Why search engine keyword tracking tools are becoming useless

What is a search engine keyword tracking tool?

Tons of search engine keyword tracking tools are available on the internet, all offering a slightly different value proposition. But they all perform one main function and that is keyword position tracking in the major search engines – namely Google.

Most of these tools are simple to use.  You simply enter the keywords you wish to track into the software and it visualizes and tracks that keywords position in Google over time. Sounds pretty great, right?  Well, don’t be fooled into thinking that these tools will give you correct data, or that the data even matters. Why? Read on to find out..

SEO Keyword Position Check


Traditional keyword position tracking is becoming useless

Several years ago, keyword rank tracking software did a pretty darn good job of allowing one to get a quick, accurate assessment of how their website was doing in the search engines.  But since then, Google’s algorithm has continue to evolve and get much more sophisticated.  Now, there are multiple ranking factors that affect where a website’s position may appear on the Google search results page.  Because of these factors, person A may have much different looking search results than person B with websites appearing in different ranking positions.

Some examples are:

  • Geographic location: Google will display results that are tailored to the location of the user.
  • Google Plus: If you are connected with someone on Google Plus, Google gives preference to your friends content in your SERPs.
  • Search History: A user’s search engine results page may vary depending on past searches and what they have shown interest in, what websites they have visited in the past, how often they clear their browser’s cache, and more.

Because of these factors, it is becoming very difficult for search engine keyword tracking tools to accurately determine how your site ranks because individual users will see different results. Your website may show up in spot #1 for user A and spot #7 for user B or not even show up at all.

Keyword Rank Tracking Software in the search engines

Search Engine Keyword Tracking. Is it dead?


Keyword tracking tools can be a big distraction

Keyword tracking does have value but can be a huge distraction.  Don’t get us wrong, we still use keyword tracking tools to monitor keyword positions for our clients.  We simply encourage SEO’s to not get siloed into only monitoring their rankings and ignoring all of the other valuable data available.  I’ve seen people get so pre-occupied with tracking the positions of their keywords on Google that they forget to look at other important data.

A single website can rank for thousands of different keywords, many of which aren’t necessarily even recognized as keywords in Google’s index.  The reason for this is that no significant patterns are seen in search volumes.  But that doesn’t mean the traffic from these keywords should be ignored!  It is important to remember that the keywords you are tracking are only a small piece of the puzzle, and instead consider looking at the bigger picture.  Consider questions like, “What are the overall queries bringing traffic in to my site, and what does my sites traffic and engagement level look like?

Alternatives to keyword tracking tools: Google Search Console & Google Analytics

Luckily, there are free and advanced tools that provide valuable insights well beyond simple keyword tracking.  Digital marketers use keyword tracking tools to get a very quick assessment of site performance and have easy to understand data to report to clients.  Both Google Search Console (aka Google Webmaster Tools) and Google Analytics can help you to uncover and use these valuable insights to improve marketing campaigns.

How to use Google Search console to discover keywords and queries

A quick look at the “queries” report in Search traffic > Search Analytics in your Google Webmaster tools account reveals a ton of useful data.  This includes search queries and not just keywords.  This is important because while the keywords may be the exact patterns of words you are trying to rank for, queries are variations of that seed keyword.  And that is where the money lies, in the endless possibilities of variations of your keyword that internet users are searching for.


The keyword queries report in Google Search Console provides additional data on what keywords people are using to find your website

Google Search Console also reveals more valuable data about your website such as keyword CTR, popular pages on your site, keyword positions, internal and external links to your site, content keywords and more.

How to use Google Analytics to discover keywords and queries

Google Analytics can be another valuable tool for uncovering the types of keywords bringing in traffic to your website.  First off, if you have linked your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts, then you can view the same information about search queries in Analytics that is available in Adwords.  But even if they are not linked, you can still use Analytics to uncover some valuable data.

Behavior > Site Content > All Pages will reveal the most popular pages on your website. This gives a broad overview of what type of content is most popular on your site. Use this data to create more of the types of content your website visitors engage with most.  You can also use this data to generate new ideas of the types of keywords you can target.

Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages reveals the top pages people landed on to discover your website. Similar to the All Pages report, this data provides valuable information into what types of subjects and keywords lead internet users to your website.

Behavior > Site Content > Search Terms will reveal the types of searches people are performing within your website.  This must be setup and configured to work, but can be well worth it giving the valuable data it provides.  The search terms that people are using within your website reveal exactly what people are looking for, in their own words.  This information can further help to tailor content to fit the needs of those already visiting your website.

Think beyond keyword tracking tools with Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

Improve Website Rankings By Thinking Beyond Keyword Tracking Tools.

Search engine keyword tracking tools are becoming outdated

SEO is changing, and its doing so very rapidly. The old school methods of keyword tracking are becoming stale as Google’s algorithm advances and progresses.  Internet marketing is all about staying ahead of the game and adopting new strategies, practices, and ways of doing things. Even with Google Search Console and Google Analytics, you can get too fixated on keyword rankings and miss out on some more valuable data.

Keyword tracking tools do have their place.  The provide an easy and quick assessment of website health and easy data to report to clients. However, due to the reasons we discussed above, keyword tracking tools don’t work as accurately as they once did.  The problem is often times that these tools foster the mindset that keyword tracking is the only thing that matters.  This couldn’t be further from the truth, and as you dig further into Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console) and Google Analytics, you will discover the value in thinking beyond the keywords.

Successful internet marketing requires first publishing quality content, then working harder to understand their audience. This understanding can be deepened by tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, and allow you to better understand the audience to create content for them and build your online community. Do these things and you will find yourself climbing to the top of Google SERPs and focusing more on the bigger picture than simply on a handful of keywords.



Internet Marketing, SEO Consulting

37 thoughts on “Why search engine keyword tracking tools are becoming useless

    1. Josh on Reply

      I haven’t tried that. In the past I have used Semrush, Raven Tools, Positionly, and Upcity. All of these are great options

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