How to Track Keywords: The Ultimate Guide

Keyword tracking involves monitoring and measuring the performance of specific keywords or phrases. It helps you understand how well your website ranks for those keywords, how often the keywords are searched on average, and more.

If you’re not tracking keywords, you’re missing an opportunity to measure whether your website has online visibility for topics that could bring you business.

In this guide, we’ll cover the concept and benefits of keyword tracking, how to track keyword performance step by step, and tracking tools to consider.

Why Keyword Tracking Is Essential for SEO Success

Keyword tracking is a crucial component of any SEO strategy. It informs your decisions and influences the following:


  • Visibility refers to how often your website or pages appear in search engine results for keywords
  • By tracking keywords, you gain insights into how visible your content is (i.e., how well your content ranks) on search engine results pages (SERPs)
  • Improved visibility means more chances for people to discover your business when they search for topics related to your offerings


  • Keyword tracking allows you to monitor the search engine rankings of individual keywords, arming you with data to help you decide which ones to focus your optimization efforts on
  • By tracking keywords, you’ll know which pages on your site rank for them. You might optimize existing content or decide to create new content that better aligns with what people are searching for.
  • Regularly tracking and monitoring helps you understand which keywords are gaining or losing positioning in search results, so you can make timely adjustments to your content


  • Tracking keywords is the basis for measuring your search rankings, which directly affect organic traffic. 
  • Higher rankings can lead to more visits. The top three Google results receive 54.4% of all clicks.
  • By tracking keywords, you’ll be able to identify which terms drive the most traffic and conversions to your site. You can then optimize your site to improve performance and attract the right type of visitors.
Backlinko study found that the top three google results receive 54.4% of all clicks.

The Benefits of Keyword Tracking for Website Optimization

Keyword tracking plays a key role in website optimization. Here are some of the benefits that enhance your SEO strategy.

Improved Targeting

  • Keyword research and analysis help you center your content around relevant topics that matter to your target audience
  • When your content aligns with what people are searching for, you capture their attention
  • By tracking keywords, you’ll learn which terms attract people who are genuinely interested in your offerings

Better Content Relevance

  • Regular keyword tracking ensures your content stays relevant
  • As your industry evolves, you can track new keywords and update your content to align with changing user expectations
  • Identifying the best keywords for your content, and then using them to optimize your content can directly affect your rankings
  • By tracking keywords and understanding their intent, you can optimize your site to address your potential customers’ needs

Enhanced User Experience

  • When your content aligns with search intent, user satisfaction improves. “Intent” is what the user intends to do for the search they’ve entered.
  • Relevant keywords lead to better-targeted content, which can lead to higher engagement

How Keyword Tracking Works

The primary goals of keyword tracking are to compare keyword performance, identify growth opportunities, and inform your content strategy.

Google uses complex algorithms to rank web pages based on keyword relevance, content quality, backlinks, and user experience.

Many keyword tracking tools consider these factors. One such tool is Semrush’s Position Tracking, which allows you to monitor your site’s rankings. You can get daily data for rankings of the keywords you’ve tracked, sites that are competing for your target keywords, rankings in different locations, and more.

This is an example of what one of the reports in the Position Tracking tool looks like:

Rankings overview report in the Position Tracking tool

How to Track Keywords Step by Step

Here’s how to track keyword rankings for your website, from initial research to setting up a tracking tool.

Step 1: Conduct Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of discovering and analyzing terms and topics your target audience is looking for.

Here are a few ways to identify keywords.

An easy, free method of researching keywords is to go to Google and look at the autocomplete options it offers in the search bar.

Google generates these to help people save time and quickly complete their searches. The predictions reflect real, common search queries.

You’ll see the predictions populate when you start typing. Make note of any that are relevant for your site.

Google autocomplete suggestions for "dog food"

When you enter a query in Google, scroll down and you’ll eventually come to a “Related searches” section. These are keywords related to your search that you might also consider targeting.

Related searches section on Google SERP for dog food

Check to See What You Already Rank for

Another free keyword research method is using Google Search Console (GSC).

