This article is a general overview of how to use the main features of SE Ranking for your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts.
It’s a Saturday afternoon, which is usually a family day. But this Saturday, my youngest daughter has a playmate around, my older kids are doing their own thing and the missus has a few jobs to do. So I’m sat in the garden with my laptop (to avoid the ultra-loud racket made by two six-year-olds) and have decided to finally get around to something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – write a tutorial about how to use SE Ranking.
I partly feel as though I’m reinventing the wheel – SE RAnking has some great faqs and guides already. But I think some people may appreciate the perspective of somebody that actually uses it regularly to make money.
In a nutshell, SE Ranking is an SEO tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush, Ubersuggest, Moz etc. However, in my opinion, it’s a lot better value for money than the others – for more info on this, check out my review here.
Anywho, let’s get to it…
Setting up a project
The first thing you will need to do is set up your website or ‘project’ in SE Ranking. This will establish the keywords you want to target, your competitors and the search engines that you want to optimise for.
Once you have logged in to SE Ranking, click the green ‘Create Project’ button in the top left.
On the first screen of the setup wizard, you will give your project a name and input the domain name of the website. You can also set the search range to either 100 positions or 200 positions. In most cases, the top 100 positions will be more than sufficient. There are also options to enable a weekly technical audit on your website and have a weekly report emailed to you.
After clicking ‘Next’, you will have the option to add any keywords that you want to target. If you know what your keywords are, type them in here, one per line. Don’t worry if you don’t know what these are yet – I will explain how to do this below in the keyword research section and you can add them later.
Next, you will decide which search engines you want to check your rankings for. Google.com is the obvious choice, however, if your business targets people from a specific geographic region, you may wish to include the corresponding Google search engine (e.g. google.co.uk, google.de etc). There are also options for other search engines, such as Bing and Yandex but you probably won’t need to bother with these as Google is the market leader and checking other search engines will use up your budget quickly.
Next, there is the option to add a list of your competitors. Again, if you don’t know who they are, we will discuss how to discover them below. If you do know who they are, input them one per line. By adding your competitors, you can get useful information about how you compare to them in terms of visibility and keywords.
The final option is to connect your Google Search Console and Google Analytics to SE Ranking. This allows data from these sources to be displayed in your SE Ranking console. I’ll be honest and say that I seldom give SE Ranking access to my GA and GSC because it’s usually sensitive information that I don’t want anyone to get their hands on. I’ve been assured by the SE Ranking team that this data is not shared with anyone else (and I believe them) but I still do not feel comfortable giving access. NOTE: I know that AHREFs and Ubersuggest can and do use this data to populate their databases.
After you’ve set up your project for the first time, the SE Ranking bots will go off and scrape your rankings for your keywords. This will provide you with the benchmark against which you can improve.
SE Ranking will then automatically go off and retrieve ranking data regularly based on what you chose in your original package. A lot of people go for daily rank tracking but I am more than happy with having the rank of my keywords checked once a week.
If you checked to receive weekly reports when setting up your project, you will receive a PDF via email each week showing the increases and drops of all of your keywords.
SE Ranking is a great tool for obtaining knowledge about your niche that can be used to inform your SEO work.
Primarily, there are three areas of information that you will be interested in. Your competitors, their backlinks and keywords.
Hopefully, you will have an idea of who your competitors are and will have included them when you set up your project. If not, type a few keywords related to your niche into Google and take a look at the top 10-20 results. After you have done this for a few related keywords, you will get a feel for those websites that consistently show up in the top results.
Another way to identify competitors is to go to the ‘SERP Competitors’ section Competitors area of your project (accessed from the left-hand toolbar). This will give you a list of your top 100 competitors in the SERPS results for each of your keywords. The ‘Search Visibility’ tool may also be used. This tool takes the top 10 search results for all of your keywords and ranks each website according to how much of the SERPS they control for these keywords as a whole.
Add these competitors to your project by clicking on the ‘Add competitor’ button on the ‘My Competitors’ page.
You can also do ad-hoc competitor research by clicking the ‘Competitor Research’ button on the tool navigation bar. This is useful for when you haven’t yet set up a project or website and are just beginning to investigate the viability of getting into a new niche.
It is said that “Content is King” and the quality of copy on your website can go a long way towards helping you to rank highly. Indeed, it is possible top rank in the top 10 for some keywords based on content alone. However, any niche that is competitive will need to rely on more than content to rank and one of the strongest ranking signals is from high-quality and relevant backlinks – these are external links to your website from authoritative sources.
Therefore, it is useful to get an idea of the sites that are giving backlinks to your competitors. As well as giving you an understanding of if you will be able to compete in this market in terms of backlinks, you can also get some ideas about websites that you may be able to get backlinks from yourself.
You can find backlink information out by using SE Ranking’s backlink checker, which is on the top navigation bar. Simply type in a domain name and you will be presented with a plethora of information about the website, including:
- Domain/Page Trust (similar to Moz’s DA/PA and other such metrics)
- The number of different anchor texts (this is the text that contains the link, usually highlighted blue and underlined)
- The ratio of dofollow/nofollow links – dofollow links are regarded by some SEOs as better than nofollow
- A graph of how many backlinks have been gained and lost over time
To view the actual backlinks, click on the ‘Backlinks’ panel, which is located around the centre of the page before you scroll down.
