Rank Tracking Resolution (RTR): one of the most important SEO topics to know about

We often mention the term “rank-tracking resolution.” While it’s possible to understand from context what we mean by that, today we’ll explore the term more thoroughly. Let us help you gain a more solid grasp on rank-tracking resolutions and why it’s important to understand them… not just when you use PRT to track your websites, but when using any rank tracking tool in general.

Google’s geo-targeting personalized SERP

Before diving deeper into rank-tracking resolutions, let’s identify why it’s necessary to understand to begin with. Every search you make is being geo targeted by Google down to your IP address (or your physical GPS-targeted location in the case of mobile searches). So, let’s say Jon Snow from 5th Avenue in New York searches for “Nike dragon sports saddles.” Google will know where he’s searching from due to receiving his IP address and will tailor the SERP he sees to better suit his location (listing businesses closer to his location above others, favouring even more those who were locally optimized for that location). In this example, a reputable French website that sells Nike dragon sports saddles (and even has an amazing SEO team) is less likely to be featured on top spots in Jon’s SERP simply due to Google’s algorithms prioritizing location relevance. If our favourite Night’s Watch commander Jon used a VPN or proxy, then he would have been shown results based on the proxy’s IP address. If Jon searches Google from his mobile phone, then his SERP will be even more influenced by his location, as Google will actually be relying on his physical GPS location (unless he is beyond the Great Wall at that moment where there is obviously little to no GPS reception). To read more about what other personalization filters Google uses to populate your SERP:

How to get the clearest and most accurate picture of your Google ranks

Jon thought Night’s Watch politics were tough, but sadly even that didn’t prepare him for the cutthroat business of New York’s corporate world

About rank-tracking resolution (RTR)

RTR is simply the rank tracker’s ability to track ranks by location. In a nutshell, the more unique locations on the planet it can track, the higher the RTR. And the higher a RTR is, the clearer and more realistic picture of your ranks you will see. Imagine every location as a single pixel – if a SERP tracker differentiated between ranks just by country, you would only see a blurry picture, since there are only 195 countries in the world (that are ‘officially recognized’ to be fair). If a SERP tracker could differentiate between ranks on a state level, the number of pixels populates the picture more densely, and clarity improves. Differentiating on a city level, it sharpens further. With neighborhood levels – now we’re talking next-level of rank tracking abilities!

Not all rank trackers are created equal

A rank tracker’s job, by 2018 SEO-industry standards, is very straightforward: to free you from your Google personalization bonds and show you the highest-quality picture of your website’s ranks across the board. To do that, not only does it need to differentiate between the different ranking types required today, but it needs to show you how your website ranks from any location in the world relevant to your site. This is exactly where RTR becomes hugely important. While some rank trackers can show you a high RTR, others are not that advanced and will just show you country-level ranks (irrelevant for most SEO use cases today, as you’re about to see).

*We’ll be explaining location-based rank tracking here, so if you want to know about the other rank tracking types you might need, check out our full breakdown on the subject:

All the rank tracking types you will need for SEO in 2018

As I break down the different resolutions here, I’ll focus mainly on Google rank tracking. It currently has the most advanced and prominent geo-targeting personalization ranking algorithms, and maneuvering around those algorithms is a significant part of modern-day SEO functions. For each RTR, there are use cases — some are more needed in SEO for 2018, while others are rarely needed or are reserved for very specific, high-end use cases.

I’ll use screen resolutions for this one to illustrate the raise in levels because we are familiar with them, but mainly because it’s fun to continue the pixel analogy

International rank tracking (144p) – a historic relic

While it sounds very cool, it’s actually just a ghost, as it exists only in sham rank trackers that claim to be able to track it with no tangible proof other than their own bias and belief structure. While no longer relevant, it still a historic SEO relic that needs to be acknowledged because it once reigned the internet tyrannically like dinosaurs rule the box office.

RIP international rank, you served us well. May you travel safely in the netherworld of search…

At the dawn of Google, there indeed existed a single international rank, and everyone in the world who searched for a certain keyword saw the same SERP, regardless of where they were in the world. In Google’s youth, while it was still a naïve and highly impressionable search engine, it was susceptible to SEO trickery — a clever SEO person could dominate the international SERP quite easily. The first SEO experts to discover how to manipulate Google’s early ranking algorithms literally made a killing, raking in millions of dollars sometimes working as little as 4 hours a week, conquering new niche frontiers, and becoming the feudal lords of the old SEO world. Luckily (and also unfortunately), this rank has been gone ever since Google started striding towards personalization and began geo targeting on country levels and beyond. After that, Yahoo!, Bing, and every other significant search engine have become geo targeted at least down to country level.

The single ‘international rank’ is the most persistent false image that haunts SEO laymen to this very day. Beware of SERP trackers that claim to show you a single international rank.

Very blurry and poor resolution. Not much comprehension of what we see here. Pure guesswork.

Google Ranks by country – (240p)

This is the lowest functional rank-tracking resolution. It’s mostly outdated (by today’s industry standards) for most local SEO-centered common use cases. Some rank trackers on the market offer this as their default and only rank tracking resolution, even though it’s not a reliable gauge. Some lower-quality rank trackers can’t really track this type reliably at all and will provide you with nothing more than a “guesstimated” rank, making this tracking type even more inaccurate.

