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The Importance of Tracking SERPs and How To Do It

The Importance of Tracking SERPs and How To Do It featured image

Organic traffic from search engines is a great resource for any website. It typically comprises around half of all website traffic and is crucial for direct conversions and pulling potential leads into the sales funnel.

SEO is an important part of any business because it’s responsible for half the traffic on your site. There are many factors that influence success in SEO, but one of the most important ones is understanding the trends in your niche and competitor practices.

The best way to do that is to track SERP positions. This article will take an in-depth look at the benefits and best practices of doing this.

What are SERPs & what is SERP tracking?

Search engine results pages, or SERPs, are the pages that Google and other search engines show after you submit a search. Typically, a SERP looks like this:

A typical SERP displays a list of pages relevant to the search.

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It contains a People Also Ask section, sometimes a Knowledge Graph like the one on the right, and links to web pages that are relevant to that search.

In most cases, you’ll see several paid search ads before that, and sometimes, a featured snippet like this.

Featured snippet might appear on some SERPs

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Some searches have a local search intent. This means the user either directly types in a keyword like “near me” or “in Cleveland Ohio,” or search engines believe the business is local. In this case, you’re likely to see local pack results in the SERP.

Searches with local intent might display a local pack result

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Searches around e-commerce topics, like searches for specific products, might have other types of SERP features. For instance, product image reels like this:

ecommerce searches might display shoppable product images

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Or product feeds like this one:

Some ecommerce SERPs might display product tiles from Google Merchant Center

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Generally speaking, SERPs look like a hierarchy of links, with perhaps the featured snippet at the top of the list. The click-through rate of the first position in search is typically about 40%, so the goal of search engine optimization is to rank either first or as close to first as possible.

Google uses multiple ranking systems and ranking factors to determine the most relevant pages for any given search. While it does disclose the general aspects of these ranking factors, the tiny details, like what to cover on a page that targets a particular keyword, understandably remain a mystery.

To understand those details that can lead to improved rankings, you need to analyze the search engine results pages for keywords that interest you. Tracking SERPs is vital as it creates a dynamic picture of how they change and can show you what features search engines prioritize for a particular keyword.

Essentially, SERP tracking records how the search engine results for the keyword you are targeting look at any given moment in time and analyze the changes. It gives a bigger picture than simply tracking your positions for certain keywords, as you don’t just record a position number, you record how the entire SERP looks.

Why track your SERP position?

Position tracking for the keywords your website already targets and other keywords that interest you is one of the SEO best practices for these four reasons.

You understand your SEO performance. Tracking SERPs for how your pages change positions and what pages outrank them gives you an understanding of whether your SEO efforts translate to keyword position. It also shows you what pages outrank yours so that you can analyze the key differences between them and adjust your strategy accordingly.

You understand search intent. Search intent is the reason why a user puts a particular keyword in the search engine. For instance, for a keyword like “email marketing guide,” they might want to see a general overview of what it is, an overview of best practices, some tools, and a few examples.

Web pages that outrank yours might be better tailored to the search intent. Tracking SERPs to see which ones Google brings into the first position can help you understand the search intent and improve your performance.

You refine keyword strategy. Tracking SERP changes can help you improve your keyword strategy for what keywords you put on your pages, where you put them, and how many of them you use.

You discover new competitors. Getting a dynamic picture of the organic search results will help you find new competitors as they will be focusing on the same keywords. Whether they rank above or below your page, you can find them and analyze them.

How to track your SERP position

There are three main ways to track the positions of your site on a search engine results page: with a professional tool, manually, and with Google Search Console.

Let’s look at each method case by case.

Use a professional tool

The most optimal way to track SERPs is to use a specialized tool. The benefit of this is that you can track the SERPs for any keywords you want fairly easily without the knowledge of a specialist and gain access to a lot of context on your competitors.

Let’s explore how this works using the SE Ranking’s SERP tracker. Add any keyword that you want to track and the region where you want to track it, and you’ll get a list of competitors with detailed SEO information about each. You can exclude the ones that are not your competitors from the analysis.

SE Ranking shows competitor pages as they appear on SERPs

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You can choose to view any of the dozens of SEO metrics for each of these competitors in the quick comparison chart. It gives you the ability to see if there’s a correlation between ranking higher and having a specific attribute, like the number of referring domains or title length.

SEO metrics chart shows a comparison of select metrics across SERP positions

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You can also view all of the SEO metrics on each competitor in the detailed analysis section.

SERP Tracker shows important SEO metrics for each competitor

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It also gives you a quick look at the content structure of pages that compete with yours on organic search results without having to visit each page or browse through them manually.

SERP Tracker scrapes competitor content for key insights

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Then, use the keyword tracking tool to quickly gauge what positions you hold for each of the keywords you focus on, what features are present in that SERP, and to see historical changes in your positions.

Position tracker shows SERP features and keyword positions

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Using specialized SEO tools to track SERPs gives you a lot of information to analyze and can prove vital in improving your SEO strategy.

Track the SERP manually

You can also track and analyze SERP data manually. This means entering your keywords in the search engine manually and recording or analyzing the results.

