Updated: July 3, 2023.
Learn how to check what keywords your website ranks for, how to interpret the ranking data, and what tools to use.
Keywords are the terms or phrases that people type into search engines when they’re looking for information or a specific product. They link what people are searching for to the content you’re providing on your website.
Why should you care about what keywords your website ranks for? It’s simple. Knowing what keywords your website ranks for allows you to understand how search engines view your site. It also provides insights into how potential customers are finding you online.
In this article, I’ll guide you through how to find out what keywords your website ranks for, how to understand and interpret keywords rankings, and what tools to use to make the most of ranking data.
Let’s dive in!
TL;DR: What keywords does my site rank for?
Knowing what keywords your site ranks for helps you understand your visibility on the search engines and the relevance of your traffic. A high rank for irrelevant keywords can lead to more traffic, but not necessarily more conversions.
The simplest way to check what keywords your site ranks for is to use Google Search Console. Go to the “Performance” report, and check out the “Queries” section to see what search terms your site is appearing for in the SERPs.
Understanding keyword rankings
Understanding keyword rankings is crucial so let’s start with explaining this a bit. If you are less advanced, don’t skip this section. It’s super important.
What does it mean for a website to rank for a keyword?
When we say a website “ranks” for a keyword, we’re referring to the position that the website occupies in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when that keyword is searched.
For instance, if you enter “how to exclude a site from Google Search” into Google and your website appears as the first result, you’re ranking first for that keyword. This position is sought after as it potentially offers high visibility and, in turn, a significant opportunity to attract traffic to your site.
The impact of keyword rankings on site traffic and visibility
At first glance, you might assume that high ranking positions automatically generate high traffic. But the truth is, it’s a bit more complex than that.
Your site’s position on the SERPs certainly influences its visibility. However, the volume of traffic you attract is also heavily influenced by:
- The attractiveness of your site’s snippets: If your title and meta description are not compelling enough, users may skip your listing even if it’s at the top of the SERPs. A low click-through rate (CTR) can result, meaning that even a high ranking may not translate into substantial traffic.
- SERP features: Things like ads, featured snippets, knowledge graphs, or local packs can steal attention and clicks away from your listing, even if you’re ranking high.
The double-edged sword of featured snippets
Google often highlights selected search results in a box at the top of the organic results, known as “featured snippets.” While these can substantially increase your site’s visibility, they don’t always guarantee more clicks. Users may find all the information they need right in the snippet without needing to visit your site.
Importance of ranking for relevant keywords
Relevance is key in SEO. If you’re ranking high for keywords that aren’t relevant to your content or your business, you’re likely to attract irrelevant traffic. This type of traffic typically has a low engagement rate and rarely converts into actual customers.
EXAMPLE: I once worked on a website for a lawyer who was surprised to find his site was attracting a ton of traffic but saw no increase in inquiries or clients. Upon inspection, we found that his site was ranking high for “April fool pranks” due to a one-off blog post he’d written. However, people searching for that term were not interested in legal services, so despite high traffic, his conversion rate remained stagnant.
The key takeaway here is to focus on ranking for keywords that align with the search intent of your target audience. This approach is what helps drive meaningful, converting traffic to your site.
How to find what keywords your website ranks for
Here are the four top ways and the four top tools to use to find what keywords your website ranks for.
Using Google Search Console to kind keywords rankings
Google Search Console (GSC) is one of the most effective tools to understand what keywords your website ranks for. It’s a free tool provided by Google that helps you monitor and troubleshoot your website’s presence in Google Search results.
Google Search Console Performance Report
The Google Search Console Performance Report is particularly valuable. It provides a wealth of data about your website’s performance, including information on keywords.
Here is how to use Google Search Console to find keyword rankings:
- Open Google Search Console and select the property (website) you want to analyze.
- Click on ‘Performance’ in the left-hand menu and select ‘Search results’ .
- Switch to the ‘Queries’ tab.
- You will now see a list of keywords (queries) that users have typed into Google Search to find your site. These are the keywords your website ranks for.
This report will also show you:
- Total clicks: The total number of times users clicked through to your site from the search results.
- Total impressions: The number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user.
- Average CTR: The percentage of impressions that resulted in a click to your site.
- Average position: The average ranking of your site for the keyword in question.
The ‘Queries’ tab specifically can help you see what keywords are driving clicks and impressions to your site. This tab provides valuable insights into the keywords your website is ranking for, which ones are driving traffic, and which keywords might require more focus.
