How to Check Your Website Rankings in Google
Understanding search engine results pages (SERPs) and where you rank in Google for targeted keywords is crucial to ensure your SEO tactics are delivering the required results. Even if you rank well, understanding any changes or trends allows you to keep an eye on competitors that are chasing down your Google ranking.
In this article, you can find out how to check where your website is ranking for targeted keywords. We will also look at the layout of search engine result pages and the various factors that can influence the position in which your site is returned. I will then outline some SEO tips, tools and tactics you can use to best check and keep track of your keyword rankings.
Ranking Fluctuations – Up, Down, and Around We Go
Search results are becoming ever more real time and variable. Keyword rankings can change day-to-day. In some cases hour-by-hour. There are four main factors that will influence where your keywords rank at any time and for any given search engine user.
1. Algorithm Updates – Google is constantly tweaking and refining the algorithm that drives search results. Some of this tweaking is now likely driven by artificial intelligence (AI). Any change could impact your results in a positive or negative manner.
2. Localisation – What you see for any search query can be impacted by your location. If Google feels the query has a strong local intent, for example, if you are looking for a local service provider like a locksmith or plumber, then the location of you and the business will be a huge ranking factor. Typically, you will see businesses closer to you first.
3. Personalisation – Google also uses past browsing habits to show you more relevant results. If you have visited a site many times that site may show up more prominently. Users signed into Google (via Chrome, Gmail, YouTube etc) will be more likely to see personalised results. However, results will still be refined and personalised throughout a search session in a manner to help you get the best possible answer to your question.
4. User Engagement – Do people click on your search results? And when they click do they hang around and engage with your site? Where a page is returned in the search results and gets a low number of clicks or users quickly bounce back to the search engine, then this would indicate a poor result, and as such, rankings may suffer. Where a result gets many clicks and engages users then this result may see improvements. This is almost like a sanity check for the ranking algorithm so the algorithm places your listing but engagement determines if it sinks or swims.
Of course, the other factor here is any SEO work you are undertaking to improve the visibility of your site. Improvements to your site, content, or high-quality backlinks should help improve your visibility. Too much optimisation or low-quality link building can negatively impact your visibility. In short – there are a lot of moving parts in determining where your site is shown to any given searcher for any given search query.
Paid, Local & Organic Results
There are typically three sets of results for any given search:
– paid results
– local results from Google maps
– organic results
The diagram below provides an illustration of how a typical set of search results may look. There are many variations on this theme and Google Maps results will typically only show where the search has a local intent (local businesses or near me searches).
The local results are heavily influenced by location but also can be optimised by Local SEO. If you are a local business then you will want to rank check where you appear in these results and consider various searcher locations to see the variance by distance. As an example, our Bowler Hat site ranks in local results when I search from within Birmingham where we are based. But, if I search for an SEO company when I am at my home, we are pushed just out of the top 3 and I see other companies that are closer to where I live.
Search for “SEO company” within Birmingham (where we operate):
Search for “SEO company” from where I live several miles away:
In this search – despite all other variables being the same – when the searcher location changes, the results can change to reflect the local intent behind the search query. Birmingham is a big place, after all. Fortunately, we retain our strong organic listing below the local pack.
The takeaway here is that getting a big picture overview of where you rank in the local results requires checking from various locations.
The organic results typically sit below the local results. In some cases, we may see a number of organic results above the local results and some more organic results below the local pack. Where Google has less confidence in the local intent or there is more ambiguity in the search term we may see this happen, but in the majority of instances, the local pack sits below the paid results and above the organic results.
Where your business is listed in the organic results can be influenced by localisation and personalisation. This may mean that you can have two listings with one in the local pack and another in the organic results (and sometimes a third with multiple results in the organic listings being a possibility for those with super smart SEO). Or you may even have four listings if you run a PPC advert and have super on point SEO.
The following image shows Bowler Hat listed once at the top of the local results and then twice in the organic results for the search term ‘SEO Consultant Birmingham’. One of these organic results also has review stars.
Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the different kind of website ranking that is possible. With that theory out of the way, now we can take a look at the methods to see where you rank and to keep track on your keyword ranking positions over time.
Checking Where Your Website is Ranking in Google with Search Console
Google search console provides us with some average values showing where your website ranks for a variety of search terms. These figures are not exact, and due to various factors (personalisation and localisation), the average figure can be somewhat misleading for local businesses. However, this is diagnostic information direct from Google so should always be reviewed as your first port of call.
Firstly, you will need to register your site with Google Search Console.
Google Search Console rank tracker provides four key metrics:
- Position – your average position
- Impressions – total times your listing was displayed
- Clicks – total number of clicks
- CTR – percentage value for times a listing was clicked
Checking your keyword rankings:
- Sign into Google Search Console
- Click on your website from the list
- Click on Search Traffic > Search Analytics
Here we see a list of the keywords that you rank for and that are generating clicks. You will want to do a couple of things here to improve the data that you can see and use this as a Google rank checker.
- Click on Impressions, CTR (click through rate) & Position
- Add a filter to only view results from your country (UK in our case)
This will give you the most accurate data regarding the position you rank for within Google Search Console.
There is a problem though – this data often looks very different to what you may see on a local basis. And in practice, with your target audience, your results may be very different. So this is not a great real world keyword position checker, and ideally, you need to look at a more traditional piece of rank tracking software.
Checking Your Rankings in Bright Local
Bright Local has a suite of tools you can use to check your Google Rank. The Local Search Results Rank Checker is free and super useful. The feature that I really like here is that it actually provides screenshots so you can save them and review them.
You can enter your location and targeted keywords and you will get results unbiased by personalisation – it’s a great tool and one that can help you get a better idea of what your users see.
You can use this tool for free if you manually check and there are also paid tools that will do this on a schedule for you so you can keep a historical check on ranks. All of these tools have a cost, so if you are using an SEO agency (like Bowler Hat) then this is often included in any ongoing SEO service.
If you are serious about understanding your results from multiple locations, a paid SEO rank checker will give you the best results with the least effort.
Using a Private Browser Session to Check Your Rankings
The major browsers all provide a private browsing session. On Chrome, this is called an incognito tab and on Firefox this is a private session. This can be useful to perform a manual check, but be sure to consider how your location when searching can artificially inflate your results here. If you sit in your office and search for the type of business you are then being so close can have a major impact.
You can disable the location element of the search which gives you an idea, but again this is also somewhat unrepresentative of the real world where location will be a factor in the majority of searches. If your keywords are not locally influenced then this will give you better results.
- Open up your favourite incognito browser (Chrome incognito tab works well)
- Search your keywords
- Cross reference results
To be super diligent here try this from multiple locations – or ask your staff to try from their home address and take a screenshot (or of course use the Bright Local tool).
In the world of modern search engines that have so many possible inputs and variances in where your website may rank, even something as seemingly simple as rank tracking can be hugely complicated (*sigh*). There are some free ways to check your progress with some simple weekly checks, but you will save time using a professional tool.
Of course, most SEO packages and services will provide SEO rank tracking and analysis of other KPIs as part of the monthly work. And where understanding Google ranking variance across a range of locations is important, your Google rank checker will need to be configured with this in mind.
Certainly, at Bowler Hat, we look to determine various KPIs to ensure your website is getting the maximum amount of relevant, engaged traffic from search engines.
If you have any questions on the best way to track your rankings or would like to get your rankings professionally checked then get in touch or drop a comment below.