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SEMrush Toolbox: Position Tracking Tool




Craig: Hi, guys, and welcome to today's SEMrush webinar. Today is the SEMrush Toolbox Day and we're going to be talking about the Position Tracking tool. I'm happy to see that I am joined by someone who's been on previously, Mr. Jake Bohall. 

Thank you, Jake, for taking the time to join us once again. I think in your last episodes that you were on here, we got a lot of good feedback, man. People loved the data and looking forward to hearing some more. How are things with you?

Jake Bohall: Fantastic, Craig. Thanks so much. It's been crazy busy over the last couple of months. The one thing that like really just grabbed me about SEO is just how everything is always changing. There's never the same solution for the same problem and there's always a new problem and a new puzzle to figure out why and how and what can I do? 

Craig: I think it keeps you on your toes and a little bit of anxiety is never hurt anyone as long as it's not too much, but that's also debatable with Google and whether they do it too often. 

SEMrush Position Tracking Tool Overview

I will start sharing my screen. I'll go through the position tracking tool for 10, 15 minutes and then we're going to hand over to Jake to add has expert advice to how he uses the tool. 

First things first, where do you find the Position Tracking tool? On your dashboard, you can go to SEO Toolkit and come down to Rank Tracking, which is a fair bit down the page and I just need to zoom in. 

The first one on the Rank Tracking is the Position Tracking tool. You simply click on it and it will take you to a dashboard page and you can set up your own campaign. You can also find the tool under Projects as well. We will just click on that and I've got some sample data in here to show you the tool.

Once you put in your keywords, your location, and all of that stuff, it comes up with this dashboard here. There is also a Position Tracking app you can get for your phone, so be aware of that. I think it's quite a cool feature. 

We'll talk you through the dashboard, but after we put in a handful of keywords on here. Let's just get the landscape tab here. Just gives you an overall view of what's going on, your top keywords, positive and negative movements. Jake will go into that stuff in more detail when he's presenting. 

Rankings distribution is probably the one you want to be most focused on. The yellow or orange-y colors is position one to three and the color changes as per down here, you'll be able to see position four to 10, 11 to 20 and 21 to 100.

The Landscape tab is just giving you a nice dashboard that you can show to people or whatever, but I'm going to click on the next tab along, which is the overview. The overview allows you to add in... other domain names. It's going to give us an overview of what's going on in terms of competition and what-not.

You can also use other filters here. You can filter by keywords, you can filter by positions, SERP features, tags if you add any tags on here, volume, and there's some advanced filters. 

Also, the Overview tab allows you to have a ranking overview and look at it compared to your competition. I've not got any competition's data in here, but for example, it would show me my website against Page Optimizer Pro and we would be able to see who's doing more and where the ranking and all that stuff and give us an idea of your positions.

You can look at estimates in traffic if that's something that you would you look at. Visibility; you can have a look at all of this stuff. It gives you an idea of what's available, what opportunities are out there as well. You can also, over on the right-hand side here, add notes. 

The Overview; quite simple and easy to understand tab, and it will show you, as you see, visibility, estimated traffic, average position, and it'll give you everything here. It's quite important to tell you that you can actually filter out some of these different options as well to give you the exact data you want.

Next tab along is the Rankings Distribution. Rankings distribution, you can basically see the visibility, the difference, the estimated traffic. It will show I'm in the top three for three keywords. I can have a click on that, and it will show me what those three keywords are. 

Ranking is basically giving me an overview of what's going on. It's more repetitive data, but rankings in the top 20, rankings in the top 10, rankings in the top three. You'll be able to see top 20, top 100 as well and figure out a plan of action to tackle this. That's rankings distribution.

Landing Pages is the next tab along. Again, you can filter by URL, you can have all URLs, you can have new URLs, lost URLs, and everything else. That shows me the landing pages for the sales teams up here me to rank track and to be able to see the URL. There's all different types of landing pages for different keywords. 

