Imagine a world without keywords.
What do you feel?
Relief? Stress? Wondering if you’d even have a job in this crazy alternate universe?
For anyone who working with SEO and content marketing, keywords occupy a lot of mental space.
Our work lives seem to revolve around keywords at times.
Even so, we understand why they have become so important.
Without keywords, search engines would be pretty pointless.
Imagine walking into a library that used no organizational system, but simply shoved all of its books onto the shelves at random.
Why We Need Keywords, Search Engines and Rankings
In that systemless library, you could spend days or even weeks searching for a particular book. In the end, you might find that you’ve searched in vain if the book in question wasn’t even among the stacks.
Without keywords, the web would be no different. All that great content would be floating out there, just waiting to be displayed on your screen (or, more to the point, the screens of your potential customers, clients or followers).
It would essentially be impossible to find content without search engines and keywords there to help you poke around.
When keywords are truly germane to the content of a page, that page will have higher rankings in search engine results pages (AKA the SERPs). The higher your content is ranking for a keyword, the more visitors you’ll get from search engine traffic.
For this reason, it’s important to rank your content for keywords, and it’s equally important to monitor those keyword rankings.
Yes, You Have to Have a Keyword Ranking Tool
You didn’t spend the time, money and effort to build a great website only to let it drift away to the bottom of the search engine results pages, did you?
If you don’t actively keep your content fresh and relevant, it won’t stay that way on its own. Unless you regularly monitor your keyword rankings, content that was well-thought-out when first created can soon slide into irrelevance.
You might be producing content that doesn’t generate rankings—if you don’t know which content is missing the mark, then you’re doomed to keep making that same mistake. That leads to a site full of content but no keyword rankings.
Likewise, without a keyword ranking tool you won’t know which content is really performing well. That leads to missed opportunities. You could be producing more of this great content, but you don’t even know what’s working best for you.
If you want to know how you’re performing, no other measure of content marketing success works as well as keyword rankings.
Social signals—such as how many new likes or retweets your site/brand is getting (or not getting)—can give both false positives and false negatives for actual engagement. Your analysis must go deeper to be valid.
As you see how certain content is performing for your chosen keywords, what’s getting more or less traction, you can redirect your energy accordingly. You can stick with what’s performing well, and drop whatever isn’t hitting the SERPs.
How to Choose a Keyword Ranking Tool
There are a handful of decent free keyword ranking monitoring tools out there, and there are a number of paid tools that are well worth the expense.
I know, some of you have been taught to avoid paying for your SEO strategies to be carried out. Paid links, paid guest posts, paid rankings—that stuff tends to be offered by less-than-reputable people. Black hats, if you will.
But we’re talking about tools. That’s a whole different ball game.
Great tools give you the information you need to do better.
The issue is rarely choosing a keyword ranking tool that lacks features and functions you want. Rather, since the tools are so well-developed these days, it’s usually a matter of choosing a program that isn’t too complex or more robust than you need.
For example, you might have no need to monitor the keyword rankings of all your competitors, so you can avoid choosing a tool that focuses on these functions. You can invest your money in a tool that goes a step further with another feature that’s more relevant to your work and the results you want.
Choosing a keyword ranking tool that lets you check both real-time keyword ranking data and watch overall ranking trends, however, will appeal to almost all content marketing types.
The simplest keyword ranking tools might only allow you to check current ranking information. While this might be all you think you need, this might mean that you’re always being reactive in your content marketing, never truly planning a forward-looking content strategy.
When you watch the trends of keyword ranking, you can actively adjust your content to create the ideal landing place for search results.
The 5 Best Keyword Ranking Tools
One of these keyword ranking tools will probably be a great fit for you in your monitoring efforts, since they’re some of the more reputable and popular tools for this purpose.
If you want to be thorough, you might even mix and match some of these tools to have many of their unique features at your disposal.
SerpBook is all about keyword rank tracking. That’s it’s thing.
This simplicity and laser-focus leads to clear, concise reporting that’s easy to read, share and act on. It’s a great tool for affiliate marketers, bloggers, the folks running small content marketing projects and even for huge teams of marketers who need to stay on the same page with their keyword rankings.
