So, you’ve spent a ton of time and effort on creating an SEO strategy for your web pages. You’ve researched keywords for each page and have optimized all the pages for those keywords. How do you know if all your work is working? Finding out where your page is ranking in a search engine like Google seems like a good way to find out. But that can be extremely time consuming and difficult.
Google Prohibits Programs from Checking Ranks
If you do a search on Google asking how to check your search position in Google, you’ll find a lot of sites that offer this service. But these services are misleading at best and incorrect or against the Google terms at worst. In fact, if you read the Google webmaster guidelines you’ll see:
Don’t use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing resources and violate our Terms of Service. Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold™ that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.
My experience, in trying several of the tools advertised for checking search rank is that they don’t work. Some have simply been blocked by Google because the tool sent too many automated queries and others that appear to work have vastly incorrect results.
In one case, I wanted to see where the tool said a site I manage ranked when searching for the site’s name. When I did the search in Google myself, the site is the very first result. But when I tried it in the ranking tool, it said that the site didn’t show up in the top 100 search results.
So How Do You Check to See that SEO is Working?
If Google doesn’t allow programs to go through the search results for you, how can you find out whether your SEO efforts are working. Here are some suggestions.
- Go through the search engine results manually
This is, obviously, the least palatable and most tedious way to discover where your page is showing up in search. It still isn’t going to be 100% reliable, as different Google servers can deliver different results. But it does work, and Google allows this type of access. It’s just slow and tedious.
- Use your Analytics Software
Your analytics software should tell you the URL that your customers were on before they made it to your page. This is the referrer and any that come from Google should have the page number they were on when they found your page.
- Go through your server log files
As long as your web server logs are in the combined log format or some other format that includes the referrer information, you can see what pages people come from to get to your page. Any results from Google will tell you where your page showed up in their search.
- Use Google Webmaster Tools
If you go into the “Search queries” section of Google Webmaster tools for your site, you will see all the keywords that people used to find your site. When you click on the keyword you’re interested in, Webmaster tools will include the position in the search results.
But What About New Pages — How Do You Figure Out Their Position in Search Results?
All of the suggestions above (except going through the results manually) rely on someone finding your page via search and clicking through from Google to you. But if your page is showing up at rank 95, chances are most people never even get that far. For new pages, and in fact, most SEO work, you should focus on what is working rather than your arbitrary rank in a search engine.
In other words, you need to think about what your goal is with SEO. While you might say that your goal is to make it to the first page of Google, but that really isn’t a useful goal. You want to get onto the first page of Google because that gives you more page views and page views turn into revenue which helps you keep maintaining your website.
So, if your goal is to get more page views, then you should focus on that rather than on where you are ranking in search. Here are some things you can do to track a new page and see if your SEO efforts are working:
- First make sure your site and that page have been indexed by Google. The easiest way to do this is to type
site:your URLinto the Google search. If your site has lots of pages, it may still be hard to find the page you’re looking for. So in that case, you should go into the “Advanced search” and change the date range to when you updated the page. If the page still doesn’t show up, then wait a few days and try again.
- Once you know your page is indexed and in Google, you should start watching your analytics for that page. When you start seeing search engine results you can track what keywords people found that page under. And this will help you determine how well optimized it is.
- Remember that it can take several weeks for a page to show up in the search engines and then start getting page views. So don’t give up. Keep checking periodically and if you don’t see any results after 90 days, then consider doing more promotion or optimization of your page.