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April 19, 2009


Get Keyword Rank Data from Google Webmaster Tools

by Anthony Verre

Matt McGee’s post on Search Engine Land last Wednesday “Google’s New Referrer String Includes Ranking Data (At Least For Now)” made me think about a lot of the SEOs I know. It’s a great post, with a lot of valuable information. Not to mention the great comment from WebShare, with detailed instructions how to set up an advanced GA (Google Analytics) filter to track the Rank Data in the referrer string. (I’m testing out the filter with a couple of heavily trafficked clients to see if it lives up to its claims.)

How many SEOs Really Check Their Web Logs?

The problem is, that most SEOs and SEMs I know:

a) have no idea how to check their web logs, and have probably never checked that raw data. Ever.

b) have installed Google Webmaster Tools, if for no other reason, to submit a complete XML sitemap to Google.

The short answer is that not many do. Perhaps Matt’s post will motivate a few more to open up that data, or at the very least find it. And if you still don’t have any desire to open up the Web Logs, then I offer another solution.

Use Google Webmaster Tools “Top Search Queries” to Get Rank Data

It’s all there, you just have to take the time to sort it out (literally) in Excel.

1) Find the “Top Search Queries” link in Webmaster Tools:


2) The Raw Webmaster Tools Data File (Un-Sorted)


Looks nearly unusable, right?  And, to be truthful, it can be a bit intimidating unless you know what you’re looking for in that rat’s nest of data.

3) Get Your Sort On

It depends on what target audience you’re looking to identify, but to keep it simple we’ll sort for “WEB SEARCH” and in the “United States”.

4) Finding Percentage of Clicks and the Position in the SERPs


While it’s much more “manageable” now, that’s still leaves a DaVinci-esque code to be broken.  What does all that data mean, and more importantly, how do I know?

Here’s a sample string from the spreadsheet above (marked to distinguish):

[water brake dyno (a), 2% (b), 6 (c)]

a ) is the keyword term search and/or clicked on by the user

b) Still on the fence for this stat. Could be the percentage the term is searched (which doesn’t seem likely). Or it is the popularity of the term in conjunction with the other keywords in the grouping.  And, you’ll notice that all the percentages add up to 100%, which leads me to believe that my latter assertion is more than likely correct.

c) is the position in SERPs.  Yes it’s true.  Test for yourself. Open up the data in webmaster tools and, without being logged into your Google account, search for the term in question.  You’ll find, 9 times out of 10, this is exactly where the term is*.

*My only caveat to “C” is that is seems to be taken at a “snapshot”. On the terms I’ve looked at, the position is up or down one. But other than that, it’s fairly accurate.

So, if you don’t feel comfortable checking web logs, or just don’t want to go through the hassle, Google Webmaster Tools will also provide the same data.

  1. Don
    Apr 20 2009

    Why do you need Excel. all the data is on the Top search queries page for the top 20 terms. Which is same data you are downloading?

  2. Jun 6 2009

    Hi Matt,

    Liked this article, loved the one on Big Brands.

    Here is the list clarified direct from WT:

    Each table contains the following columns:

    * #: The ranking of the search query.
    * %: The percentage of the top 100 queries represented by each query. For example, if the top 100 queries represent 1,000 user searches, and those users searched for cheeseburger recipe 270 times, that query would represent 27% of the total number of searches for the top 100 queries.
    * Query: The search terms used.
    * Position: The highest position any page from your site ranked for that query, averaged over the last week. Since our index is dynamic, this may not be the same as the current position of your site for this query.

  3. Sep 1 2010

    Nice article and also very interesting way to understanding the topic. I liked your post very much. Interesting!!! I think now is the best algorithm for sites to ranking. Because keyword relevancy is the most important thing while deciding to ranking. Thanks

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