Assuming you have an existing website, you can check to see whether it’s ranking for any keywords.

Log in to GSC, set up your property if you haven’t done so previously, and go to “Search results” in the left-hand navigation.

Then select all four colored boxes for clicks, impressions, average click-through rate (CTR), and average position.

total clicks, impressions, average click-through rate (CTR), and average position metrics in GSC

Scroll down and you’ll see a table with queries that your site ranks for in Google, and their corresponding four metrics.

a table showing queries that a site ranks for in Google, with their metrics

Now you can add these keywords to your tracking tool.

Further reading: How to Use Google Search Console for Keyword Research

Use a Keyword Research Tool to Discover Opportunities

The Semrush Keyword Magic Tool uses a database of more than 25 billion keywords, providing keyword suggestions and important metrics.

Start by entering a seed keyword relevant to your business. 

Choose your target country or leave “US” as the default selection.

Then click the “Search” button.

"landscaping companies" entered into the Keyword Magic Tool search bar

You’ll then see a list of related keywords, along with corresponding key metrics like search intent, search volume, and keyword difficulty. You can apply filters to narrow your search for targeting.

a list of related keywords, and key metrics like search intent, search volume, and keyword difficulty shown in Keyword Magic Tool

When you’ve decided which keywords you want to target from that list, use the checkboxes and then click the “+ Add to keyword list” button to save them to the Keyword Manager

moving selected keywords "landscaping company" and "landscaping companies" to a keyword list

If you’ve already created a keyword list, you can choose the list you’d like to add the keywords to. 

select an existing list from the drop-down menu

Or, you can create a new list by clicking “Create new empty list” and typing in a name for the list. Then click the green check mark, and you’re done.

create a new empty keywords list option

The alternative to saving them to the Keyword Manager is to select the keywords, and then export them to an XLSX or CSV file. You can build a list on your personal drive and upload everything to Keyword Manager later.

To discover more keywords for other topics, go back to the first step of using the Keyword Magic Tool to enter another seed keyword. 

Select the keywords you want, then click “Export.”

export the selected keywords from the list

Once you’ve compiled a list and you’re ready to upload to Keyword Manager, go to the tool and click “create a regular list.” Give it a name and then click “Create list.”

To upload your keywords, click the blue “Add keywords” button in the top right of the screen. A window will appear like this, with a field to paste your list.

add keywords manually window

Step 2: Interpret and Analyze Keyword Data

Understanding the data you collect for your keywords is just as important as tracking the keywords.

If you’re tracking keywords with Semrush, you’ll see key metrics like intent, keyword difficulty, position, volume, and more.

Rankings overview report in Semrush, showing keywords and their key metrics


This is the type of intent—navigational, informational, commercial, or transactional—that searchers have for the keyword.

For example, the intent for “home decoration ideas for wall” is informational, which means the searcher is looking for information and isn’t likely to make a purchase or convert in another way, like sign up for a newsletter.

On the other hand, the intent for “best home décor catalogs” is commercial, which means the searcher is in a research phase and could be close to buying.

"Intent" column highlighted in the Rankings overview report


Keyword difficulty is a metric that measures how competitive the term or phrase is, and therefore, how hard it may be to rank for it.

For example, “best home décor brands” has a keyword difficulty score of 22%, which suggests it should be easy to rank for.

On the other hand, “home decoration ideas for wall” has a difficulty score of 71%, which means it’s more competitive.

"KD%" column highlighted in the Rankings overview report


This is your website’s ranking for the keyword in the SERP.

It should be your goal to rank as high as possible on the first page of results for any given target keyword.

In general, the higher you rank for a keyword, the more traffic you can get. CTRs of search results increase the higher the position is.

Google organic CTR breakdown by position shows that a listing in position one has 27.6% CTR, position two has 15.8%, and position three has 11%


Search volume is the average number of monthly searches over the last 12 months for the keyword.

For example, “best home décor brands” has a volume of 70, so you might only expect a fraction of that in terms of visits if you can get a top ranking.

