What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker?

In the past few weeks I’ve been testing a bunch of software packages for rank checking. It’s a cornerstone of an SEO’s arsenal of tools, and there’s a number of them out there.

But which is the best? After all, whilst it isn’t the most important metric for an SEO campaign, it is one of the most important and one that many SEO workers are judged on. Knowing the ranking of sites as well can help you spot new opportunities. I decided to test a few of the most popular – SEOBook’s Rank Checker, Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker, SEOMoz‘s Rank Checking Tool & Advanced Web Ranking.

A Small Section of the Spreadsheet

To test this – I tested over 300 keywords over a number of sites, comparing with their original manual ranking.

Test Data

  • I have tested this data on 360 of keywords split over 22 sites.
  • This data was collated over two days. Although each ranking is checked on the same day (so for example “Keyword 1″ was tested using the four packages on the same day). If any other keyword ranking tools are added at a later date, I’ll do a manual check, followed by testing the tool.
  • The results will be split into two fields. The first is the pencentage accuracy of the reported rank compared to the actual rank checked (which was checked on Google UK straight after with personalised web search disabled). The second test was on average how close was the ranking to the actual ranking.
  • The test was done on Google UK for UK keywords.
  • The results tested the top 100 rankings. If the keyword is reported to be missing from the top 100 placing it will be marked as 101.
  • I also checked the time it took to do the check on a standard broadband connection. Two of the tools (Rank Tracker & Advanced Web Ranking) do note the time taken to generate the report. Of those tools that don’t give a timescale I used a stopwatch. Not horrendously accurate but it does give an indication.

Results

Accuracy of Rank Reported 95% 88% 86% 96%
Average Difference Between Rank Check & Actual Result 0.20 6.15 1.77 0.19
Time Taken to Check 10 Keywords 0:02 1:08 5:17 0:33
Price $99.75 / $249.75
(Year)
Free $99-$599
(Year)
$99 – $2000 (Month)
Free Trial Feature Limited N/A 30 Days 30 Days
System Windows, Mac & Linux Firefox Based Windows, Mac & Liniux Web Based
Website Link Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here

Explanation For Inaccuracies

One thing I noticed throughout the report was the innacuracies of 1 or 2 on page 1 rankings. After doing a bit of research, I found out why. Imagine if I was the SEO for allwwewrestlers.com & wanted to check my rankings for “Hacksaw Jim Duggan”.

As you can see, although we have the Image & Videos in the search results, the natural search rankings are showing up as second. These image/videos/places/shopping etc. result change all the time, so I can imagine that SEOMoz probably spends time & the resources including them in the rank checking algorithm, whilst Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker doesn’t. Please don’t hold me to this, as I don’t know.

Other Thoughts

  • SEOMoz‘s tool was the most accurate tool.
  • Easily the fastest at doing the searches was Rank Tracker.
  • Advanced Web Ranking did only check the top 50 rankings by default. I’m pretty sure you can test more but I can only found out how to set it by the top 50 rankings. With that said, it’s by far the slowest check so you may want to leave it at 50 checks.
  • Rank Tracker can only test upto 60 keywords in a project. There can be inaccuracies at times when you check a number of rankings over a period of time.
  • Rank Tracker can only check one domain at a time.
  • SEO Book’s Rank Checker is the least secure, as you cannot backup your data generated (bar a CSV spreadsheet).

Conclusion

In paying for SEOMoz just for the Rank Checker it’s like paying for a Manchester United season ticket just for the Wolverhampton Wanderers game. In the $99.95/month you get a lot of other tools to help you market your site. If you’re serious on SEO, then it’s the best package.

For everybody else, I did prefer Rank Tracker. It was quick and easy to check rankings, accurate and reasonably priced. It struggles when you run a lot of checks, and useless if you want to compare rankings accross multiple domains. Update: Rank Tracker has seemingly been having problems recently. I’ve had misreported rankings. As a result, I can’t really recommend Rank Tracker at the moment.

Advanced Web Ranking is great as a comparison tool. By default, it only handles the top 50 results but this can be increased, but if you want to compare keyword rankings over times across multiple domains, it’s probably the best. However, it is very slow.

Where To Get Each Rank Checking Tool

For each of the products on here, you can get them from the following places.

Comments?

