SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use. SEO monitoring involves regularly assessing your website’s SEO performance and ensuring it remains free from significant technical issues.

Keeping an eye on crucial SEO elements is essential because it enables you to respond to factors that may impact your visibility on search engines, such as a decline in keyword rankings.

This guide will provide you with insights into what aspects of your site are worth monitoring regularly and how to achieve this using free tools.

Table of Contents:

  1. The Two Essential Free Tools
  2. What to Monitor in SEO (and How)
  3. What NOT to Monitor in SEO (and Why)

The Two Essential Free Tools

You will only require two free tools for effective SEO monitoring: Google Search Console (GSC) and Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT), both available to website owners at no cost.

Google Search Console stands as a pivotal tool in SEO, offering data directly from Google, making it highly reliable for certain metrics, such as organic traffic. However, GSC has limitations when it comes to displaying data on keywords, backlinks, and SEO issues. Fortunately, AWT serves as a valuable complement to fill these gaps in GSC’s data.

What to Monitor in SEO (and How)

When initiating your SEO monitoring efforts, it’s crucial to keep a close watch on the following elements:

a. Organic Traffic

b. Keyword Rankings

c. Backlinks

d. Selected Technical Issues

Here’s why and how to monitor them:

Organic Search Traffic

Organic traffic signifies the clicks your website receives from search engine results pages (SERPs) when it ranks for relevant keywords. The higher your ranking, the more traffic you can attract. Organic traffic is one of the most fundamental SEO metrics, and most SEO strategies aim to increase it. Monitoring organic search traffic helps you gauge the effectiveness of your SEO endeavors.

How to check:

  1. Access Google Search Console (or create an account if you don’t have one).
  2. Navigate to the “Performance” section and select the “Search results report.”
  3. Set your desired time range and ensure your data is configured for the web.
  4. The “Clicks” metric represents your organic search traffic.

By diligently monitoring these key aspects of SEO using the recommended free tools, you can maintain a healthy and optimized website that continues to perform well in search engine rankings.

SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use
SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

You can access identical traffic data within AWT by linking it to your GSC account. This offers the advantage of extending your data visibility beyond GSC’s 16-month limit.

SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use
SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

Pro Tip

Some SEO professionals and content marketers monitor conversions stemming from organic traffic to identify the most impactful pages. This practice isn’t universally adopted because attributing the buyer’s journey to a single article or even a collection of articles can be intricate due to its complexity.

If you aim to track conversions originating from organic traffic, you can achieve this for free by utilizing tools such as Google Analytics or cost-free alternatives like Matomo.

Further Reading

For more information, you can explore the following resources:

  1. [How to Increase Organic Traffic: 12 Tried & Tested Tips](Link to the resource)

Keyword Rankings

Keyword ranking refers to the position a page holds for a specific keyword on the search engine results page (SERP).

Monitoring keyword positions is essential because a drop in rankings results in a loss of traffic. It’s not necessary to track the rankings for all your keywords; rather, focus on tracking target keywords for your critical pages.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware when rankings improve because it usually signifies the success of your SEO efforts.

How to check:

You have the option of using either GSC or AWT.

  • Google Search Console restricts your data to 1,000 keywords (or 5,000 through the API) and maintains a 16-month data history. However, your keyword data is updated on a daily basis.
  • Ahrefs Webmaster Tools offers unlimited keyword tracking, backlinks, and data history. It also provides an easier-to-navigate interface, along with access to SEO metrics related to your keywords, such as search volume and Keyword Difficulty. Data updates depend on the keyword’s popularity and your website’s activity.

If you’re using Google Search Console, follow these steps:

1. Access the Search results report and set up a new filter for the exact query you wish to check. This will allow you to view data for one query at a time.

SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use
SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

2. Activate the “Average Position” metric.

SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use
SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

If you’re utilizing Ahrefs Webmaster Tools:

1. Navigate to your Dashboard and select the “Organic Keywords” card.

SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use
SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

2. The tool will direct you to the Site Explorer, where you can view your keyword rankings in the “Position” column, identify the pages that are ranking in the “URL” column, and assess the freshness of the data in the “Updated” column.

SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use
SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

3. To generate a list consisting solely of your critical keywords, input them into the Keyword filter. Ensure you configure the filter to include both “is” and “any” modes.

SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use
SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

Further Reading

For more in-depth information, consider these additional resources:

  1. [How to Improve Your Google Ranking: 10 Steps](Link to the resource)

Referring Domains

Referring domains are distinct websites that link to your own. Monitoring them is the most effective way to gauge the growth of your link profile.

An expanding link profile indicates that your website is gaining authority, a factor that can contribute to improved page rankings.

How to check:

Utilize Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, and you can follow these steps:

1. Navigate to your Dashboard.

2. Access the Backlinks card, providing a quick overview of your backlink growth.

3. If you require more detailed data, click on the card to access additional information.

4. The tool will direct you to the Site Explorer, where you can review all the backlinks originating from these domains, as well as access information such as Domain Rating (DR) and other relevant data.

You should strive to establish an equal or greater number of links compared to your competitors to enhance your chances of achieving a higher ranking. For comprehensive guidance on this, consult our “Link Building for SEO: The Beginner’s Guide.”

Technical SEO Issues

Technical SEO issues pertain to potential difficulties that Google might encounter when it comes to discovering, crawling, indexing, and comprehending your website.

Vigilance in monitoring technical issues is crucial because it empowers you to identify and rectify errors that could adversely affect your rankings.


It’s important to recognize that certain issues can wield a more significant impact than others, particularly the nine highlighted issues. It’s possible for your site to possess minor issues, such as missing image alt text, and still maintain a high ranking.

How to check:

To scrutinize your site for critical technical issues and errors, Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is a valuable resource. You can proceed as follows:

1. Launch AWT and navigate to the “Site Audit” section.

2. Access the “Errors” category within the “Issues distribution” card.

3. Access the list of issues, then select the question mark icon adjacent to the error, and adhere to the provided instructions.

To keep your site in good technical health, schedule regular crawls in AWT and fix the most pressing issues. 

What NOT to monitor in SEO (and why) 

Here are some popular metrics used in SEO that, in our opinion, are not worth regularly monitoring. That said, they may be useful in other situations. 

  • Domain rating  Refers to the relative strength of your backlink profile. It’s a useful proxy for a quick assessment of other sites (for example, for link building) but not very useful for consistent monitoring on your own site. 
  • Click-through rate  Refers to the proportion of page impressions on the SERPs that turned into clicks (available in GSC). It’s too confusing as a sitewide metric, but it can be helpful only when checked on the page level. Also, a low CTR doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with a given page (SERP features and ads can take away clicks). 
  • Engagement metrics – Especially bounce rate, engagement rate, dwell time, time on page, and session duration. They are either irrelevant to SEO or unreliable for analyzing content.


Final thoughts: SEO Monitoring Explained and The Best Tools to Use

You can do a lot with AWT and GSC. But there are some aspects of SEO monitoring that only premium SEO tools can do.

  • Thorough rank tracking – A premium rank tracker unlocks ranking data for different locations and mobile devices. Monitoring progress is easier with access to ranking history and a special competitor report. You also get access to the share of voice functionality, which can make a more useful KPI than particular keyword rankings. 
  • Competitive analysis  With a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you can get an insight into your competitors’ SEO strategy by seeing which keywords they rank for and how they earn backlinks. 
  • Email alerts  A feature you can also find in tools like Ahrefs that lets you set up notifications when a competitor’s site ranks for new keywords or gets new backlinks (watch short demo). You can also get notified of mentions of your brand and products.

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Read More: How to Optimize for Voice Queries