On the other hand, “home decoration ideas for wall” has a volume of 320, which could bring relatively more traffic.

"Volume" column highlighted in the Rankings overview report

Step 3: Determine Keyword Competition and Search Volume

You can assess the viability of keywords by analyzing their competition levels and search volumes.

In this example using the Semrush Keyword Overview tool, the keyword “yoga mat” has a keyword difficulty of 72% on a scale of 0-100%. It will be hard to rank for.

the keyword “yoga mat” has a keyword difficulty of 72% on a scale of 0-100%

By solely targeting keywords that are hard to rank for, you may not get the results you expect.

And by solely targeting keywords that are easy to rank for, you could be missing out on significant traffic. Find a balance that makes sense for your business.

Search volume is another metric to analyze in your research. It’s a metric that SEO tools provide to help you determine a keyword’s popularity. For example, “dog food” has around 135,000 monthly searches in the United States.

the keyword “dog food” has around 135,000 monthly searches in the United States

Using high-volume keywords to optimize your site—such as a popular keyword like “dog food”—can bring significant traffic. However, high-volume terms are competitive.

Low-volume keywords, on the other hand, aren’t as popular. A keyword like “all-natural lamb and rice dog food,” gets just 10 searches per month, and is less competitive.

Step 4: Select Keywords for Tracking

A well-rounded SEO strategy balances head terms, medium-tail keywords, and long-tail keywords.

Head terms, also referred to as “short-tail keywords,” are broad keywords with high volume relative to other keywords in the given topic.

For example, “sneakers” is a head term with a volume of 201,000.

“Men’s Nike wide sneakers,” on the other hand, is a long-tail keyword that gets considerably fewer searches per month: 320.

“sneakers” keywords has a volume of 201, 000, and “Men's Nike wide sneakers" keyword has a volume of 320

Long-tail keywords are queries with high specificity that tend to have relatively low search volumes.

Despite the low volume, they make up 70% of all Google searches.

a graph showing keyword searches in Google, with number of keywords (x-axis) and monthly search volume (y-axis)

Medium-tail keywords are more specific than head terms but aren’t necessarily as specific as long-tail keywords. 

They can help attract more qualified traffic to a website compared to head terms, which are often broad and difficult to rank for.

Combine the strengths of all three types of keywords. Balance them in your targeting to ensure that you cater to different intents and aren’t relying solely on one type of keyword.

For example, head terms can often indicate the searcher is simply looking for information. You might create content about the history of sneakers.

Medium- and long-tail keywords, on the other hand, may indicate people are looking to buy. You might create a page for a sneaker sizing chart that accounts for wide sizes you sell.

With this balanced strategy, you’re working to attract searchers of all types and build a larger audience.

Step 5: Map Your Keywords

Keyword mapping involves strategically assigning relevant keywords to specific pages to improve their visibility and ranking.

The goal is to match each target keyword with a page on your site that best satisfies search intent. By doing this, you can optimize pages for the most relevant terms and prevent keyword cannibalization.

A keyword map looks something like this:

Semrush keyword mapping template

To start the process, check out Keyword Mapping for SEO and download the Semrush keyword mapping template.

Step 6: Set Up Semrush Position Tracking Tool

To track rankings for your target keywords, you can use the Semrush Position Tracking tool.

To begin the setup, enter your domain and then click the “Set up tracking” button.

"" entered into the Position Tracking tool search bar

Before making selections in this next step, look at your website analytics to see:

  • Which search engine drives the most traffic to your site
  • And which device type most of your visitors use – desktop, mobile, or tablet

Next, with those two answers in hand, choose the search engine and device you want Semrush to use for tracking. You might start with “Google” and “Mobile,” respectively.

You also need to choose a location, so choose the main country your business sells to.

Then click the “Continue To Keywords” button.

"Google" selected under search engine, and "Mobile" under device in Position Tracking tool settings

The next stage is to manually enter your target keyword list, or import it from another source, such as a TXT or CSV file.

Once you’ve done this, click “Add keywords to campaign” and then click the “Start Tracking” button.