The next screen shows you a list of backlinks including their anchor text, whether they are dofollow/nofollow, Domain Trust and Page Trust and when they were found. By default, they are sorted in descending order according to Domain Trust.
There is no surefire way to assess if a particular backlink is good or bad or whether it is making a difference to a website’s performance in the SERPS. It basically comes down to practice, experience and good judgment – and even then you can be wrong!
However, I’ll try to share a few tips that I use to assess if a backlink is good:
- Is it from a well-known authority in your niche (e.g. government agency, university, professional body etc.)?
- Does it use anchor text that relates to the subject of the page it points to?
- Was it created manually? (automatic links are not very powerful)
- Was it created by someone that wasn’t the target website owner? (e.g. we can all go out build our backlinks on blogger – they’re not very powerful)
- Was it easy to get? (i.e. could you get exactly the same sort of link with 5 minutes work?)
- Take metrics like da/dt/pa/pt and their ilk with a pinch of salt – they can be a quick and dirty guide to authority but are very often flawed
Make a list of all the backlinks that you can copy quickly and easily for your own website and schedule a bit of time to grab them. For the more difficult backlinks, get an idea of the sort of websites that are being used and approach their webmasters to see if you can have a backlink. Use this information to identify similar websites that your competitors do not have a link from. Approach webmasters from these sites to attempt to get yourself a backlink.
Finally, we move on to keyword research. You already know how to get ideas for keywords by using the ‘Competitor Research’ tool. This can help you to identify keywords that your competitors are already targeting and that you can imitate.
SE Ranking’s ‘Keyword Research’ tool (accessible from the top navigation bar) helps you to find keywords that are related to the keywords that you already have. If you don’t have any keywords yet, use the ‘Competitor Research’ tool or start typing niche-related words into Google and see what comes up in the auto-suggest and ‘People also ask’ sections.
Once you have a few keyword ideas, go over to the ‘Keyword Research’ tool and type them in one at a time. You can also select the country that these keywords will be targeting.
Having done this, you will be presented with lots of information about the keyword, including:
- Search volume over time – get a very rough idea of how many people put this query into Google
- Difficulty – how hard SE Ranking thinks this keyword is to rank
- Cost-per-click value – the average per-click cost of this keyword in Google Ads
- Organic and paid search results
- Similar keywords – alternative keywords with the same intent
- Related keywords – alternative keywords that are ranking the same pages ranking in Google
- Low search volume keywords – similar keywords with a low search volume
As with the majority of all SEO tool metrics (not just SE Ranking), don’t take these numbers as gospel. They are just best guesses and are often wildly inaccurate.
So, if these metrics are often wrong, what use are they? Well, they give you an idea of the sort of things your target market is searching for. You need to look at all the data and form patterns in your mind about how your website would serve them best. As a whole, this information gives you insights into the market and can help to make you think about things that you may not have thought of before and sub-niches that are gaining in popularity.
Once you’ve got some ideas for some new keywords that you wish to target, you should add them to your project.
In my experience, website audits are a double-edged sword.
They can alert you to technical issues with your website that may be stopping people from getting access to it and bad practices that can affect your search engine rankings (e.g. not using https on an e-commerce site etc.)
But they also flag up a lot of ‘issues’ that are not really a major problem (e.g. a title being a couple of characters too long etc.) Furthermore, they often give you rating or traffic light signal to indicate how well optimised your website is.
Sadly, I’ve seen too many people that are new to SEO spend way too much time trying to fix these tiny problems to get their ‘100% rating’ or ‘green light’ when their limited time would be better spent elsewhere (e.g. writing more content or building more backlinks). They also get very disappointed when they achieve their 100% rating that their website isn’t boosted up the SERPS (Core Web Vitals falls into this fallacy as well).
So, in summary, it is important to perform website audits to ensure there are no glaring technical errors on your website but do not waste time trying to get every little thing sorted according to the tool’s criteria. It will often have a negligible effect on your search rankings if any.
Moving on from this word of warning, SE Ranking’s Website Audit tool can be used to help you identify any major technical errors with your website. If you checked to receive a weekly audit report when you set up the project, you will be emailed a PDF report each week. This contains everything from orphaned pages to redirect errors and chains.
Your website audit can also be accessed on the left sidebar of your project.
Personally, I only check my website audit every few months for my bigger sites and annually for my smaller sites. It’s a very useful tool but unless you have a major technical error (which doesn’t happen all that often) it’s not something you will need day-in and day-out.
Well, this is the end of my article about how to use SE Ranking. I’ve explained how each of the major tools work and shared some knowledge and insights about how I use it in my day-to-day work. I hope you’ve found it useful.
This does not cover the entire suite of tools available from SE Ranking. Things like the marketing plan, keyword grouper and backlink monitor haven’t been included due to time constraints but if this article gets some traction, I may return to update it at a later date. I may also throw in a few screenshots and maybe a video in the future, depending on requests.
I’d love to get your feedback – you can do so by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The house has quietened down a bit now. I’m guessing either the kids are asleep or have killed each other. Better go and check…