It gives you an idea of how well your landing pages are performing or maybe what to get more keywords out of a particular landing page. You can go on there and add different keywords and stuff.

Competitors Discovery. Competition map, if I go down to the competitors, there's going to be 799 of them. There's literally 80 pages of competition out here, but it's giving me the keywords, average position. There's a whole heap of information to be gained from here.

You can set people up as competitors. If you zoom in closely, you can also blacklist. For example, if you don't care about this person, for example, then it will blacklist them on your list then you just basically go through there, find out who your competitors are. 

You'll be able to see competition map, winners and losers. It's going to show you different guys on here as well who rank for a bunch of sales teams out there. Whoever has the most keywords is always going to stick out like a sore thumb.

The bases and locations, now, again you just click on the blue button and you can add in different locations, you can add in keywords from different sources, whether that's Analytics or whatever it's going to be. You can also mess about and change it from desktop to mobile to tablet. 

You can start tracking the base and location, if different stuff get on there, and you want to see your desktop compared to mobile and stuff like that. That's quite a cool tab.

The last tab here is featured snippets. Not something I'd hugely go after at the moment. Probably should, I don't have a lot of time to go after a lot of stuff with my own website, I'm normally busy with something else, but featured snippets can bring in a hell of a lot of traffic and shouldn't be ignored. 

I mean, any opportunity to grab more traffic through, whether it's featured snippets or some other and part of the search engine, then take full advantage of it. It will show me how many keywords I've got with featured snippets there and if there's any opportunities for me as well.

Who is in the featured snippet as well is quite an important part of this little panel down here. For that particular search term “SEMrush tutorial”, SEMrush themselves who've got the featured snippet. If you felt that that was something you wanted to try and get, you're going to have to try wrestle that off them.

That is, in a nutshell, the rank tracking tool. A lot of this information can be exported, if you're wanting to give it to the client in the usual formats. 

One other thing that's still loading, just now, I'm not sure why…alerts. What alert does is alert you to specific ranking changes. Or if something moves by say five positions or two positions, whatever you place it up, it will then let you know that there's been a change, and it's up to you to then log in and identify what that change could be.

It says here, “set up alerts to immediately react upon changes in your campaign.” You can add up to 10 different alert triggers and get instant notifications by email. You can add different thresholds, any keyword or if you're focusing specifically on keywords, for example, if you know a guy that's totally obsessed with two or three keywords, you can set them up and just make sure that they stay on top. 

It's a really cool feature and I think, yeah, a lot of people should be taking advantage of that. That is, as I said, the alerts and that is the tool just in a brief overview. I'm sure Jake now will be able to give you information as to how he uses the tool and what he looks forward and all the good stuff that people want to hear. 

Jake Bohall: Awesome. Thank you so much, Craig. I really appreciate it. There's a couple areas that I'm going to cover, which probably are a little bit similar in a few places. I hope to dive a little bit deeper and give everyone a bit of insight as to how I use certain features of the tool on a running basis. 

Just a quick intro, my name is Jake Bohall. I lead the SEO team at Hive Digital, which is a search marketing agency that's working to help businesses that we feel create a better world. 

The SEO Hierarchy and Keywords

To start, I wanted to start off by talking a little bit just the hierarchy of SEO. When I'm approaching SEO for a particular client, we see the first thing that's foundational is making sure that the search engines can crawl and discover our site.

That's where we apply the majority of technical SEO, so making sure the search engines can see and understand things and then we dive into more like the content, the relevance, and making sure that there's a link between the intent of the user that's going to be visiting our site and the content that's on a page. 

Then the cherry on top is if you can get some links or authority, which are going to establish this order that you're more authoritative than other sites, and ideally, obviously, put you into a better ranking position. 

It's probably obvious to most of you, but keywords are considered everywhere and that's why they get so much attention. After all, what's the point in doing SEO if you're not trying to rank for something?

We're looking at crawling or discovery, typically the first signal to the search engine there is the keyword, does it appear on the domain, on URL segments? 