Comments will be permantly open on this entry, please leave your thoughts on any of these tools below.

Have Your Own Rank Checking Tool?

If you have your own rank checking tool, please contact me. I’d happily run a few tests & add it to the list above!

28 thoughts on “What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker?

  1. Awesome test Rhys! Haven’t seen a thorough comparison like this for a while. Only thing I would say is that AWR uses your own IP (non-server edition) so it slows down rank checking so as not to get you banned from Goog! There’s a reason for that madness :) (all explained on their site) also, it can go up to 100 results and the enterprise edition is great for agencies with hosted reports, client logins etc.

    Another tool I’d love to see compared would be Raven. Really impressed with the speed and ease of use of their rank checker, but for the limited testing I’ve done, the accuracy hasn’t been good at all. But need to test it some more :)

  2. Excellent write up Rhys. I’m actually reviewing our companies ranking software as we speak.

    However, as a 3 year RankTracker user I have to correct you on two points you made. RankTracker can check much more than 60 keywords per project (I have some with 1000+) and the very latest version of RankTracker has Competitor checking in there too, so you can infact check more than one domain.

  3. Appreciate the way you did such a thorough test with patience. However I believe at times free vs Paid products are not comparable at all! Cost just closes door for some users while people might mis understand what the premium products do (as the products you have mentioned do much more than what the test mentions)

  4. Hi Rhys, AWR is a lot more flexible than you give it credit for. It can go as deep as you like, it can be run through proxys, it will return data about every site ranking in the range you select etc..

    While I do like SEOMoz’s toolkit and use their rank checker for quick one off stuff, AWR is my weapon of choice when it comes to gathering huge amounts of data over night, trend monitoring etc.

    See you at Think Vis 6 :)

    Malc.

  5. Excellent work! –

    I’d be proud of you guys too – but can we really believe SEOMOZ product came out on top?

    And please why did you leave out WebPosition? This is the former Web Position Gold now operating in SAS like mode.

  6. Great test!

    As pointed by Joanna, AWR can go beyond the limit you said, but yeah, it’s _dead_ slow. You can add multiple proxies to speed up things a little, but I haven’t seen much difference with that (using ~10 proxies). But in the other hand, It’s very reliable.

    We tried WebCEO for a while but haven’t checked it’s reports the way you did. So if you want to do another test, here’s another tool. ;)
    The only thing about WebCEO we didn’t like is that when you have hundreds of keywords and multiple domains in a single profile, the software starts to act weird, freeze, crash, etc. Really bad reliability.

    Will be checking SEOMoz’s tool right now.

    Great content!

  7. Advanced Web Rankings is slow on the default settings which are set to “be nice to the search engines”. But you can set up the sleep time to “rest between searches”, or turn it off completely if you want. You can also set the search depth to more than 50 as well.

    Reporting for Advanced Web Ranking is better than SEOmoz imo. You can export reports to your own templates, and the historical data is all retained. I can compare my positions over time against positions from years ago.

    SEOmoz is a solid set of tools to be sure, but I much prefer the reporting options, historical data, and offline access of a stand alone piece of software like AWR.

  8. When running thousands of keywords the relatively small inaccuracy of AWR is outweighed by the low cost in my opinion. Also with the enterprise or server versions you can distribute updates across multiple proxies or client machines making it much faster than either competitor mentioned.

  9. I’m wondering if you can check out SEScout.com, which is another web based tool that does hourly checks. It’s a pretty robust tracker but I’m wondering how effective it is.

  10. I have tested all of the above about 12 months ago and I have found WebCEO most accurate. In addition at the time WebCEO was the best for complex reporting, especially when you need to export to Excel in many different formats.

  11. We have the need to track rankings across many different countries, languages and Google domains. When I did a similar test about a year ago, Advanced Web Ranking was the most accurate by far when it came to non-US rankings. SEOMoz was way off in many cases. I’m happy to hear that this may have changed, so I may give it another try at some point. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Thanks for the review. I like the price of rank checker but obviously the drawback is its inaccuracy. What is the biggest difference between Rank Trackers two packages?

  13. SEOMoz rank checker tool seems too much costly. It’s only for VIP people, not for general. I always try with the best free alternative. So, definitely i prefer SEOBooks Rank checker.

    Thanks for the research.

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