Health insurance quotes

Keeping tabs on these keywords lets you see how your target audience perceives and feels about these topics. Use this information to get new content ideas, address customer concerns, adjust your positioning, do competitor research, and more.

Monitor Your Keywords with Semrush

The Position Tracking tool lets you monitor the keywords most important to your SEO, PR, and overall marketing efforts. 

You can assess your current rankings, compare your performance against your competitors, and track the progress of your work. 

Not ready to commit? No problem. You can try it for free today.

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