Make sure to check my guide on how to do keyword research with Google Search Console.
Applying Filters in Google Search Console
One of the most advantageous features of Google Search Console is its filtering capabilities. They can help you slice and dice the data in a way that is most relevant to your analysis and insights.
Here are the filters you can use in the Performance report:
- Country filter
You can filter the data by country to see how your website performs for queries in different geographical locations. This can help you better understand your global presence and refine your SEO strategies for different markets.
- Device filter
The device filter allows you to break down the data by device type – desktop, mobile, and tablet. With this, you can understand which devices are most commonly used by your audience and optimize your website accordingly.
- Search Type Filter
By default, the report includes data from web searches. However, you can use the Search Type filter to switch the data to Image or Video searches. This can help you understand how your multimedia content performs in search results.
- Search Appearance Filter
The Search Appearance filter can show you how often your site appears in special search result features like ‘AMP articles’, ‘Rich results’, or ‘Featured snippets’. This can offer insights into where you might need to improve the structure or content of your site to take advantage of these features.
- Date Filter
The Date filter lets you adjust the date range of the data displayed. You can use this to track changes over time and identify trends or issues.
- Query Filter
The Query filter lets you isolate specific keywords to see how they’re performing. For instance, you could filter to show only queries containing a particular word or phrase.
Using JetOctopus to identify keyword rankings
I’m going to dive a little deeper into a tool called JetOctopus, which offers us both a lightning-fast website crawler and a highly efficient log file analyzer.
But the cherry on top? It has the ability to expand and enrich the capabilities of Google Search Console (GSC).
JetOctopus and its integration with Google Search Console
JetOctopus is an SEO tool that provides a unique combination of website crawling, log file analysis, and GSC data enhancement. Once you connect JetOctopus with your GSC account, you’ll get a broader and more detailed view of your keyword rankings. Here’s how:
- Connect to GSC: First things first, you need to integrate your GSC account with JetOctopus. This allows you to view all your keyword ranking information within the platform.
- Go to Keywords report: After the integration, you’ll see a section called ‘Keywords’. It lists all the keywords your website ranks for, along with some extra details like extended data from Google Search Console (total keywords, pages with impressions, total impressions, total clicks, CTR, average position), keywords matched to URLs, and more.
- Use Filters: The tool also provides filters, such as all keywords, new keywords, lost keywords, zero click keywords, winners, losers, and more. It helps you pinpoint the exact data you need for your SEO efforts.
Additionally, JetOctopus comes with some impressive benefits:
- Full Data Access: JetOctopus gives you access to the complete GSC data set. This means you won’t be restricted by GSC’s data sampling limitations.
- Spot Keyword Cannibalization: JetOctopus makes it simple to find and fix keyword cannibalization issues. There is a dedicated keyword ‘Cannibalization’ report that shows you exactly what URLs have cannibalization issues.
- Better Keyword Strategy: The insights you gain will allow you to optimize your keyword strategy and see better SEO results.
Yes, JetOctopus is a paid tool, but its benefits make it a worthy investment. If you’re looking to get more out of your GSC data and understand your keyword rankings in greater detail, JetOctopus could be the tool for you. After all, mastering SEO is all about choosing the right tools for the job.
Using Semrush to identify keyword rankings
Semrush is another fantastic SEO tool that can provide a wealth of information about your website’s keyword rankings. It’s a comprehensive suite of SEO tools, including keyword research, backlink analysis, and, importantly for our purposes here, keyword ranking tracking.
Here’s how you can use Semrush to identify your website’s keyword rankings:
- Login to Semrush: Start by logging into your Semush account. If you don’t have one, you can sign up for a free trial to explore the platform.
- Navigate to the Organic Research Tool: From the dashboard, navigate to the Organic Research tool under the SEO Dashboard section. Enter your website’s URL into the search box and click the ‘Search’ button.
- Examine the Organic Research Report: The Organic Research report will display a range of data about your website, including a list of keywords that your website is ranking for. This list will include each keyword’s position in the SERPs, the search volume for that keyword, and the URL of the page on your site that is ranking for that keyword.
- Apply filters for more insight: Much like Google Search Console, Semrush also allows you to apply various filters to your data, helping you to uncover more detailed insights. For instance, you could filter by specific keyword, position range, or search volume to really drill down into your data.
Remember, though Semrush provides a more granular level of detail than Google Search Console, it’s also a paid tool, so ensure it fits within your budget and requirements.