Then the majority of the work that we do with keywords is tied into the content or relevance and making sure that we're targeting keywords, again, that are mirroring the content of the page, the intent of the user and we do that through things like improving our titles or H1s, the body, things like the videos, actual text and images, all text, and that sort of thing. 

The keywords really weave into all aspects of the content of the page. Then with link development, generally we're looking for things like, do the keywords exist in the source content that's linking back to us, are we using them an anchor text and those types of things.

I did a presentation a couple weeks ago, for the Raleigh SEO meet up and I talked about, is SEO dead? One of the things that I covered was keywords as a focus and because of the way that SEOs have tended to focus so heavily on keywords, it's created this toxic environment where we try to do things or we've overused things and in the long run, we've made them obsolete or ineffective. 

Some things like keyword density ... I actually had a client approached me, because another SEO working on one of their projects had specifically told them keyword density metrics that they needed to hit. Actually, it was an audit that the client did behind me and the audit report came back and said, your H1 tags are out of order and your keyword density is not nearly as high as it should be for these target keywords.  I immediately obviously responded, I was like, well, H1 tags in or out of order, not really a big deal.

Sure, it would be ideal to have them in a certain order, but not on the priority list. The fact that this SEO just mentioned keyword density pretty much discredited everything that I could possibly imagine for them as an SEO. 

That being said, you have to have some keyword density. We have to include the keyword on the page or some closely related variant if we want to be able to rank for that term, but the idea of focusing on a specific keyword has sort of shifted away. 

Why to Track Keywords and Rankings

Now, it's more of a focus on an intent or covering the topic as a whole. If keywords are less relevant, then why do we track them? What is the point? I'm sitting here telling you, I think keywords are kind of a garbage metric in some ways and this sort of stuff. We focus too much on it.

I'm going to now present on why we should be tracking them. There's a couple of obvious ones like the C-Suite. Some guy top level he's looking at those three keywords that I will be setting some alerts up for a couple of my clients. He's looking at, or she is looking at this specific set of keywords where they go and they google it every day. 

Every time they google, they send you an email that says, "Hey, we're one position higher, one position lower than the last time," and they obsess over it. That's one problem, but by getting rank tracking in place, and ideally things like these alerts, you can stem or at least be aware of those types of changes and be able to report on bigger picture items than just the keywords that the C-Suite is looking at.

Monitoring overall health of the site, looking for growth opportunities, looking at trends versus problems, sometimes all your rankings go down and it's not necessarily the worst thing. 

For most of our clients, because these things are important, C-Suite reporting, being able to track trends and growth opportunities and so forth, one of the first things that I do with any of the onboarding our clients is either have them share an existing SEMrush project with us if they have it or if not, we'll create a new project, share it back with them. 

When you create a project, there's a ton of cool features, but we're focusing on Position Tracking today. You'll also notice in these slides I've blurred things out. That's just because I'm going to be showing you, in some cases, some data that has real client stuff in it and if they saw their name, they'd probably sue me so I try to avoid that.

My typical path as I get to the project, I get through into Position Tracking and then if this is new, if this is a new client, you're just going to be prompted with the setup. I wanted to cover this a little bit. 

Properly Setting Up Keyword Position Tracking

The first part of the setup is choosing the search engine and a device. I definitely recommend that you choose the device that is your current predominant traffic source. You can easily pull this data from Google Analytics or Search Console and just look at, am I getting more traffic from mobile or desktop and does that reflect my desire? 

For some clients, I have a lot of B2B clients where almost all of their traffic is on desktop, so I don't really want to waste my time caring so much about mobile when it's about 15% to 20% of their overall traffic. Whereas in a lot of e-com spaces where it's B2C, we're looking at like 75%, 80 plus percent on mobile traffic.

When we're doing the rankings tracking, obviously, we want that to reflect what we're actually targeting or seeing most often for our users. Step one is just setting this up. For me, it's Google US English. The next step is going to be adding your keyword.