Thanks to PRT’s higher-resolution capabilities, our algorithm will calculate the rank that most people from a given country will see. So, if you choose this gauge, use it wisely and don’t forget it will only provide you with a partial, rough picture of your ranks if you are doing local SEO. Other than that, it’s a good gauge for certain high-end use SEO cases where total country dominance is sought after… which is why we keep it.

Screenshot taken from PRT’s rank tracker.

Even if you use a ‘native Google’ ccTLD, Google will still, at the very least, target your current country by default and will refine search results further as per their other personalization ranking filters. This was actually a fairly significant update, and you should read more about it if you’re not updated:

Why Google’s latest change is another nail in the coffin for manual rank checking

A bit less blurry, but still, not much to look at… you can safely interview people that want to stay anonymous with that kind of blur

Area Google Ranks – Desktop (480p)

This resolution and anything higher are the ones you should be using for local SEO.

‘Nearby’ will show you a rank most people from a certain area (such as a city or state) see when they use a desktop device to search Google. Despite the fact that it’s less accurate than the next levels on the list, it’s still a great way to see how you generally rank in a given area. This can be a suitable rank-tracking solution for medium-sized SEO campaigns, such as promoting a business that targets an entire state or city area. Choosing to track several different cities, for example, and examining the results will reveal a clearer picture of how well a website ranks over a larger area and allow the building of a more professional, and polished SEO plan.

A slightly better resolution. Worthy of a nice PC from the early 90’s.

Area Google Ranks – Mobile (720p)

Now we are entering the HD realms of rank tracking!

This rank-tracking resolution will show you the rank most people from a medium-sized area (such as a city or state) see when they use a MOBILE device to search Google. Mobile searches are GPS targeted, and the mobile SERP is even more heavily influenced by location factors. Mobile searches have outnumbered desktop searches since 2016, making mobile rank tracking obligatory for knowing how visible your website is for about 60% of internet users. This has become crucial since Google revealed its Mobile-First Approach, and it became evident that a website that’s not mobile friendly might suffer in ranks — not just on the mobile front, but also on desktop searches.

Note that the mobile SERP is influenced by many other unique factors, further differentiating it from the desktop SERP. To read more about those factors and Google’s Mobile-First Approach:

Why knowing your mobile ranks is now more important than ever before! (+ 5 tips on improving mobile visibility)

Clearly, mobile area ranks are different than desktop area ranks, which is why you should actually be tracking BOTH types to see the full picture!

Now we are getting somewhere. Can you tell what is displayed on the screen? The answer will be revealed shortly.

Exact Local desktop (1080p)

This is one of PRT’s most powerful features, one that we introduced this year to our users:

The most accurate way to SERP track in 2018

PRT now has the ability to handle neighborhood-level rank-tracking resolution. What this means is you can see how your websites rank in a very small area, such as in a town or a neighborhood, almost anywhere in the world.

This is the ideal solution for the common local SEO campaign, and it’s the future-proof way to rank track your websites in 2018 and after. If you promote a bicycle repair shop that services a town, for example, then knowing how that business ranks accurately for that specific town is a huge benefit. Local tracking for modest SEO campaigns is not the only use case here. Huge e-commerce websites and brands might track hundreds of different locations for the same keyword to see their total spread and influence. There are instances when ranks can vary as little as a few miles apart!

Exact Local mobile (1440p)

Zooming in further on mobile ranks, this resolution gives you specific ranks that people from a small area in the world see when they search from their mobile device.

As with area ranks above, if you choose this type of tracking for your local SEO efforts, you should be tracking BOTH exact desktop and exact mobile ranks to see the full scope.

Snack Pack ranks and Top100 Google map results (2160p – 4k with 60fps support)

This is the 4k resolution of the SERP tracking world. Snack Pack ranks are the only ranks that are, by definition, based on location since they show up on an actual map in your vicinity for you to see.

This is the highest form of rank tracking one could do for a local business.  The benefits of promoting for Snack Pack are huge since it has the ability to (literally) drive actual physical traffic to a business, and being featured on Snack Pack can outshine websites that are ranked 1st organically. PRT can track by exact location the top 3 Snack Pack ranks and deep into Google’s Top100 map results with Local Finder. And, best of all, this is accomplished with no additional term credits to your regular local ranks!

You can read more about the benefits of Snack Pack SEO and how to best track it here:

PRT’s SnackTrack and Local Finder: The ideal tools for Snack Pack SEO rank tracking

That’s right! It’s a squid. It was always a squid.

In summary, just as you would need an up-to-date monitor to handle high-resolution images, you need a SERP tracker that can handle updated SEO requirements for 2018. Because of that, you simply must know what rank-tracking resolutions your SERP tracker can handle, and if it can track real, pinpointed areas in the world. Google’s geo targeting might have made SEO slightly more complex, but, by the end of the day, this is for the benefit of all search engine users – it gives us more relevant, higher-quality search results and almost eliminates SEO spamming practices for most current search scenarios.

PRT is an industry-leading SERP tracker with the most accuracy and the highest RTR on the market. We only offer SEO-centered features and don’t clutter our system with unnecessary tools, which is why we are also the most affordable SERP tracker on the market. If you’re not a PRT user yet, and want to upgrade to 4k levels of RTR, give us a try and start tracking your real local ranks. You can start with this awesome free plan!

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