A part of the SERP analysis process will always be manual. You’ll have to visit competing pages once in a while to do a quick analysis of the content—it can only be automated to an extent. You can easily automate viewing header tags, but not judge the overall quality of the content, the style, the use of imagery, etc.

However, manually typing in hundreds of keywords to view SERPs is too time-consuming to be practical.

If you have coding skills or have a person on your team who does, you can automate this process.

You can use Google Programmable Search Engine or a web scraper to collect search results for the specific keywords that interest you and store them for analysis. This can be handy in some situations, but be aware that, at this point, you’ll be developing an internal SEO tool that won’t be as good as the tools already available on the market.

The major drawback that you won’t be able to work around is that you won’t have historical SERP data from before you started scraping and you won’t have additional information on competitor sites, like their health score or number of linking domains.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free way to track keywords your website ranks for and their position in SERP that interest you, but it doesn’t provide nearly as much data. Most notably, it doesn’t show the whole SERP with all the competitor websites and their SEO metrics. It also won’t show you whether SERP features appear for the keyword.

However, you can use GSC to track how your website ranks for multiple keywords, and also see what keywords your pages rank for. This can be useful for understanding what Google thinks your pages are about so you can make informed changes based on that information.

Google Search Console shows the website’s keywords and their positions

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It’s also handy to quickly check the Core Web Vitals for any given page and see its indexability and error status. All of this is very important to SEO, even though it’s not directly related to SERP tracking.

Using SERP data to inform a digital strategy

No amount of data will translate into an increase in organic traffic if you don’t know what to do with it. Here are a couple of major ways to gain valuable insights from SERP tracking and use them for your business.

Use position change as an indicator of success

There are multiple indicators of SEO success, and your page’s position for a keyword or a group of keywords is one of them. By tracking your page’s position in the search results, you’ll be able to figure out whether your SEO efforts resulted in anything or whether you need to rethink your approach.

Use GSC keywords to improve keyword optimization

Even though GSC is not an ideal SERP tracking tool, it can give you some ideas on how well your pages are optimized.

Take a look at the keywords your pages rank for. If you find random, unrelated keywords, it’s a sign Google doesn’t really understand what the page is about. You might have to do more keyword research and add more relevant keywords to the page to improve it.

Dive into correlating SERP data

Looking up general SEO metrics of your competitors, like the number of referring domains or title length, can improve your general SEO strategy.

For instance, if you see that the pages that rank in the top three have consistently more internal links pointing to them or have the same subheading that you don’t have in your content, it might be a sign you should follow their lead.

Analyze competitor content

Analyzing how SEO metrics correlate with SERP positions can inform your general optimization strategy. However, you can only understand the details of search intent when you do a SERP analysis of content that outranks yours in detail.

You don’t need to copy the content in the first position, though. Look through the content that ranks higher and try to find:

  • Keyword placements
  • Points you’re missing
  • Adjacent topics brought up in the content
  • Actionable advice
  • Examples, instructions, checklists, or other valuable resources
  • Interactive content elements
  • References to experts

If you find any of these, try to add them to your content because it’s probably what users are interested in.

Improve link-building strategy

Sometimes, SERP tracking will show you your page has zero chances of ranking for a particular keyword. In some cases, SERP features can be higher than organic results and can answer the query without having to visit any page.

In other cases like this one, the search engine results page is dominated by the listicles on high-authority sites, and your product page probably won’t rank higher.

ecommerce SERP dominated by product reviews makes it harder to rank

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Use this information for link building. Compile a list of pages like these, and contact the websites offering your product for review.

The response rate won’t be that high, but with a large volume of websites, you might score some decent links.

Prioritize low-hanging fruit

The most important rule of SEO is to go after the job that requires minimal effort and produces the best results.

When tracking search results, you might find that multiple pages rank in the 11-30 positions for keywords with low keyword difficulty and high search volume. Those are the pages you should prioritize in SERP analytics and further optimization.

Maximum ROI: Using high SERP rankings to convert traffic

When you do get your page higher in the search results, you’re likely to receive more organic traffic on that page. But that’s only the first part of the SEO efforts. You still have to find a way to convert that traffic.

If it’s a page that answers an informational request, the odds are very few people would be interested in making a purchase right away. So, it’s best to try to include them in your marketing funnel instead of trying to sell anything to them.

The easiest way to do that is to offer them to sign up for a newsletter or to follow another source of content. You can do that by simply leaving a sign-up form or a link on the informational pages.

Newsletter subscription form and links to a podcast on an informational page

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You should also reference your products in the content if it helps the article, especially in the bottom-of-the-funnel content.

If your landing page ranks high in the SERP, the path to maximizing your return on investment (ROI) is a bit more complex. You’ll have to experiment with the page copy to find out what form of communication would generate more sales.

Here, A/B testing page content is the way to go. Try testing different variants of both small elements of the page, like the CTA button, and major ones, like short copy vs. long copy.


Tracking SERPs can give you a wealth of knowledge on both your website and the competition. You can use that data to improve your overall SEO strategy, content strategy, and even elements of link building.

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Cassandra Rosas

Cass is the Head of SEO Outreach and Link-Building at Omniscient Digital, she loves writing about topics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content operations, e-commerce, and social media marketing. In her spare time she likes listening to music, doing oil painting and watching SciFi movies.