One of the joys with tags inside of SEMrush is that you can start to add tags to particular keywords. In this case, you can see here the sandbox to add keywords, I typically start by either pasting from the keyword gap analysis that we do or using a combination of Search Console data or importing directly here using SEMrush. They make it really easy. 

Here when you're adding keywords, you can add a tag. I typically try to group keywords by things like brand, executive KPIs. I have like a specific tag that gets associated to every keyword that I know the executive team is frantically searching all the time.

You can have multiple tags on a keyword. You can either do this here in the sandbox or you can just import a CSV file or in this format keyword tags associated with it and then you import. Again, tags are really important. Don't skip out on those. 

Sometimes I'll just import every keyword that's getting impression share in GSC just so I've got a baseline to start, but I'll tag that with GSC because I might not want to include every keyword I've ever gotten an impression for in some of the reporting that I do up to the C-Suite. 

You obviously can't track everything. 15% of the keyword searches on Google have never been seen before. The idea that you could use any tool to inject keywords into this and cover every keyword your site could get rankings for is incredibly unlikely. 

Focus on things that you're going to want to build around, whether it's as a KPI or strategy and those are the ones that you're going to want to try. Again, you can always go back and edit keywords. 

The one caveat is that if you start changing keywords or adding them to particular groups, some of your trending graphs are going to see huge spikes. The position tracking campaigns operate in a silo that is separate from the general organic traffic data that you see elsewhere in SEMrush.

Once you add your keywords, it takes a few minutes for SEMrush to go ahead and pull that initial data. Then you can see here at the top, there's this thing for adding competitors, which Craig mentioned a moment ago, obviously, we love competition. 

When you first set up, you're not going to have any historical data. You saw this on Craig's screen share where it was just like there's today and there's no improved versus declined. You're always going to see this the first time you set up. It's like the same way, so when you first set up a search console account there's no historical data available, that type of thing where it does start tracking from this point forward.

Why You Need to Track Competitor Rankings

You see the option to add competitors, we definitely want to do this because this is what starts setting the stage for determining if it's just me when ranking just happen or traffic starts to move due to seasonality or in fact, Google oftentimes will boost certain sites during seasonality when they know this particular site is a Christmas only site. SEMrush automatically suggests competitors based off of keyword crossover.

One of the things to be mindful of and why it's important you don't just click the plus sign next to all these, a lot of times you'll see Wikipedia and Amazon and so forth showing up in there, so again, unless you're actually competing with Amazon, you don't want to add them. Maybe you just have like a product line and Amazon happens to have a little tiny section of giant Amazon that's focused on houseplants, you don't want to be competing with them.

In this case, you can see where I am with my competitors, you can get an idea if there's some huge outlier, but generally, it's nice to see yourself clustered in the middle of competitors when you start out. I want to be as good as those guys and I want to make sure that the people behind me aren't catching up. 

If you only pick bigger fish, then you'll miss out on the competition that's in your back door. If you only look at them, then you'll miss out on all the opportunities that you can discover by using some of the features in position tracking.

You can start to see now, over the course of this particular week, we can see like we gained six new keywords in the top three, lost one, gained 19 new keywords in the top 10, lost 10 and some overviews. If you're reporting back to the client or trying to assess like, hey, we did this site update on this particular day, did we notice a decline or any significant change following that? 

Once this tracking is in place, you can always go back and start looking at some of the snapshots. These were the changes, my top rankings, here are the keywords, it's all positive gains, here are those negative gains and here are the keywords that are like really bringing me the most, they're my number one positions, that type of thing.

You can drill in and flag which keywords are new, which ones did we lose? You're probably going to end up getting those questions from the C-Suite if you show them a report like this, so just know that that information is readily available for you.