Add keywords to campaign in Position Tracking tool

Watch this short video for a demonstration of the steps we just covered:

Youtube video thumbnail

You’ll then see a dashboard with a variety of reports. The default view shows overall landscape metrics and a summary about the domain.

Navigate to the “Overview” tab to see metrics for the keywords you set up.

Visibility, estimated traffic, and average position metrics shown in Position Tracking tool

In this report, scroll down and you’ll see the “Rankings Overview.”

This lists your keywords, their rankings, and how they’ve changed position over time.

Rankings Overview report lists keywords, their rankings, and how they’ve changed position over time

How to Track Keywords in Search Console

You can also analyze your site’s performance for keywords in GSC, a free tool.

Log in to the tool. If you haven’t set up your property yet, you can learn how in Google Search Console: The Ultimate Guide.

In the property drop-down, choose your domain.

To see what keywords your site ranks for, click “Full report” on the “Performance” chart on the overview page..

Performance chart in the Google Search Console

Or you can click “Search Results” in the left-hand menu to get to the same place.

The report shows a line chart with clicks, impressions, average CTR, and average position over the last three months.

Performance on search results report shows a line chart with clicks, impressions, average CTR, and average position over the last three months

To see the keywords your site ranks for, scroll down to the table of “Top queries.” These are your ranking keywords along with the corresponding metrics in the line chart above.

Queries table in GSC shows ranking keywords along with the corresponding metrics

To see whether you rank for a particular keyword, scroll back up and click “+ New” to filter by query.

Filtering the results by query

A box like this will appear. Select “Exact query” in the drop-down, enter the keyword you want to see data for, and click “Apply.”

Query window showing “Exact query” selection in the drop-down and "example" keyword added

If you don’t see any data for the keyword you entered, it means your site doesn’t rank for it.

If your site does rank for the keyword, you’ll see something like this:

a line chart showing data for total clicks, total impressions, average CTR, and average position

Want to focus solely on the ranking? Click the blue, purple, and green boxes so only the orange “Average position” block stays selected.

This shows you the keyword’s ranking every day over time. The default time frame is the last three months, and you can change this as desired.

Average position block showing 3.8

While you can’t build a list in GSC like you can in Semrush Position Tracking, you can still export GSC data to your computer for further tracking. You could create your own charts and tables in Excel, for example.

GSC data is only available for 16 months, so you may consider exporting on a regular basis to save keyword data for the long run.

Track Keywords for Different Platforms

There’s more to keyword tracking than just Google search.

If you’re marketing your business on various platforms, you may want to track keyword performance on all of them for a holistic view of your online presence.

Here are strategies for tracking keywords for a few other popular platforms.

Running PPC ads with your Google Ads account? You can use the Position Tracking tool again to see and track performance for the keywords you’re bidding on.

Open the tool and select the project you created in step six of the keyword tracking process above.

"" project selected from Position Tracking dashboard

In the default view of the dashboard, click the settings icon that looks like a gear in the top-right corner. Under “Type” select “Google Ads.

"Google Ads" selected from the drop-down menu in Position Tracking tool

All the data you see now is for the keywords you’re bidding on in your Google Ads campaigns.

Navigate to the “Overview” tab and scroll down to “Rankings Overview.”

Click the “Positions” tab to see which keywords your ads rank for and their position.

Rankings overview table in Position Tracking tool, showing which keywords your ads rank for and their position

YouTube Keyword Position Tracking

If you have a YouTube channel, you can use Semrush’s Rank Tracker for YouTube to measure the position of your videos in YouTube results for your target keywords.

To use this app, go to the App Center that’s listed in the Semrush main navigation. 

You can then either search “YouTube” to find the tracker, or click “Social Media” in the left-hand menu to see all the social media apps where the tracker is listed.

Navigating to Rank Tracker for YouTube tool in App Center

Here’s how to track keywords for YouTube.

Inside the Rank Tracker app, connect to your YouTube channel. Then import your list of target keywords either manually, via YouTube Studio, or via Semrush’s Keyword Manager.