Using Ahrefs to identify keyword rankings
Ahrefs is another robust SEO tool that is particularly known for its backlink analysis features. However, it’s equally proficient at identifying keyword rankings.
To find out what keywords your website ranks for using Ahrefs, follow these steps:
- Login to Ahrefs: If you have an Ahrefs account, log in.
- Go to the Site Explorer: Once you’re logged in, navigate to the Site Explorer section. Enter your website’s URL and hit the ‘Explore’ button.
- Access the Organic Keywords Report: In the Site Explorer overview page, you’ll find a section called ‘Organic search’. Click on ‘Organic keywords’ to get a list of all the keywords your website is ranking for.
- Analyze the Data: Ahrefs provides comprehensive data for each keyword, including its rank, search volume, keyword difficulty, and the URL of the page ranking for that keyword.
- Use Filters for Detailed Insights: Ahrefs, like Semrush and Google Search Console, provides a variety of filters to help you hone in on the most relevant data. You can filter by keyword, position, volume, and even SERP features.
Again, bear in mind that Ahrefs is a paid tool, so consider whether it offers value for your specific needs and budget.
By leveraging these tools and methodologies, you can get a good handle on what keywords your website ranks for, allowing you to strategize effectively and drive more organic traffic to your site.
Manual Google Search
While tools and SEO platforms are amazing, sometimes you might want to get your hands a little dirty and do a manual check of your keyword rankings. For this, we’ll be using good old Google Search, but in a slightly more incognito fashion.
Using Incognito Mode to Check Keyword Rankings
Here’s a simple way to do it:
- Open an Incognito Window: Start by opening an incognito window in your browser. This prevents Google from using your previous search history to influence the results.
- Type in Your Keyword: Type the keyword you want to check into the search bar. Scroll through the results to see if your website shows up.
- Repeat for Other Keywords: Repeat the process for other keywords you are interested in.
Limitations of Manual Google Search
While this method is simple and quick, it does come with a few limitations:
- Geographic Influence: Google search results can vary based on your location. If you’re trying to check local results for an area you’re not physically in, the results you see might not be accurate.
- Personalized Results: Even in incognito mode, factors like your IP address could potentially influence the search results.
- Time-Consuming: This method can be quite time-consuming, especially if you’re trying to track rankings for a large number of keywords.
To counter the geographical limitation, you can use a VPN to mimic being in the location you want to check the rankings for (the Ahrefs SEO Toolbar can also do that).
Keep in mind, however, that VPNs may not always give 100% accurate results, and this adds another layer of complexity to the process.
All in all, manual checks are a decent way to have a quick look at where you stand, but for long-term and accurate tracking of keyword rankings, investing in a reliable SEO tool is a smarter move.
Importance of monitoring keyword rankings
As an SEO consultant, I understand the significance of keeping tabs on keyword rankings. They are like a health report of your SEO efforts, and monitoring them regularly can offer insightful data to fuel your future strategies.
Understanding Changes in Keyword Rankings
Here’s something I can’t stress enough: volatility in keyword rankings is entirely normal. Yes, it’s usual to see daily ups and downs in your keyword positioning.
Google’s algorithm updates, competitors’ activities, and a host of other factors can influence your ranking for a specific keyword. This fluctuation isn’t something to panic about but rather something to monitor and learn from.
Using Keyword Ranking Information to Improve SEO
The data you gain from monitoring keyword rankings can provide valuable insights for your SEO strategy. It can help you:
- Identify Opportunities: Discovering keywords you rank well for but haven’t specifically targeted can uncover new content opportunities.
- Spot Issues: A sudden drop in ranking might indicate a technical issue, penalties, or an algorithm update that you need to address.
- Competitor Analysis: Understanding your position compared to competitors can help you identify what they’re doing differently and adapt your strategy accordingly.
Focus Beyond Rankings: Traffic and Conversions
But here’s the golden nugget of wisdom: don’t get too hung up on keyword rankings alone. Yes, they’re important, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of SEO.
Higher rankings don’t automatically equate to more traffic or conversions. It’s crucial to focus on bringing relevant traffic to your site that has a higher potential to convert.
The ultimate goal of SEO isn’t just to rank high on the SERPs but to attract potential customers, provide them with valuable content, and guide them through to conversion.
So, keep an eye on your keyword rankings, but don’t lose sight of your real goal: improving user experience and driving meaningful traffic and conversions.