This is probably one of my favorite features in SEMrush. With the competitors added in the rank tracking tool, it's looking at your visibility trends, which is essentially like if all of your keywords from position one, then your visibility is 100%. That's important to understand. The more rankings you have and higher positions than your competitor, obviously, the more visibility that you have. 

Estimated traffic is just like the click-through curve estimates on how much traffic they think you might be getting for each of these sites based off of the keywords that have been selected for the report. 

When an algorithm update rolls out and then suddenly you look at and you see, you stayed steady or maybe even you move down a little bit, but you start to see things like everybody else moved down a lot more than you did. We actually saw a lot of this when like the medic update rolled out. 

We had clients who'd say, we lost all of our rankings, what's going on? What can we do? The first thing for us to determine is whether or not this is systemic. Is this because of the algorithm update, is it something unique to us or is this something that systemic across this search space as a whole for this particular vertical? 

That's where this really becomes helpful is when you see other people are moving down at an equal pace than you or ideally, maybe you're not moving down as heavily or as aggressively as they are. It can help hedge some of those concerns with the client and you can tell them, listen, everybody took a hit. This is part of the algorithm update.

Now, at the same time, if everybody stays flat, and you go down, then you're going to have to answer for that because, obviously, you've done something wrong or the developers have done something wrong. 

That's why it's important that you're looking at sites that are similar in scope and that type of thing so that these types of comparisons and that type of data extraction or interpretation is valid, because if you have Amazon and so forth in here, a bunch of little bitty tiny competitors, then this isn't going to really paint an accurate picture for you.

Reporting on Rankings Changes to Clients

Another awesome thing, the rankings distribution. There's a ton of information in this tool that make reporting to clients so easy. I can grab for each of the competitors that have listed and show this is how many keywords we have in the top three, top 10 and so forth, versus competitors and obviously, hopefully, you're winning out on all of those. 

You can slice this data based off of the KPIs or the tags that you have specific competitors. You can filter by keywords. You can say, every keyword with an X in it and see exactly how many or what percentage of those keywords you're ranking for in comparison.

The landing pages tab, I love the fact because it gives you the keyword count by page. I always sort by this, especially if you start looking in the last column. Here we have all URLs. 

You can also look in the last column and see the keyword counts and start to flag. If one page lost a bunch of keywords, then that particular page probably has an issue and that's something you need to go look at. Sometimes developers break things. This is a good way to help find it. 

In this case, this page has 23 more keywords than it had in the period before and so then we'll apply like the Pareto principle approach towards prioritizing improvements for things like conversion rate optimization on this page because we know that it's growing. It's getting more attention. It's getting more links. 

Obviously, this is especially wonderful if these are pages that you've been working on because then you can flag those to the C-Suite. You can export that data into Excel and start to pivot it. You can look at things like the average positioning or position changes. Everything in SEMrush you can export almost always and play with that in Google Sheets or Python or whatever tools you want to play with.

I said the first thing that made me so excited was the visibility and tracking that over time. The other one is featured snippets. It's just awesome. The pro tip there is, obviously you want to always look at the site that's ranking and taking that featured snippet and ask yourself, honestly, can I do a better job at answering this question than them?

If you can't, then don't waste your time trying. If you can then absolutely put the effort into it. This is another where you can take that and dump it into a pivot table. You can pull like the average CPC and things like that and average search volume out of SEMrush and that export and so you can start grouping pages by the want by the particular keywords or sometimes just keywords across multiple pages.

Every time I turn around, there's something new and amazing in SEMrush. They've got the Content Analyzer stuff that they're releasing now, which I think is incredible and I can't wait to be able to dump prioritization from featured snippets into Content Analyzer. That was all that I had to present today, Craig. Do you have any questions or are there questions from the audience?

Craig: Sadly, we don't actually have time for questions. Yeah. That makes sense. Thank you again for joining us, Jake. I think it's again, another great insight into how you work and how you're using the tool. And thanks once again everyone else for watching. 

Jake Bohall: Thank you, Craig, and thank you SEMrush. I appreciate it.

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