Let’s talk about being a wise consumer in the SEO market.
The market is flooded with SEO tools and rank trackers all claiming to be the best, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s all fair game in the name of marketing. But having dozens of tools all claiming to be the best does become confusing, especially for a sensible consumer that truly wants to explore all options before deciding on a tool.
If you are currently searching for a SERP tracker for your SEO needs, considering replacing your current tool, or just shopping around to see what’s new on the block, this guide is especially for you!
We will focus on SERP tracking and will go over all the points that need to be examined if you want to choose the right SERP tracker that will hold up to SEO-industry standards for 2018 and beyond! After this guide, you will truly know how to measure a SERP tracker and be able to better decide if it holds up to par or not.
Challenge us! Ultimately this is a PRT blog, so this will be a self-serving article, but because we are confident in what we offer to our users, we offer you this challenge: If you find any tool that truly surpasses the points we will bring up in this guide, we encourage you to go for it and use that tool. BUT if you realize that the quality and features of that SERP tracking tool can’t match what you are about to learn, be sure to take us for a FREE spin! We are confident you will eventually discover that we DO offer the best and most affordable solution on the market for rank tracking, bar none.
This is a bit long, but nonetheless a VERY important read since every point discussed here is relevant for the majority of SEO needs. So set aside these 10 minutes for reading. You will be thankful that you did.
Rank tracking Google the PROPER way
Rank tracking isn’t as simple as it was even 5 years ago – rank tracking Google has become a highly advanced task, and proper rank tracking requires some study on your part (links to some search-engine and rank-tracking lore will be provided all throughout the article)
But here is what you need to know – Google is the no.1 search engine in the world and the main target of nearly all SEO campaigns, so these will the first and most important elements to look for:
Rank tracking by exact geo-targeted location
Because Google geo-targets EVERY search result, you need a SERP tracker that can distinguish ranks by their geo-targeted location, first and foremost. What this means is that you need to be able to see how your website ranks from the relevant location that corresponds to your business. If you are promoting a car rental service in New York, then you need to know your organic Google visibility in the area that you serve, and only that. With proper local SEO, you will be ranked high in the NY area and ranked lower in irrelevant locations such as Paris, for example.
Here’s where it becomes critical: Many rank trackers on the market can’t show you ranks by exact location. They instead choose to show you an almost made-up rank that is compiled by ancient methods which are irrelevant by today’s standards! Make sure your rank tracker can show you ranks based on EXACT location, such as PRT:
In fact, we offer the most pinpointed rank tracking that is available on the market today, down to neighborhood and airport levels. More about that here:
|Google airport ranks and the new levels of local SEO rank tracking in 2018|
The difference between knowing your exact location rank and a made-up general rank is staggering. The applications for real, high-quality rank tracking can only be achieved with EXACT location rank tracking.
Rank tracking by UI language
Google differentiates between international and translated versions of websites and ranks each version differently to suit the target audience, based on their Google UI language. You have to know how each translated and multi-regional webpage is ranked for the UI language that it is targeted for.
For example, let’s pretend that you run an e-commerce website that is in English and translated to French. You would need to know how the French webpages rank for people with French as their default UI language and how the English version pages rank for people with English as their default Google UI language.
Basically, always make sure the SERP tracker can differentiate Google ranks based on UI language as well, otherwise you will NOT be able to properly track any multi-regional or translated websites. Naturally, we can track Google based on any UI language
More on multi-regional rank tracking tactics and important pointers:
|How to win at rank tracking multiple-region/language URLs following Google’s update|
Rank tracking by device type (desktop vs. mobile)
Most of you know by now that Google personalizes search results depending on whether the user is searching from a mobile device or a desktop PC. The gist of it is that mobile-friendly sites that follow Google’s protocols will be favored in ranks on mobile devices. It has been the case for several years, and these days mobile and desktop ranks for virtually all searches will be 99% different. This makes tracking both types of ranks a MUST for everyone (even if you don’t have a dedicated mobile version of your website).
Luckily, most SERP trackers today can offer this ability, but not all. Make sure the SERP tracker can handle, at the very least, tracking both mobile and desktop ranks. This is ABC stuff even for the most novice SEO campaign. There are no excuses not to track both types of ranks anymore!
