Some web hosts include SEO add-on packages that allow you to track a bunch of keywords on search engines. I’ve never recommended that users purchase these add-ons in the first place, but even if you need something like that, I feel it’s better value to get them separately rather than attached to an unrelated service like web hosting.
Speaking of which, this week, I ended my subscription to the RankTrackr service, on which I used to track a bunch of my keywords. I’ve always been wishy-washy on the actual value of SEO tools, but I used to keep this one around for two reasons – it was cheap, and it made me feel like I was getting value out of it. So what changed?
Core Google Update Comes Along
Earlier this week, there was a core Google update, as announced on Twitter – something that happens once every three or four months. Sure enough, a little while later, my tracked keywords showed massive ranking fluctuations. First, they went up. Then they went down. Then up again.
But here’s the kicker – my traffic didn’t change at all! This is a trend I have seen repeatedly over the past two years. Even if my tracking tool shows an improvement in my keyword rankings, it seems my traffic rises and falls independently of that. So what’s happening here?
Long-Tail Keywords Come into Play
In any rank tracking tool, you can only track a certain number of specific keywords. If you’re lucky, the tool will also allow you to choose the country in which you want to track them. My quota of keywords seemed generous – 50. In my web hosting add-on packages, the number is far less. Maybe 5.
However, for a well-written article, the number of queries for which it can show up is truly enormous. There’s absolutely no way for you to keep track of the vast majority of them. In addition, a lot of these are long-tailed keywords that might never even have been used before! So there’s no way for you to decide beforehand which keywords to track. Some of them won’t even be used again!
Ever since Google stopped showing us the keywords that were sending us traffic – that happened many years ago – we’ve been flying in the dark. And I’m finding that there’s no correlation between my tracked keyword rankings as shown by SEO tools and the actual traffic I get. So there’s no point stressing out over what they rankings show.
Actionable Information is Lacking
But let’s say there was a correlation between keyword rankings and traffic. For some specific articles that get the majority of their traffic from some well-known keywords, I can see this happening. So, what then?
Let’s say you log in one day and you find your rankings have gone down due to the latest Google update. What are you going to do about it? Specifically, what are you going to do that you weren’t already doing before? Weren’t you already trying your best to rank for that keyword? And if you weren’t, shouldn’t you have been doing so?
This is my key problem with rank trackers. The lack of actionable information is a huge problem. You do all you can, and then you’re just stuck helplessly watching the ranking bounce up and down. You think you’re getting valuable information, but really, all you have is noise.
At this point, everyone already knows what to do. Customer research, quality content, good internal linking, no technical SEO issues, targeted titles and meta descriptions etc. How is spending even $10 a month on tracking a bunch of keywords going to change that for you? You already have the biggest metric on hand – your traffic. Isn’t that enough?
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!