You can schedule regular reporting on keyword rankings and you can generate a report on demand, any time you need fresh data.
Their plans are relatively affordable, ranging from $16 per month for a basic, personal account to $330 per month for enterprise accounts (designed for very large businesses).
If you’re in a highly competitive market and/or in a small or niche market—one of two yarn-selling boutiques in town, for example—then WooRank might be the best keyword monitoring tool for you.
It makes comparing your keyword rankings to that of competing sites easy, and even offers suggestions that can help boost your rankings.
It’s not 100% dedicated to tracking keyword rankings, as it also offers a suite of SEO and site analysis tools to make sure your site is performing to the best of its ability. You can complete an advanced SEO audit of your site with this tool, so it’s a good investment for any content marketing team that needs to go that extra step.
Since it comes with so many additional SEO features, this tool naturally costs a bit more for some users. It starts at $49.99 per month for the most basic plan, but keeps the enterprise pricing competitive at $249 per month.
If you’re serious about getting SEO results and keeping track of them, Monitor Backlinks is an indispensable tool.
Monitor Backlinks is indeed focused on backlinks—but it also throws a great keyword rank tracking tool into the mix. After all, your backlinks affect your rankings, and your rankings affect your backlinks. They’re a natural pair.
In Monitor Backlinks, you’re able to quickly see your Average Keyword Rankings every week to track your progress. On the same graph you can also see how your competitors are doing.
Other keyword features include individual keyword positions at a glance, weekly keywords progress reports, keyword email reports and competitor rankings for your chosen keywords.
You’ll also get to see a nice estimate of the organic traffic being driven to your keywords by search engines.
This tool, despite having so many great SEO features and rich reporting tools to work with, is very affordable. It starts at a mere $16.50 per month for a super basic plan—though with that, you’ll only be able to track one domain and no competitors. For the competitor features and more, you’ll need to upgrade to another plan.
With all that this tool has to offer, it would definitely be worth trying it out for the free one-month trial, at the very least.
This is a solid tool for laser-focused check-ups on specific keywords and their rankings. You’ll get really in-depth data, comprehensive reporting and a results-oriented dashboard that can be integrated with your Google Analytics (and Clicky). The goal is to give you a sense of how your keyword trackings relate to your ROI, goals and campaign strategies.
It has strived to make a science of keyword tracking, and it has come pretty close.
It offers daily tracking for rankings aggregated from Bing, Yahoo, Google and all the other major search engines.
A free version is available, though you can only track 10 keywords at a time with it. My suspicion is that the free trial is meant to give you a taste of what you could learn from the full tool.
The pricing is competitive with the other tools here, starting at $49.95 per month for the basics and capping off everything with the enterprise package at $299.95 per month.
This is a Cadillac-level keyword ranking platform that offers lots of bells and whistles, like backlink ranking analysis, social media management tools and the ability to keep tabs on the ranking performance of up to 10 competitors.
It does a lot of unique little things with keywords, like grouping keywords to distribute across the pages of your site and allowing you to do your keyword research right within the platform.
This particular SEO suite runs the gambit of available features in rank tracking tools, including backlinks monitoring, website SEO audits, on-page SEO assessments and guidance with developing a complete marketing plan.
For what it offers, the price of its plans is surprisingly affordable—you could get started with a basic package that monitors just 50 keywords for only $7 per month, or another that monitors 100 keywords for $12 per month. The next step up in plans, which unlocks a bunch of their more advanced SEO features, is $39 per month.
The Takeaways About Keyword Ranking Tools
Keyword monitoring is about helping your site and your content rank for the keywords, not about making the keywords in question perform in some way. People are already searching for those top-ranked keywords. There’s no work for you to do there.
When you see this or that keyword performing well, it doesn’t mean you need to stuff the term into every single paragraph of content on your site (in fact, don’t do that), it means you need to generate meaningful content that’s related to the term and that features strategically-placed keywords that build off of it.
The right keyword monitoring tool will save you time.
It can even help you make money.
The trick is, you need to choose wisely and take the time to regularly review (and act on) the data it offers you.
Then, the SERPs can be yours.