How to calculate the number of terms you need to track for your SEO campaigns

Our users often ask us two questions: how to calculate the number of terms that they need and how many keywords they should be tracking. These questions are relevant for anyone doing SEO and not just our users, of course, which is why today we’ll tackle the topics of how many terms your keywords will require and how to determine which terms to track for every keyword.

The first part of the article is aimed at all SEO levels, while the second part will be aimed more toward SEO beginners and basic keyword research principles.

Rank tracking is more than just figuring out which keywords you need to track (which we will get to shortly). There are tens of thousands of possible rank types for a single keyword, all depending on which search engine is being tracked and what ranking factors are applied (in Google’s case).

Naturally, we’ll focus on PRT’s features, but the principles can be applied to just about any rank tracker on the market, so no worries.

How to calculate terms 

A term is basically a [keyword + URL + search engine + (Google only) ranking factors] combo. Let’s say you’re promoting a restaurant that specializes in fantasy-inspired foods featured in the HBO show Game of Thrones. The restaurant’s website is apuboficeandfire.com, and one of the keywords you’ll be promoting is “game of thrones restaurant”. The restaurant is located in Toronto, Canada. Here are the terms that will be relevant for tracking:

[game of thrones restaurant] + [apuboficeandfire.com] + [search engine: Google.ca, device type: desktop, location: Toronto, Canada, UI language: English]
[game of thrones restaurant] + [apuboficeandfire.com] + [search engine: Google.ca, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: iPhone, location: Toronto, Canada, UI language: English]
[game of thrones restaurant] + [apuboficeandfire.com] + [search engine: Google.ca, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: Android phone, location: Toronto, Canada, UI language: English]
[game of thrones restaurant] + [apuboficeandfire.com] + [search engine: Google.ca, rank type: Snack Pack, location: Toronto, Canada]
[game of thrones restaurant] + [apuboficeandfire.com] + [search engine: Google.ca, rank type: Local finder (Google map top 100 extended results), location: Toronto, Canada]
[game of thrones restaurant] + [apuboficeandfire.com] + [search engine: yahoo.com]
[game of thrones restaurant] + [apuboficeandfire.com] + [search engine: bing.com]Total terms: 7.

*Note that if you’re a PRT user, you would only be charged for 6 terms, since we offer Snack Pack rank tracking at no additional cost!

In the example above, a single keyword needs to be tracked on 7 different fronts, all as part of the restaurant’s correct and high-quality approach to rank tracking, as all the ranking factors listed are relevant for the business. Let’s say the restaurant decides to target 10 very powerful, low-search-volume long tails with low competition; the total term-tracking quota required for such an SEO campaign is 70 total terms (60 if you’re a PRT user).

The subjects of keywords, URLs and search engines are pretty obvious. Where it all gets slightly tricky is when considering Google’s ranking factors and personalization filters.

Since this is a GOT themed restaurant, don’t forget to promote it on the raven mailing network as well! *Note that we can’t track raven mail ranks (yet)

Google algorithm ranking layers – How to tailor the right term types for your SEO campaign

As we all know by now, there’s no such thing as one single, simple rank anymore. The search results that people get when they search Google are tailored specifically for each user. It’s reached the point where a single search query on Google can yield tens of thousands of different SERPs with different positions, all depending on the personalization factors at play. Everybody knows by now that mobile ranks are different than desktop ranks, but Google actually personalizes search results in 4 different ways:

Device type

The first filter layer your search results go through is determining if you’re searching from a desktop computer or a mobile device. Google’s mobile-first approach means websites will be ranked differently according to how mobile friendly they are. Elements such as screen size and abiding by their AMP protocol are determining factors. A person searching from mobile will see a completely different SERP than a person searching from desktop. In 2018, desktop and mobile ranks are 99% different, which is why at the very least, even for the most basic websites and modest SEO campaigns, you must be tracking both mobile and desktop ranks for EVERY keyword to monitor your organic mobile visibility. There are many other things to say about this layer, so if you’re not completely familiar with it, you should read our full article on the subject:

Time to venture deep into the mobile top 100 Google ranks with Pro Rank Tracker!

Mobile OS type

Another important personalization layer that was discovered by PRT a few years ago is that Google not only gives a unique SERP to mobile users, but Google also personalizes it further depending on the OS being used and the screen size (phone or tablet).

Here are some unique ranking differences we found for OS type:

And here are some ranking differences found for screen size:

Meanwhile, Google has yet to make any official announcements about these specific ranking distinctions, and the subject is rarely discussed in SEO communities. But these ranking layers are fully active, and there are even cases where websites lost their Apple visibility altogether:

Blue is Android phone, red is iPhone

Does it mean a new SEO frontier for 2019? That’s anyone’s guess, since Google keeps it under wraps. But you don’t need to be an SEO expert specializing in experimental SEO for screen sizes and OS types to make sure your websites are at least visible for all mobile types!

We are currently the only ones on the market who know how to track these new layers, so if you want to be ready for the future of SEO, be sure to at least get our free monthly plan.

More about these unique layers:

What Google isn’t telling us about their current (and future) mobile ranking algorithm
Is your website visible on Google search on Apple devices?