More on mobile-first rank tracking:
|Time to venture deep into the mobile top 100 Google ranks with Pro Rank Tracker!|
Future-proofing SEO and rank tracking by advanced mobile layers
This is a new-frontier subject, and it is slowly starting to pick up traction as awareness of it grows. And that is the next level of Google’s personalization.
Google, as it turns out, personalizes search results not only by mobile vs. desktop, but also based on what mobile OS and screen size (phone or tablet) the user has.
PRT has discovered that Apple users and Android users see different ranks:
Not only that, but phone users and tablet users also see different ranks:
Roughly speaking, tablet ranks will gravitate towards desktop rankings because tablet screen sizes are closer to desktop monitors, while phone screen sizes are still purely mobile ranks. Each will have a unique rank that depends on OS type.
This means tracking just mobile and desktop ranks isn’t enough anymore. You need to also track the 4 types of common mobile ranks, which are iOS, Android Phone, Android Tablet, and iPad.
In all likelihood, this will become an SEO standard come 2019. We are sure that other tools on the market will eventually catch up, but for now, we are the only ones that offer this ability!
This will become more and more common in 2019, and you need to be ready for that. We won’t be surprised when an official announcement happens and everyone outside of PRT will start panicking.
So, if you want to future-proof your SEO campaigns, targeting Apple or Android devices specifically in your SEO strategies (such as for exclusive OS apps), or simply want to make sure your visibility is good on all fronts, you NEED to have this feature.
Just as an eye opener, here’s a case where a certain website vanished from mobile visibility for Android users entirely :
If you want to know more, we cover this subject more in depth here:
|What Google isn’t telling us about their current (and future) mobile ranking algorithm|
Specific Google SERP elements
Finally, we have certain Google SERP elements that have their own separate ranks that can and should also be tracked in many cases. We are talking about 3 elements here:
- Snack Pack
The 3 golden coveted positions by every local SEO campaign that promotes businesses with a physical location. The ability to show exact geo-targeted ranks is a requirement here. A rank tracker that can show exact location ranks should also be able to show Snack Pack ranks by exact location.
- Top 100 extended map results
If you click on “more places” or “maps”, you will see the Top 100 map results in the physical vicinity of the search. These ranks can also be tracked individually. PRT’s Local Finder feature handles that easily.
- Google video carousel
This is a must for anyone doing any video marketing. The video carousel has a regular organic rank of its own and the video has a rank within the carousel itself. The rank tracker needs to be able to track both of these ranks for this feature.
These 3 features all have tremendous value to SEO professionals and can even surpass and outshine regular organic listings for the relevant businesses. Be sure to have a tool that can also include tracking those elements in the total package, otherwise you might need these features someday, and you will end up searching for another tool.
PRT can track all 3 with ease!
Tracking additional search engines
Google may be the most popular, but it certainly isn’t the only player. There are several other major search engines that can’t be neglected by the SEO professional.
Yahoo! and Bing
For a complete and thorough SEO approach, it’s wise to optimize for Yahoo! and Bing as well. Targeting Google simply isn’t enough if you want to have the widest reach. Bing brings some demographic benefits to the table and is more reliable in terms of sudden rank-shattering updates. Yahoo! is powered by Bing, so any rank tracker that can track one should also be able to track the other.
An important search engine to track for anyone targeting Russian-speaking audiences (which amount to more than 200 million worldwide, by the way).
Even though this is an Alphabet Group child company, YouTube has completely unique ranking algorithms and search index, both separate from Google. Anyone doing content creation or video marketing on YouTube will benefit knowing their unique YouTube rank alongside their Google rank.
The biggest e-commerce search engine in the world, surpassing Google in e-commerce searches, with its own ranking algorithm and search index. Anyone selling their wares on Amazon will want to see their Amazon rank alongside their Google rank in one convenient place
Also, note that simply tracking Amazon.com isn’t enough, since Amazon has international versions with completely unique ranks — so ideally, you need a tool that can handle all of Amazon’s different sites.
You never know which type of client you will get or what business you will need to promote. That’s why it’s ideal to have the ability to track as many search engines in one tool as possible. If a rank tracker supports only Google, you will end up searching for additional tools in no time and paying extra, when you can have it all conveniently in one tool. Always make sure other search engines are supported!
We at PRT currently offer the widest search engine coverage in a single, all-encompassing tool and can track (in addition to Google) all the search engines mentioned above.
At the end of the day, this is a decisive factor for many. The difference between $49 and $79 a month might seem negligible at first glance, but it amounts to $588 vs. $984 a year — a $360 annual difference!
