You’ve chosen your niche, done your keyword research, and built out a site with a few dozen pages of content. Now it’s time to learn how to monitor keyword rankings and make sure you’re making the most of the free tools you have available.

When it comes to keywords, the best tools are, without a doubt, Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.

How to Monitor Keyword Rankings

If you haven’t already, the first step is to sign up for Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools accounts, and integrate your Webmaster Tools into your Google Analytics page. The services are still separate, but by integrating the Webmaster Tools into your Analytics you can save yourself time and headache by only checking the one account.

When analyzing your keyword results, there are 3 aspects you want to consider:

  1. Average Search Position. The average search position tells you where in Google’s rankings your site is appearing. You want to target a position under 10, but anything under 30 means that you are probably still showing up on the first page for some queries. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a high average search position alone will translate into lot of traffic.
  2. Number of Impressions. The number of impressions you have for any query is a true measure of how well Google is actually ranking that keyword. It is possible that your average search position can be relatively high, and yet the keyword rarely appears. This is usually due to demographic variants in the keyword search (eg: Google might display your keyword for one state or country and not another), so a high number of impressions (in relation to the number of monthly searches) is a sign your keyword performs well across demographics.
  3. Click-through Rate. Impressions don’t mean anything if users aren’t clicking through to your site. If you see a high number of impressions but low click through rate, you may want to check how your listing appears in the search results, and update your page titles, descriptions, and authorship to try to display a more attractive link.

Discrepancies between Webmaster Tools and Analytics

A common question I hear from new online marketers is about the inevitable discrepancies that arise between Webmaster Tools and Analytics reports.

Both sites are run by Google, how is it possible that one can report figure X and the other result Y?

Webmaster Tools

For me, I look to Webmaster Tools whenever I’m looking at anything that has to do with how visitors arrive at my site. This includes search rankings, SEO, and keywords. Analytics also provides a glimpse of this information, but in my experience I’ve found the Webmaster dashboard to have more comprehensive, more reliable information.

Google Analytics

Analytics, on the other hand, is more accurate for what visitors do once on the site. Whether it’s tracking through-click conversion rates, analyzing on-page activity and optimizing links, or following a specific visitor flow for a demographic, Google Analytics consistently performs better.

All in all, both are excellent tools, and usually any discrepancies are minor. Most differences have to do with differences in reporting delays between the two, and will tend to even out over time.