Does this sound familiar? When you want to check where you rank on Google, you type a search into the search bar and then scroll and scroll, looking for your own website.
You scan furiously, hoping you don’t miss it. Once you find it, you make a mental note of what page you were on. You check it again the same way in a few weeks.
Friends, there is a better way. Several of them, actually.
Today, let me share with you why you shouldn’t search for yourself this way and how to use a few free SEO tools to check your rankings instead.
The Problem with Searching for Your Keywords
When you sit down at your own computer or pull out your phone and search for yourself, you may not actually be seeing accurate results.
Just because you see yourself on Page 1, doesn’t mean that everyone else does. This is for two reasons:
Your Physical Location
More and more, Google is taking the searcher’s location into account to tailor the search results to show businesses near them.
That’s why if you type a general query into Google without a city included (like just “wedding photographer” or “BBQ restaurant”), you’ll likely see results for businesses near you.
If you are near your own office or service area, you’re likely to see your own website rank better than it might for the average searcher.
Your Browsing History
To get you the most helpful results, Google prioritizes sites you’ve visited before in your search results. It will show those sites higher in the search results in case you’re looking for them again.
Have you visited your own website before? I’m going to guess so.
That means your own site is likely to get bumped up in the search results when you search for yourself on your own computer or phone.
Let’s talk about how to avoid looking at inaccurate personalized results.
How to check your ranking for a specific keyword
Say you want to find out where your site ranks on Google for a certain keyword like “Boston wedding photographer.”
The advice you’ll often hear is “just open an Incognito window in Chrome to get non-personalized results.” That’s decent advice, but Incognito does still include location-based results. And you still have to scroll and try to find yourself, which is pretty inefficient.
Instead, I recommend using an SEO tool to find out where you rank for a specific keyword.
Small SEO Tools Keyword Rank Checker (Free)
With Keyword Rank Checker, you just enter your domain name and any keywords you’d like to see if you rank for.
Then it scans Google’s results and tells you exactly what position you’re in. No manual scanning by you, and you can check multiple keywords at one time. Isn’t this neat?
Note that the “Keyword Position” column is the ranking your site is in the Google results. Positions 1-10 are generally the 1st page of Google, 11-20 are the 2nd page, etc. So my position 12 for “image alt text” means my article is the second result on the Page 2 of Google.
You can save this report and then re-run it in a month or so to see if you’ve improved for your keywords.
PS: I know this tool’s page has a crazy ton of ads and popups. That’s what you get with a free tool! Navigate through it, it’s really worth it.
How to find new keywords you rank for
I know you have specific keywords in mind that you’d like to rank for. But did you know that your site probably ranks for dozens of other keywords you may not have thought of?
To see where you rank in the results for lots of searches, you could use Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool.
Moz Keyword Explorer (10 Lookups/Month with Free Account)
Moz tracks search results for millions of keywords (literally 41,000,000+) and which sites rank for those keywords. Using their 10 free lookups per month, you can find out many new keywords your site ranks for that you may not even know about.
To get access, you’ll just need to sign up for a free account at moz.com/explorer. Type your domain name in the box, and you should see a popup to register an account.
When you’re given the option, select “root domain” in the drop-down and enter your domain name.
Then, navigate to the “Ranking Keywords” section of the results. You should see a list of keywords, your position on Google for those keywords, and “Monthly Volume” which means the number of searches per month.
What to do with this information? First, realize that there are lots of keywords you could rank for to bring you traffic, not just the one or two you have in mind.
Second, check out keywords with decent volume (at least 11-50 searches/month) where you’re ranking in Position 10+. What could you do to improve your content on those pages so Google might move you up to Page 1? You might add more written content, make sure the content is updated, or use the keywords more clearly in the text.
How to find the keywords that are currently bringing you traffic
Now let’s say you want to find out exactly which keywords people are currently using to find your website.
There’s a tool for that.
Did you know that Google offers its own free tool that will tell you keywords you’re ranking for and getting clicks for? It’s magical.
Once you have Search Console set up, navigate to the “Performance” tab on the left. Then click the colorful buttons at the top to turn on Total Clicks, Total Impressions, Average Click-thru-Rate, and Average Position.
You should now see a list of keywords and several columns of data. If you’re just curious to check your ranking, don’t miss the Position column, which again shows where you rank in the results (1-10 are on the first page).
The special gift that Search Console gives you is the Total Clicks. This is the only tool that will tell you which keywords actually brought searchers to your website.
To make use of this data, keep scrolling down until you see keywords with a high number of Impressions that you aren’t getting clicks for yet. These may be opportunities to go after.
To the next level: Paid tools
For my SEO clients, I subscribe to several paid SEO tools. These tools allow me to create a list of keywords we’re targeting, and the tools track the rankings of those keywords over time, so we can see how my clients’ sites are improving.
Armed with these tools, free or paid, you are going to have a much better idea of how you rank for dozens of keywords. No more search and scroll to find your rankings!