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Do rank checking tool results differ from manual checks?

Ash Nallawalla

6 June 2010


A discussion in the Webmasterworld Supporters forum (you need to be a paid Supporter to get there) entitled Rank checking for agencies led to a comment suggesting that using tools to make ranking checks is not a good idea for search agencies. Apparently, a manual check results in different results.

I had just made a check of some UK banks rankings while testing Axandra IBP.

Manual check of ranking tool results
Manual check of ranking tool results

The results are interesting. I had about 600 checks in my IBP ranking test for about 40 keywords across several UK banks. I checked 101 of those results manually and only five of them had different ranks (typically one place higher) in the manual check. In addition, the manual check found about three of the banks in the top 10 that hadn’t been picked up by the IBP check.

What do I make of this? If I were an agency and using this tool, then the discrepancy is acceptable to me. I have found that two people sitting next to each other can get a different data centre for a large search engine and the SERP positions can be different. Agencies are used to clients seeing different results from them, typically because they didn’t turn off customisation in their web history.

You can download my Excel 2010 file and do some more manual checks if you wish. I have left the SERP URLs in the file so you just need to click them to compare the results at your location.

You can decide for yourself if you should use a rank checking tool. If you are managing hundreds of clients and have to give them monthly reports, you do need one. Please comment if your tool does the job well and name it. Thanks.

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. Ash's Google+ profile

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