How to Choose Search Engine Rank Tracking Tools for Successful SEO

by on January 28, 2013

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Recently a whole bunch of digital marketers freaked out when they got news that some of their favorite rank-tracking-tools-for-successful-SEOsearch engine rank tracking tools were losing their rank tracking capabilities.  Here at Confluence Digital, we had been using Raven Tools and SEOMoz for rank tracking, two tools that were going to lose those capabilities, so we found ourselves freaking out with everyone else and looking for a new program. 

Luckily for us we have a SEO-sensei of sorts Margery Spears, who took some time to try out a few other tools to see if there were any other viable choices currently available.  The following blog post is a summary of her discoveries:

Where to Begin Looking for a Search Engine Rank Tracking Tool:

First you need to figure out what capabilities you are looking for in the tool.  For this analysis I limited my search to search software used primarily for keyword position tracking.  I also limited the candidates to web-based software for easy sharing.

4 Considerations for Choosing Search Engine Rank Tracking Tools:

1. GA Integration – this makes adding keywords directly from GA easy. However, correlating traffic from a keyword to its rank isn’t very useful anymore since so much is hidden by the (not provided) bucket. Useful, but not essential.

2. Adding historical Raven data – important for continuity

3. White label reports – Most trackers have replaced exporting white label reports with secure, limited client access with less emphasis on exporting consumable paper reports. This requires that the client is technical enough to find their way through the reports and/or that you need to do screen captures for paper reports.

4. Adding notes – helps to correlate ranking fluctuations with website or algorithm changes.

Search Engine Rank Trackers We Reviewed:

  • Positionly
  • Authority Labs
  • WebPosition
  • Web CEO online
  • Link-Assistant Rank Tracker
  • Sheer SEO

Conclusions from Initial Comparisons:

There is no perfect solution. I eliminated Web CEO online, Link-Assistant Rank Tracker, and Sheer SEO due to cost and focused on comparing Positionly, Authority Labs, and WebPosition. Deciding between Positionly and Webposition was very difficult. I really want to like Positionly, but it’s not there yet. And while Webposition has some serious strikes against it, it is the only tracker of the three reviewed that will replace both Raven Tools and SEOmoz. In the end, it boils down to what you can’t do without. If you are not comfortable sacrificing the continuity afforded by importing historical data from Raven, I’d support going with Positionly.  

Analysis of Webposition, Positionly, and Authority Labs Rank Tracking Tools:

Webposition
www.webposition.com
Main Takeaway: Cheaper, cool-looking graphs, professional SEO evaluation and performance tools  

Pros: This tracker has been around a long time. It offers the most professional-looking and easily readable graphs of the bunch. It was very easy to set up and use. Each project opens to a comprehensive and easily scanned dashboard. Other good things:

  • Direct keyword ranking against competitors
  • White labeling
  • Paper reports can be exported as PDFs, XML, and CSV formats, although those show no branding at all.
  • Backlink tracker included with domain authority, follow/nofollow status, HTTP status codes, and anchor text
  • View keyword performance by URL
  • Secure, shared client access
  • Pagecritic to evaluate websites
  • This tool is complete enough to replace both Raven Tools and SEOmoz

The pricing plans are flexible, with a $69 Premium plan that will cover all your needs for now. This includes:

  • 25 report runs/month
  • 25 critiques/month
  • 25 reports/month

Cons: In spite of the goodness, this package has some serious flaws:

  • 5 competitors max
  • No Raven Tools data import
  • No keyword or domain tagging for convenient grouping
  • No ability to add notes
  • No Google Analytic integration

Positionly
www.positionly.com
Main Takeaway: Basic, plain Jane graphing, collaborative, easy to use  

Pros: This Angel-funded startup is set up for online collaboration ala Basecamp style. For $99/month, you can track 1,000 keywords in an unlimited number of websites.  It includes:

  • Rank on demand
  • GA integration
  • Tags
  • Exports in CSV or PDF
  • Raven Tools data import
  • Avatar support
  • White labeling
  • Variable UI color schemes
  • Very easy and intuitive to use and set up. Clients will have little difficult getting around inside it.
  • Manage user access with three different access levels: admin, manager, or guest
  • Backlink tracking
  • Notes
  • Responsive support
  • Optional map results for Local
  • Custom ranges to display ranking

Cons: As the new kid on the block, Positionly has some growing to do.

  • The graphs and UI are just plain and simple. Draftsman plain.
  • Sales department says that competitor tracking will be coming soon
  • Individual backlinks by date is all you get – no domain authority to help you decide if this is a valuable link or not.
  • No keywords by URL
  • We’d still need to supplement this with Open Site Explorer (which may someday become PRO-only) and other website evaluation tools like Website Grader.

Authority Labs
www.authoritylabs.com
Main Takeaway: Adequate but not intuitive  

The cost is the same as Positionly’s cost. For $99/month you can track 1,000 keywords but in only 100 domains, which would still be useful for our purposes.  

Pros: Authority Labs provides everything you need for keyword position tracking and reporting sharing, but only that.

  • Tags
  • Raven Tools data import
  • Avatar support, but through Gravatar.com
  • White labeling
  • Responsive support
  • Local results
  • Custom ranges to display ranking
  • Secure, shared client access

Cons:

  • User interface is not so easy
  • Graphs are nicer than Positionly’s, but not as nice as Webposition’s
  • No GA integration
  • No notes
  • No backlink tracking
  • Exports in CSV only
  • No support documentation – only support through email
  • We’d still need to supplement this with Open Site Explorer (which may someday become PRO-only) and other website evaluation tools like Website Grader.

Once you figure out what capabilities are most valuable to you in a rank tracking tool, then you will be able to decide which search engine rank tracking tool will benefit your SEO efforts best.  And hopefully our analysis of these three tools will help in that decision as well.

Have you tried any of these rank tracking tools?  What Pros & Cons did you notice while using them?  Are there programs/tools out there you would recommend instead?

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