Raven SERP Tracking Gone, What’s An SEO To Do?

Written by Kristy Kuntz, the SEO Manager at Evolve. Find her on Twitter!

Google’s Laying Down the Law!

Google has recently been enforcing some pretty strict terms and conditions in relation to its AdWords API. It has decided to restrict access to many paying subscribers who were deemed unable to pass the test. Long story short, Google has limited the use of its AdWords API access in co-existence with other scraped Google data. In this recent blog post, Jon Henshaw, the founder of Raven Tools, discusses how this recent change will affect the Raven Toolset, specifically the SERP Tracker tool and SEMRush data.  Starting on January 2nd, this data will be removed entirely. Another big player, SEOmoz, has had some issues with API data as well. But the latest updates encourage us that SEOmoz has no plans to shut down their rank tracking. According to Rand Fishkin’s words in this discussion on SEOmozas Q&A forum, everything will be back up and running with ranking data soon:

SEOmoz screenshot ranking data

However, the current state of the Rank Tracker tells a different story:

Screenshot of SEOmoz Rank Tracker update

If (and how) SEOmoz is getting around this, remains a mystery for now. However, it does seem pretty clear that Google intends to enforce strict policies relating to the use of its data, just as it always has. This means the future of the Rank Tracker remains unstable. I think Mr. Henshaw summarizes the situation in this snippet from his earlier mentioned article. When referring to the loss of scraped Google data, and what it will mean for SEO, he says:

Raven tools Jon Henshaw statement

Hmm… mysterious and slightly horrifying. Do I think he’s referring to the end of SEO altogether? No. But I think he is hinting at the fact that there may be a hard road ahead.

What We Lose

This is bad news for SEO as an industry, as it means that Google is, once again, choosing to limit our access to its data. What’s even more disappointing is Google’s lack of response to requests to create a similar tool set. In the best-case scenario we lose:

  • Raven SERP Tracker Data

In the worst-case scenario we ALSO lose:

  • SEOmoz Rank Tracker Data
  • All ranking data from reputable SEO resources
  • Whatever else Google decides to take away from us

How We Can Replace this Data?

Unfortunately, we are at Google’s mercy when it comes to its data. However, at the time being, there are still some other options out there for keeping track of the SERPs. SERP Tracking Replacement Tools Here is a brief list of some other sites offering similar rank tracking data:

Webmaster Tools Although Webmaster Tools will not tell you the exact rank for any term you would like, it does give information about the keywords people are searching to find your site and its approximate position in the SERPs for that term. To find this take a look at:

  • Queries and Impressions
  • Position in Search Results by Query

Google Analytics Google Analytics provides us with a vague picture relating to keyword rankings. We can, however, use it to see which pages are driving the most traffic and which of those are being clicked directly from the SERPs. We can also see which keywords are driving traffic to those pages. To find this look at the following data after segmenting by non-paid search:

  • Pageviews by Page
  • Top Landing Pages
  • Traffic Keywords

These tools may not be a perfect replacement for Raven Tools, but it’s somewhere to start.

A Novel Idea

It’s clear that the SEO industry is changing, like it always has. As SEOs, we have a difficult job that involves keeping up with trends and adapting to change. True, we could sit back and complain, blame Raven Tools for its decision and pretend we could have made a better one. Or as an even less productive alternative, we could use words like “evil” or “Satan,” to describe a major search engine, without which (let’s face it) we would all be pretty lost. But, here’s one novel idea. Why don’t we work toward developing new tools that will measure client ROI, not just specific keyword performance? Sure, ranking data is valuable, but it’s just ONE small way to measure online search success. If we can’t get creative and think of a better way to track site performance, we really have no right to be criticizing influential online brands, do we?