Geo targeted location

The personalization filter most people are familiar with is geo-targeting, and it’s the first one Google devised. Every search is geo-targeted down to ridiculous levels of accuracy at times. As a result, every user will see a SERP tailored to their exact location, especially for Snack Pack and the extended results that take into account the user’s location on Google maps. The idea is choosing the most relevant location for your business – where would most of your potential clients be searching from? The restaurant from the example above targets the Toronto area, so they chose it as their tracking location. Naturally, it’s completely irrelevant for their business what people from Madrid, Spain see when they search Google for “game of thrones restaurant”. A higher-quality and more thorough approach would be to choose several locations and get a better picture of how you rank in different locations all at once. In some cases, it’s even a must, such as for websites that have translated versions of pages or that target several territories. For example, an e-commerce website with pages translated to French that targets France as well as the US would be tracking all their keywords for both of these locations (if not even several different locations within France and the US).

Here’s some more info about geo-targeting and location strategy:

Google airport ranks and the new levels of local SEO rank tracking in 2018

UI language

The default language the user sees in their Google UI is also a big determining factor for what search results they see. This ranking factor is especially important to track for websites with translated pages. Google will rank pages according to their target language as specified in the website’s hreflang HTML tag and according to what their algorithm determines is most relevant for the search. Continuing the example above for the e-commerce website, they will also need to track their webpages for French and English. The final count for a single keyword might look something like this:

[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.com, device type: desktop, location: New York, UI language: English]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.com, device type: desktop, location: Los Angeles, UI language: English]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.fr, device type: desktop, location: Paris, France, UI language: French]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.com, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: iPhone, location: New York, UI language: English]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.com, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: iPhone, location: Los Angeles, UI language: English]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.fr, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: iPhone, location: Paris, France, UI language: French]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.com, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: Android phone, location: New York, UI language: English]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.com, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: Android phone, location: Los Angeles, UI language: English]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [search engine: Google.fr, device type: mobile, mobile OS type: Android phone, location: Paris, France, UI language: French]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL]+ [yahoo.com]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL]+ [yahoo.fr]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [bing.com]
[product keyword] + [e-commerce URL] + [bing.fr]Total terms: 13.

So, in this case, a thorough rank-tracking approach will yield 13 terms for just ONE keyword. It might seem like an overreach, but every one of these terms is 99% likely to be ranked differently (unless you reach total organic dominance, in which case you’ll see 1’s all over the place).

Google has been known to be inaccurate in the way they rank translated pages and pages aimed at a certain location, which is why it’s also important to make the distinction between tracking an entire URL for a certain keyword and tracking specific webpages. We go into more detail here:

How to win at rank tracking multiple-region/language URLs following Google’s update

Unique SERP elements

Other than the 4 main ranking methods, Google also has separate SERP elements that can and should be tracked for certain cases. These are:

Snack Pack

Snack Pack must be tracked for any website that also has a physical location visible on Google’s map. Being visible on Snack Pack can drive actual physical traffic to a business, not just website visitors. As we mentioned, it doesn’t cost additional terms from your quota with PRT.

Extended top 100 map results – the Local Finder

When a user clicks “More Places” via the Snack Pack display, this is what they see. It’s important to track the extended top 100 map results for the exact same reason it’s important to track Snack Pack.

Video carousel

Anyone who does video marketing needs to track this SERP element. The two ranks you need to care about are where the carousel itself is positioned within the search (it can be ranked anywhere from top of the page and mid positions) and the rank within the carousel itself (which has 10 inner positions).

We cover these unique SERP elements in depth in our full-featured article about the subject, so you should definitely give it a read if you missed it:

Track the two Google SERP elements with MORE value than regular organic listings

Other search engines

Other search engines with unique ranking algorithms that should be frequently tracked along with Google are:

  • Amazon – Amazon ranks can be tracked with PRT. Anyone selling products on Amazon needs this option, and not many SERP trackers on the market offer this solution.
  • YouTube – Anyone who does video marketing through YouTube needs to know their unique YouTube rank.
  • Yahoo! and Bing – Some SEO experts specialize in promoting for these underdog search engines with great results.
  • Yandex – The ‘Russian Google’ has a unique ranking algorithm, and Russian-speaking audiences frequently search Yandex over Google

Final advice

You need room to grow and experiment, so always keep in mind it’s a healthy practice to have about 20% more room than you need to freely add terms and have maneuvering space. Your client might want to add additional keywords for tracking, and having room will always be useful for that. Also, for the most accurate approach, you might want to split your mobile ranks into Apple and Android ranks, so you’ll rest assured your mobile visibility is good on both operating systems.

In this article (with the included links), you have all the info needed to calculate how many terms you’ll require for SEO in 2018 and beyond!

After you’ve done your research and calculated how many terms you’ll need, it’s time to choose the monthly plan with the most suitable quota. PRT offers the widest variety of monthly plans on the market to suit just about any SEO and rank-tracking need. Our low-priced entry level plans are especially great for beginners and small businesses

Also, if you enjoyed this article, please comment, share and subscribe to our blog so you won’t miss out on fresh search engine news and rank-tracking tips published weekly!


PRT is an industry-standard SERP tracker with over 50k users. We offer the widest scope of search-engine support on the market and are currently the only ones who can track with 100% accuracy virtually ALL of Google’s most advanced ranking factors. We guarantee your ranks are fetched daily directly from Google’s search index and up to 3 times on demand! We also offer the LOWEST price-per-tracked term on the market by a long shot: as low as $0.017 for Enterprise level plans.

You can even take ALL of our features for a totally free 7-day trial and try for yourself everything we’ve mentioned in this post and much more. And get this – we WON’T ask you for your credit card! No auto-renewal traps and no sneaky business. We believe in our tech and fully trust that you will continue with us of your own volition once you try it out!

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