How to Check a Website’s Ranking History: The Definitive Guide (2018)

Last updated Oct. 26th, 2018

Ranking History lets you go back in time to check your website ranking and how those rankings changed month to month (or across many months, years, you get the idea). Before you can improve the SEO of any site, you have to understand where it’s been.

Let’s jump right in.

1. How to Find Website Ranking History

The feature is built-in to SpyFu searches, so getting started is easier than it’s ever been. When you get the domain’s results page, just look for the Ranking History tab to load the chart.


You can also start directly from the Ranking History page.

2. Where we Failed Before — and How it’s Better

Veteran SpyFu users will tell you that before, you had to think of at least one keyword for a domain that you wanted to track. Back then, we left the legwork up to you.

Now, we’ve made sure to automatically start with the domain’s top 10 keywords to get you started.  You can add keywords or switch to a different pre-set group (like keywords the domain lost rankings on this past month) at any time.  If you start with a keyword, we’ll give you the top 10 ranking domains, and you get the same flexibility to switch to add other domains to the chart.

3. Check Your Website and Keyword Ranking History

We tracked the top 50 search results for every keyword over the last 7 years and then plotted those rankings against every update that Google made to its algorithm.  Like I mentioned in the previous section, you can approach it from different angles: You can check your websites rankings, focus on a keyword’s history, or research any other domain/URL.

Keyword History

You can choose to track a single keyword and find the domains and URLs that have been ranking on it over time. Preset filters let you jump from groups like “Top 10 Domains” to “Domains with the Biggest Losses” to review their ranking patterns as a group.

Keyword ranking history for buying a home for the first time

Website Ranking History

Or, check your own website’s rankings (like the URL of an article you wrote or your product page) or a full domain. We’ll show you how it ranked across its top keywords. Just like with the keyword history option, you can use preset filters to switch between groups of keywords for this specific domain. Watch how it ranked over time on its keywords with the biggest gains or its top performers.

Historical website keyword rankings for opendoor.com

4. Use URLs to Discover the Very Content That Ranked.

Top 10 website showing ranking website history metrics

Compare URLs

Go into a page-to-page comparison to see which content is better at helping the same domain gain a stronger SEO foothold.

www.zillow.com/mortgage-learning/first-time-homebuyer-mistakes

-VS. –

www.nerdwallet.com/article/tips-for-first-time-home-buyers

Compare how each page’s ranking has evolved for the keywordbuying a home for the first time.”

Another idea is to use individual URLs to compare common-themed products when pages take a hard Google hit. (Think different JCPenney sections on its clothing-related keywords.)

5. How Google Updates Tie Into It

With those date markers for Google’s changes, you can follow a domain’s history alongside updates like Panda and Penguin to pinpoint the cause behind that site’s stumble in the rankings.

Website ranking History guides users through the effects of Google’s changes so there’s a better chance of decoding where things went wrong.

If your traffic dumped hard one month in spite of your ongoing ads and usual efforts, maybe you have Google to thank for it. (*Shakes fist* GOOGLE!)

But because you’re smart, you don’t just wither in frustration. You search out what you can learn.  That’s where we can help.

SpyFu goes deep into website ranking history

This fills a long-time void in organic keyword research and site improvement that only SpyFu was poised to offer: We’ve been consistently gathering ranking data every month for more than 10 years.

But this is more than a glimpse into past rankings. Ranking History guides users through the effects of Google’s changes so there’s a better chance of decoding where things went wrong.

The Google Algorithm Updates in the chart mark the changes (large and small) alongside your ranking history. We built it into the Ranking History tool so you can match it to your domain’s performance on a keyword within any window of time over the last 10 years.

Tip: View a full, updated list of Google Algorithm Updates here.

At any point where you see your rankings take a turn, look for correlating adjustments that Google made to its formula.

In this example for a search on “wood flooring,” armstrong.com consistently ranked on the first page for most of 2016 and 2017. They weren’t without their dips, though.

The entire field took a hit from the Penguin update but rebounded quickly. (Gray oval)

chart shows changes in ranking history with google updates

After another update in October, Armstrong.com dropped again, but they seem to have climbed back up to hold a steady top 10 position. You can see a marker next to both drops showing you where Google made its updates.

Our updates include these kinds of milestones and events

Google’s major algorithm changes: These are significant updates that alter the way search results are ranked. Think Panda and Penguin, Google’s 2012 “over-optimization” update.

Search Quality updates: Google’s penalizing of domains that over-optimize and experiment with “black hat” tactics.

  • JCPenney.com’s volatile rankings are a good example of a site hit by search quality updates. They’re more frequent than major algorithm changes.
  • Parked domain bug: This S.Q. update mistakenly penalized many sites. Its aim was to take down parked domains, those that lack content and run mostly ads.

Freshness updates: Search ranking changes in this category take new events and hot topics into account.

New feature/enhancements: Any improvements or additions to Google’s methods, improved social signals recognition, and the Knowledge Graph fall into this group.

This is like having an open-book test against Google’s mysterious updates. Instead of worrying about a past update, you can know for sure how it affected you relative to other changes in Google’s ranking system. It doesn’t bring back the traffic you lost, but knowing that an update tanked your rankings just points to areas you can improve. 

6. Granted, it’s not always Google’s fault

Rankings fall for other reasons. It’s just as valuable to know if Google’s updates have tanked your rankings as it is to know if a competitor outperformed you.

Gut check it.

When you search a keyword, the results show you which domains ranked for that term over time. Above, we have Armstrong.com, FloorAndDecor.com, and LumberLiquidators.com for example. You can also type in a domain that isn’t on the chart like MohawkFlooring.com. While they might not be in the top 10 consistently, you can track their ranking pattern against the Page One sites.

That often helps you see industry trends and how they ripple through smaller sites.

Similarly, if you search your own domain and see that your site went down consistently on different keywords, that hints that something about your SEO was off. If your rankings on a similar keyword stayed steady, there might be a competitor who has edged you out instead of the big king Google.

 

7. Tracking website ranking history for a new client

Other rank tracking tools require registration so they know what to track, That leaves new customers stuck waiting for a ramp-up process before they can start. However, website ranking history is very inclusive.  Even if you hadn’t been actively tracking a client’s rankings in the past, you get the same insights as if you had been keeping tabs on them from the start. Imagine the competitive advantage you have when you can pitch a potential new client, already knowing where their site or their competitor sites dominated a keyword group or stumbled in a niche.

If a competitor is outranking you on a keyword, this helps you dig up answers. Find out if they rank well consistently across most keywords or if this one’s a fluke. It helps to get a better sense of what you are up against and keeps you from following their lead without better evidence.

Speaking of evidence, we back up every ranking claim with a screenshot of the original SERP, so there’s never a question about what ranked where. We prefer to specialize in answers. Seven years of answers can reveal plenty to help an SEO gain a competitive edge.

BONUS #1: More Details on What You Can Accomplish with Ranking History.

Read more in our overview “Ranking History 2.0: Strong Insights, Easy to Use.”

Learn how to “Compare a Domains Rankings from Past Months”

Get an in-depth look at the advanced features in “Advanced Improvements to SpyFu’s Ranking History 2.0”

Get a top level SEO Overview of your website.

Or take a video tour of the tool here.