The trouble is, most SERP trackes on the market are ridiculously overpriced for no good reason, other than being a recognizable brand that pops up in ads and is ranked high on Google. If you aren’t thorough enough in your research, you might think the general prices have to be expensive, with no affordable entry level plans to be found. But this is not the case, as you are about to see.
When calculating the value you get for a certain price, there are 3 topics to consider:
A tool might seem fairly priced, but what is the actual term quota you get for that price? What we mean by ‘term’ is a [keyword + search engine + ranking factor] combo. Other SERP trackers may describe this combo differently, but we call it a ‘term’.
For example, just to show you what we mean, here is a very popular rank tracker’s monthly plan:
The smallest available monthly plan is “only” $99 USD a month for 1,200 daily terms, which amounts to $0.082 per tracked term
For comparison, here is the closest PRT equivalent of the same monthly plan:
Our Silver plan is $59 a month for 1,500 daily terms, which amounts to $0.039 per tracked term.
Which brings us to our next subject:
Entry level plans
The majority of people in need of rank tracking are small SEO agencies, independent businesses doing their own SEO, and SEO freelancers. Huge SEO agencies and e-commerce giants are the minority. Most don’t need huge quotas and definitely shouldn’t be overpaying for basic, outdated rank tracking, which is why it’s especially puzzling that not many true entry-level plans currently exist on the market at all! You need to do a real thorough dig to encounter the few that do exist. All the spammy ads and mentions that you will most likely encounter are for overpriced tools that don’t even deliver industry-standard results.
We see absolutely no reason why a small SEO business should pay $79 USD for a mediocre tool, when our $39 basic Bronze+ plan is more than enough for them. Not to mention that it comes with the most advanced and updated rank-tracking technology on the market with the widest coverage.
Auto renewal traps and gray fees
“Gray fees” describes a phenomenon and a widespread trap for consumers in almost every field, not excluding rank trackers. The most common practice of charging gray fees is using the infamous auto-renewal trap. You get a “free” trial and then have it auto-renew with a full monthly charge, even if you were just testing it and didn’t plan to continue using the tool.
It’s obviously very annoying, which is why we DON’T support or use this practice. Our 7-Day free trial with ALL features unlocked is actually FREE. We don’t ask for your credit card details. We have full faith in the quality of our tech and know that once you try PRT,you will simply want to stay.
Instead of tricking you to pay, after the 7-day free trial expires, your account will simply revert to our regular, free monthly plan that has no time limit.
An inflated price just because it’s a common brand is not justified in any way!
Overall technical excellence
There are two factors that determine the overall quality of the results you get:
Rank freshness (update frequency)
You need to find out exactly how frequently your ranking data is updated – i.e., how often is the search index checked for changes.
The most basic standard is once a day. If your SEO is successful, Google will start taking notice of your website, start crawling it for new content, and update your ranks frequently. Highly ranked websites with content updated on a daily basis, such as news sites and authority blogs, can get crawled and have rank updates as often as every few seconds!
Here is something most SERP trackers won’t tell you: checking the search index is the heart of the operation for every rank tracker and what consumes the most system resources. This is why some will take “shortcuts” and not update your ranks at least once a day like they should!
Pro Rank Tracker GUARANTEES you will always see fresh ranks that are fetched at least once a day and an additional 3 times on demand (depending on what monthly plan you are on).
Accuracy and Precision
This means how effectively the tool can read Google’s search index.
Here is another thing most SERP trackers won’t tell you: Google’s search index isn’t a simple data base. It’s a highly complex entity that is constantly evolving and changing. Every small algorithm update that goes unadvertised can send a rank tracker off kilter and give you inaccurate ranks.
For example, by ‘inaccurate’ we mean that for a given term your website might be realistically ranked 15th, but because some minor algorithm change took place, the tool will read it as 25th.
PRT has developed fast response mechanisms to deal with those micro updates, and we monitor Google 24/7 to make sure you will get 100%-real accurate ranks, exactly the way they are positioned in Google’s (and the other search engines that we track) search index.
More on our methods of accuracy:
|The truth revealed! Why are some SERP trackers more precise than others?|
These two topics are rarely advertised openly because of said “shortcuts”, so you will need to ask customer service about these topics directly. It’s very important that you do. Week-old ranks for 60% accuracy is just NOT worth it, no matter the price.
