Looking at local ranking tools

Following my review of Moz Analytics last year, this month I’ve moved on to looking at another new tool that’s still in beta: SEMrush Position Tracking.
I’ve been playing with this tool for a couple of months now, and feel that it deserves a blog post of its own. I’ll provide some pointers as to what is does and why I’ve found it useful in a day to day context.

A fair few tools will give you similar data formats so I’ve addressed the pros and cons of using them too, in an effort to be fair and provide an unbiased view. I’ve used the example of Custard Creams in these scenarios (other biscuits are available).

SEMrush positional tracking

This tool has been available, in beta form, for a few months now. Due to its limited keyword capacity (up to 1500 keywords with a Guru account) you’re unlikely to be using this tool for large campaigns. However, this blog post is about local keyword tracking, so I’ll address how I would use the tool to help me with smaller, local campaigns.

Setting up a campaign

The campaign set-up process in SEMrush is incredibly straight-forward. Click on the ‘Create new project’ (I know, crazy right?) and you’ll get this screen:

  • You can choose to track either a specific URL, a subfolder, subdomain, or root domain. I’d be tempted to choose root domain every time, as that way you’ll be able to see what page is ranking, even when it’s not the page you would expect to rank.
  • It’s best to use a custom title such as [keyword set] – [location] as this will help you to identify the campaign you’re looking at with just a quick glance, such as from the main dashboard view (see image below – I can’t tell which local area these are targeting as I haven’t followed my own tip)

SEMrush-dashboard

  • You can drill down by Country, Region (in the UK either England, Scotland, Wales etc, in the US, by State) or city. Currently there about 150 countries to choose from, but I haven’t tried them all out so I can’t guarantee how accurate they are.
  • SEMrush generates its own list of competitors based on shared keywords, and you can add your own to this auto-generated list if you feel there are some missing. The reason I like this tool is it’s quite simple to group keywords and thus have a good overview of how you’re performing in various local search climates.

What are the cons to using the SEMrush tool?

Well, there are a few things that hold you back when using this tool. For example, you can’t track rankings in Bing and Yahoo, and you can’t distinguish between local listings and organic rankings, meaning the rank you see for a keyword could be either, whichever is ranking higher.
If you click on a ranking, you will see the ranking page. It would be useful if this were visible as standard, as this is really useful information to have to hand. Additionally, I think the ability to duplicate campaigns should be added, as this would make tracking across multiple areas a lot easier.
There appear to be a few teething problems at the moment with it failing to update on various days and therefore making reports look like all your rankings dropped for that day. However, the tool is still in beta so I would expect a few issues to be present.

Conclusion

SEMrush’s advantage is that it combines the key elements that help you to set up a campaign with no prior research – keyword analysis, competitor identification and tracking rankings. The best qualities of SEMrushes’ tool are its simplicity and its great looking reports (see example below), which I wouldn’t hesitate to show to a client. They are neat, branded (if you want) and easy to use. My recommendation is for using this tool for local and small business clients, looking at local visibility, coverage, and changes in the local search ecosystem.

SEMrush report

So what other tools can I use?

Linkdex

Linkdex has great technical power to generate as many keyword campaigns across localities as you want. Their tracking dashboards aren’t as visual as SEMrush’s and aren’t as easy to understand at a glance. However, they do allow you the ability to add keyword volume data and generate forecasts based on calculations in that way. If you’re working with small volume keywords or local keywords where data isn’t available, this probably won’t be of use to you.
Not only does Linkdex look at rankings in Google, but it includes rankings from Yahoo and Bing as well. The set-up is pretty simple; in the ‘Rankings’ tab, add your keywords to a project and then tick the ones you want to track locally. Then click on the spanner and screwdriver button and tick the ‘Ranking Configurations’ (search localities) that apply. You can add configurations to the list quite easily.

Linkdex-local-setup-1

The reports are not as nice looking as those produced by other tools, but you can achieve the same data with a combination of its dashboard and reporting features. You can also create ‘Market Share’ reports specific to a certain search locality, which can be useful in demonstrating the value of progress to clients in specific localities. Again, this is only useful if you have keyword volume for your list, which you may not if you’re working in smaller localities.

BrightLocal’s SEO Tools

Brightlocal’s tool is something I only discovered when researching this post and I’ve only used the free trial of this, so my comments on this are a little limited. As this is a package dedicated to tracking local, it’s geared to all the features of local that you would want to track and enables you to get really granular with your tracking.

brightlocal-setup-1
Currently, the tool is limited to tracking rankings in the USA, Canada, UK & Australia (some features are limited to just one of these areas). However, like Linkdex, this tool tracks Bing and Yahoo too. Bright Local provides PDF, CSV and Online reports, as well as ‘roll-up reports’ that clients can log in externally to view. BrightLocal currently has a 30 day free trial, so you can try it out for yourself.brightlocal summary

Best For:

Simplicity

If you’re new to keyword, competitors and the whole business, SEMrush is your best bet, as the positional tracking tool will do it all for you. Granted you could be missing out on some competitors or keywords, but if you just want an overview and feel that your website operates in a straight-forward sector, this tool could be the one for you. It is also good if you want to keep an eye on visibility across a range of countries. The focus is on ‘visibility’ across your keywords. $69.95 – $149.95/month.

Focusing on local and all that it involves

If that number one ranking in that specific area is the be all, end all for you, then Brightlocal’s SEO Tools’ is probably the one for you. Not only can you get granular with places and local rankings, this tool also tracks citations, reviews and local directory entries. $19.99 – $64.99/month.

For when rankings equal money and money equals happy CEOs

Linkdex is great for using your ranking data to generate reports that show the value of your rankings. Improved reporting is to come (it’s currently in beta) but the data it provides can demonstrate the value of your work and progress. The set-up is not as straight forward as the others and you can’t necessarily see the current situation side by side on your dashboard with pretty red and green arrows. (Price is based on how much data you need).

 Image courtesy of Rafael Peñaloza

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