Even though keyword rank does not directly matter the way it used to, local SEO rankings can still be valuable for small local businesses.
Unlike generic keywords (i.e., “best shoes”), local keywords have strong intent built in. You are unlikely to Google “car repair Atlanta GA” without a strong intention to actually buy rather than do research.
Local SEO rankings are still worth watching, even if they should not be a key performance indicator for any business.
But before we look at how to track your local SEO rankings, I do want to propose slight change in terminology & mindset.
Here’s the change – instead of looking at “keyword rank“, start looking in terms of “organic SERP visibility.”
Google’s local search engine result pages (SERPs) are a chaotic mess.
Between local map packs, knowledge graph panels, ads, People Also Ask, video snippet, sitelinks, etc – it’s impossible to say anything meaningful about “ranking.”
So let’s talk about how to check your local SEO rankings and visibility and track local SERPs effectively.
How visible are you when someone searches for your priority keyword?
Here are 5 methods to check & measure.
Manual SERP Checking
This method is the simplest and most straightforward.
- Open a browser in Incognito mode.
- Search for your target keyword.
- Set your location.
- Write down all your ranking & visibility data.
The key here is to be systematic.
Always use the same method, same browser, same keyword, at the same time of day. Use a spreadsheet that tracks all SERP features (i.e., local packs, people also ask, etc) in addition to rank in the “classic” organic links.
- This method is free and fairly reliable.
- You can also customize your tracking spreadsheet.
- You can also observe how the SERPs change and how customers might actually experience the SERPs.
- This method is hard to scale past a handful of target keywords.
- It’s also hard to be truly systematic and confident that Google is showing you a SERP that an average target customer is likely to see.
- It also depends on *you* doing the actual work in a systematic way.
Google My Business + Search Console
This method is one of two that relies on data directly from Google.
In your Google My Business Dashboard, Google will show you what queries triggered your profile in the search results. You’ll only see data for your *profile* – not your website.
- This method pulls highly reliable data directly from Google.
- It’s free and accessible with useful tools that also store months of data.
- You can pull Search Console data into Analytics to analyze with truly useful key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Google does not break out different SERP features.
- It’s hard to pinpoint geographic relevance, like whether you are doing well in a specific city or region (queries must have ‘near me’ or ‘[city]’ as modifiers).
- You have to pull and collate the data since it’s in two separate locations – Google My Business and Search Console.
General SERP Trackers w/ Local Add-on
Mangools and Ahrefs allow country level rank tracking, so you have to include geographic modifiers with your search query (e.g., “car repair atlanta ga”). You can’t track a generic keyword in a specific location.
SEMrush does allow rank tracking for generic keywords in a specific location though (e.g. “car repair” for queries in Atlanta, GA).
Whatever rank tracker you choose, they run regular SERP checks and automatically pull ranking data in addition to SERP features directly into a usable Dashboard with email notifications.
- This method has the most reliable data plus additional tools for the price.
- It’s “scalable” – ie, you can track a lot of keywords as part of a subscription.
- All your data is easy & accessible to put to use.
- This method costs money.
- Unless you are using SEMrush, you can’t get rankings for generic keywords in a specific geographic area.
Local SERP Trackers
All three do exactly as you’d expect them to do. They track keyword position data based on geographic location. They also store and organize your data into a a useful dashboard.
- This method is the most straightforward way to track rankings.
- Data is sifted & sorted to include all the different features of local SERPs.
- Companies are usually very familiar with the quirks of local SEO.
- This method is generally the most expensive, especially if you look at the full suite of tools that you (don’t) get. General SERP checkers usually offer more overall value for money as marketing tools.
- The data can be so granular that it can give a false sense of business health unless connected to proper KPIs.
Google Ads Organic Report
If you are running Google Ads, you can connect your Search Console account and get combined access to Organic and Paid Search data.
Google Ads provides in-depth geographic data for keywords that you are bidding on. If you are bidding on the same keywords that you are targeting organically, you can back into how you are doing with organic visibility. Take the organic impressions & position report. Compare it with your paid impressions (assuming you are limiting your geographic targeting). Adjust your organic impressions based on your paid impressions.
- This method comes directly from Google.
- You can integrate it directly with Google Analytics & Google My Business and really look at your paid & organic efforts together in a spreadsheet.
- It’s a bit of a pain to set up properly. It’s also not convenient to pull & present the data in a pretty Dashboard. It’s definitely an Excel kind of job.
- It requires some regular & consistent Google Ads spend.
There is no single perfect way to pull your local SEO position / ranking / visibility data.
Out of all the methods, I currently use SEMrush for my local clients since they also do listing management, content marketing and Google Ads – and only have a single location. I like to combine that data with Search Console, Ads, and My Business to help make decisions and prioritize changes.
For local clients with multiple locations, I’ve had the best experience with WhiteSpark.
There is no best way to track local SEO rankings. But however you track them, be sure to use them to better inform your local strategy, and not for vanity.
Be sure to explore my guide to local business marketing strategy.