Control over your ranking data
Specifically, control over data import and export options: how much freedom the rank tracker allows. Does the data ultimately belong to you, or is it locked within your tool, only to be lost once you decide to switch to a better tool, requiring you to rebuild your data from scratch?
Asking about data import and export options is essential BEFORE you settle on a tool. Even if you end up choosing PRT as you rank tracker, you need to feel secure that you can export your data at all times and be free to migrate it someplace else if you like.
It’s frustrating to start using a rank tracker and, after a few months, realize it’s not all it promised to be. Worse still, you realize you have no viable option to save your data and export it to migrate easily to a better tool.
Since we are confident in our tech and also believe in being FAIR, we provide our users with easy import and export solutions. Not only that, but we have our Bulk Upload feature to migrate mass amounts of data to our tool, and our dedicated account managers will be more than happy to help you set up your data with us.
Complementary features, their quality and SEO value
SERP trackers will often offer various complementary features along with the main rank tracking to inflate their price. Naturally, some features are better than others. Here is what you need to consider:
With any additional feature you see, first ask yourself – do you really need this ability? If this is a feature you will be using only once a year, and it can be found for free somewhere else, why pay extra for it?
White label support
This is a huge topic in its own right. Most SEO experts have their own clients to take care of, which is why it’s best that the tool offer some kind of white label solutions.
The most basic white label feature that most tools offer is the ability to place your logo and business details on the ranking reports that you send.
PRT, however is 100% white label and has taken it to a whole new level unmatched by anyone. We have 12 types of ranking reports, from basic to highly advanced. You can place your logo instead of PRT’s on our entire rank tracker with our Sub-Accounts feature. Your clients can even download a mobile app with your logo and details that will show them their live ranking data:
Finally, if you have your own tool, always check to see if there are any API solutions so you can have raw ranking data fed directly to your tool, which is the best approach.
The uses of white labeling are vast, and there is immense value to using white label solutions, which we go into more detail about here:
|Businesses use this psychological principle to influence customer impressions|
Keyword research features
A lot of rank trackers will also offer some sort of keyword research solutions. Many of these, however, are not very efficient and will often offer arbitrary irrelevant keywords that you can’t use.
PRT has the only Keyword Suggestion tool on the market that shows you keywords with an actual monthly Google search volume. And our Ranking Discovery Tool can reverse-engineer search engines and show you keywords that are already ranking Top 100 for almost any website!
We even have the ultimate method for keyword research, where you can discover virtually all the keywords in any niche from just a SINGLE keyword:
|How to discover thousands of keywords from just a single keyword for virtually any niche: Step by step visual guide|
Which brings us to our next point:
We show the full monthly Google search volume for all our paid users for all of the keywords that they track with us:
That alone can save you hundreds of dollars a year if you’re actively using AdWords, since Google will show search volume for high-paying users only.
And here is the best part – we can show you the unique native keyword search volume for Amazon, Bing and YouTube as well:
|You can now reveal the monthly search volume of ANY keyword for all the major search engines (even Amazon and YouTube!)|
This wraps up our smart consumer guide to rank tracking. Now that you know what to look for, never settle for a rank tracker that will only show you basic irrelevant results that may have been great 5 years ago but are no longer useful. Even worse, you might be seeing ranks that are downright inaccurate, misleading and don’t hold up to professional scrutiny.
You have all you need to know — now go out and do some research to verify our claims! We will be here with all the features and abilities SEO professionals need for 2018 and beyond. We will welcome you with open arms and help you set up your account every step of the way with our awesome customer service technicians.
For more awesome guides, tips and search engine lore, be sure to subscribe to our blog so you won’t miss out! While you’re at it, please share this article if you found it helpful and tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
PRT is the most advanced rank tracker currently on the market. We offer the widest search engine coverage for the most affordable price, plus the only real entry-level plans on the market. Our 60k users range from beginners to huge SEO agencies and e-commerce giants, all enjoying 100% fresh and accurate ranks.
Like we already mentioned in the article – we have a real FREE 7-day trial that requires no credit card details to access. You can take us for a test drive even now and experience firsthand all that we’ve talked about.
Another element you can research is affiliate programs. The level of reward a tool offers for helping them grow will usually reflect on their general attitude and other aspects. Will it be as awesome as PRT’s affiliate plan? We offer a 20% recurring commission for the entire lifetime of the referred account!