"yoga for weigh loss" "yoga for back pain" "yoga for seniors" and other keywords added to Rank Tracker for YouTube

Once the setup is done, the “Overview” tab will show you:

  • The average YouTube ranking across all your keywords
  • The distribution of rankings—”Top 3,” “Top 10,” “Top 20,” and “No Rank”
  • The number of keywords that moved up or down in position
  • A snapshot of your top ranking keywords in the “Top Ranking Keywords” section
An overview dashboard in Rank Tracker for YouTube shows average YouTube ranking across all your keywords, the distribution of rankings, and other data.

For more keyword insights, navigate to the “Keywords” tab.

Here, you’ll see rankings for each of your keywords and the corresponding ranking video.

Keywords table in Rank Tracker for YouTube shows rankings for each of your keywords and the corresponding ranking video

Amazon Position Tracking

If you have an Amazon seller account, you can use a tool like Helium 10’s Amazon & Walmart Keyword Tracker to track the rankings of your Amazon keywords.

Amazon & Walmart Keyword Tracker tool

You can get the organic and sponsored Amazon positions of your keywords in real-time, gather data like trends and monthly searches, and see how your visibility compares to competitors.

Visit Helium 10’s tracker tool page to learn how to track keyword ranking in Amazon.

Additional keyword tracking tools are available. We suggest looking for a tool that suits the needs and budget of your business.

Here are just a few of our top picks.


AccuRanker's landing page

We like AccuRanker since it can refresh your keyword rankings in real time and offers dynamic tagging rules to organize your list.

Their free trial period is 14 days, and pricing starts at $129 per month.

Advanced Web Ranking

Advanced Web Ranking's landing page

Advanced Web Ranking offers an unlimited number of projects, allowing you to benchmark your performance against as many as 50 competitors.

Their free trial period is 30 days, and pricing starts at $99 per month.

SE Ranking

SE Ranking's landing page

SE Ranking offers suggestions for how to improve your rankings and identifies keywords that bring the most traffic to your site.

Their free trial period is 14 days and pricing starts at $55 per month.

Implementing Changes Based on Keyword Tracking Insights

Once you’ve started tracking keywords, you can use the insights to make informed decisions for on- and off-page optimization.

Modify On-Page Content and Meta Data for Improved Keyword Performance

You can strategically use the keywords you’re tracking to enhance on-page SEO elements and improve how your pages rank:

  • Content: Incorporate your tracked keywords naturally into your content. Use the keyword map you created and aim for a natural balance. Use variations of the head term.
  • Title tags: Optimize title tags to be descriptive, concise, and compelling. Include your primary keyword for the page toward the front of the title.
  • Meta descriptions: Optimize meta descriptions to summarize the page content and include relevant keywords. Use action-oriented wording to entice users to click.
  • Header tags (H1, H2, etc.): Use headings to structure your content to improve readability and organization. Include the primary keyword in the main heading (H1) and other relevant keywords in the subheadings (H2, H3, etc.).

You can also use the keywords you’re tracking for off-page SEO tactics to improve keyword rankings:

  • Work with other reputable websites to acquire backlinks, specifically in industries related to your target keywords. Focus on getting links that point to your ranking pages to improve and maintain existing rankings.
  • Write guest posts for relevant websites in your niche. Write about a topic related to keywords you’re tracking. Include a link back to your site within the content (if the publishing site allows it).

Social Media

  • Share your content on social media platforms
  • Engage with your followers and encourage them to share your posts
  • Use target keywords as part of the messaging in your posts

Online PR

  • Publish press releases for announcements about your business. These can attract attention and backlinks.
  • Use target keywords as part of the messaging in your releases

Transform Your Tracking with Semrush

Tracking keywords is an essential part of improving SEO performance. Using Semrush’s suite of SEO tools makes the process easy, giving you the data you need to optimize your site and grow traffic.

Monitor rankings for your target keywords, compare your performance against the competition, and track the progress of your SEO efforts. All in one platform.

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