Due to the continuous updates and refreshes of Google’s ranking algorithm, where pages from your website rank in Google will often fluctuate – from day to day and from week to week. Even in one day, a page on your site might rank in different positions for the same keyword. Fluctuations within a day are normally just a position or two (up or down), but over the course of a month, your rankings for a single keyword could change a lot (15th to 8th to 5th to 9th to 3rd, etc.).
As well as algorithmic updates, where your website ranks in Google will also vary due to localisation and personalisation. Localisation is where Google returns different search results, or the same results in a different order, depending on the location (country or city) of the searcher and the website. For example, someone based in Manchester who types ‘Accountants’ into Google will see different sites listed in the search results to someone based in Birmingham who searches for the same keyword.
Personalisation is where Google alters the search results they display for a keyword based on what they know about the searcher from their previous searches. This can happen if the searcher is signed into Google (including Gmail or YouTube) or is using Google Chrome. For example, if someone has visited a site many times before, when they search for a keyword that’s relevant to that site, the site may show up higher in the search results for that searcher than it would do for other people searching for the same keyword.
Due to algorithmic updates, localisation and personalisation, knowing average rankings for keywords over a range of time and locations is of more value than knowing exactly where your site is ranking for keywords at a specific time and from a specific location. You can check what keywords your site is ranking for, and the average position in the search results for each of those keywords, via Google Webmaster Tools, which is free, quick, accurate and comprehensive.
- Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools.
- Click on the name of your website (or click ‘Add Site’ if you haven’t already done so).
- Click on ‘Search Traffic’ (in the left-hand sidebar) and then ’Search Queries’.
Note: The impressions, clicks and CTR numbers shown in Webmaster Tools are approximations rather than precise numbers. Also, they may differ from the data displayed in Google Analytics due to technicalties and a time lag between the numbers being calculated and the data being made available.
A) Filters – To get the most accurate ranking data possible, set the ‘Search’ option to ‘Web’ and the ‘Location’ option to ‘United Kingdom’.
B) Date Range – The shorter the date range, the more up-to-date the ranking data will be, as high/low rankings from the past won’t be pulling up/down the data shown for your current rankings.
C) Queries / Impressions / Clicks – The combined totals for the date range chosen. ‘Queries’ is how many different keywords your site is ranking for. ‘Impressions’ is the number of times your site has been displayed in the search results. ‘Clicks’ is how many times people have clicked through to your site after seeing it in the search results.
D) Download This Table – Download the ranking data from the table shown. You should do this every 3 months as data more than 3 months old is inaccessible in Webmaster Tools.
E) Query – The specific keywords that your site has been ranking in the search results for.
F) Impressions – How many times your site has been displayed in the search results for a specific keyword.
G) Clicks – How many times someone has clicked through to your site from the search results after searching for a specific keyword.
H) CTR (Click Through Rate) – Clicks ÷ Impressions x 100
I) Avg. Position (i.e Avg. Rank) – The average position that your site has been ranked in the search results for a specifc keyword. As this number is an average, your site may not actually have ranked in that exact position – either before or now. For example, if your site ranked 3rd for a keyword half of the time, and 9th for the same keyword the other half of the time, then its average rank would be 6th.