SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

image3-1-2 SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

SEO monitoring is about regularly checking your SEO performance and making sure your website is free from major technical issues.

Monitoring key aspects of SEO is important because it allows you to react to things that can impact your visibility in search engines, such as declining keyword rankings. 

This article will help you understand what’s worth monitoring on your site regularly and how to do it using only free tools.

where you can see your keyword rankings (“Position” column), which pages rank (“URL” column), and how fresh the data is (“Updated” column). 

image11-3 SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

3. To get a list of only your most important keywords, plug them into the Keyword filter. Make sure to set “is” and “any” modes.

image4-4 SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

Further reading

Referring domains 

Referring domains are the unique websites pointing to your site. Monitoring them is the best way to see whether your link profile is growing. 

A growing link profile means that your site is gaining authority, which can help your pages rank higher. 

How to check 

Use Ahrefs Webmaster Tools. You can:

1. Go to your Dashboard.

2. Access the Backlinks card, which gives you a quick insight into backlinks growth. 

3. Click on the card to get more data (if you need it).

image1-6 SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

4. The tool will take you to Site Explorer, where you can see all backlinks from the domains, Domain Rating (DR), and other related data. 

image8-4 SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

You should aim to build as many or more links than your competitors to increase your chances for ranking. Read our Link Building for SEO: The Beginner’s Guide to learn how.

Technical SEO issues 

Technical SEO issues refer to possible problems Google may have with finding, crawling, indexing, and understanding your site. 

Monitoring for technical issues matters because it allows you to find and fix errors that can hurt your rankings.


Some issues can have a bigger impact than others (especially these nine issues). Your site may have some lesser issues (such as missing image alt text) and still rank high.

How to check 

Use Ahrefs Webmaster Tools to monitor for serious technical issues, i.e., errors. You can:

1. Open AWT and go to Site Audit. 

2. Click on Errors in the “Issues distribution” card. 

image7-4 SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

3. Go to the issue list, then click on the question mark next to the error and follow the instructions. 

image5-5 SEO Monitoring Explained: Best Free Tools to Get Started

To keep your site in good technical health, schedule regular crawls in AWT and fix the most pressing issues. 

What NOT to monitor in SEO (and why) 

Here are some popular metrics used in SEO that, in our opinion, are not worth regularly monitoring. That said, they may be useful in other situations. 

  • Domain rating Refers to the relative strength of your backlink profile. It’s a useful proxy for a quick assessment of other sites (for example, for link building) but not very useful for consistent monitoring on your own site. 
  • Click-through rate Refers to the proportion of page impressions on the SERPs that turned into clicks (available in GSC). It’s too confusing as a sitewide metric, but it can be helpful only when checked on the page level. Also, a low CTR doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with a given page (SERP features and ads can take away clicks). 
  • Engagement metrics – Especially bounce rate, engagement rate, dwell time, time on page, and session duration. They are either irrelevant to SEO or unreliable for analyzing content.

Further reading

Final thoughts 

You can do a lot with AWT and GSC. But there are some aspects of SEO monitoring that only premium SEO tools can do.

  • Thorough rank tracking – A premium rank tracker unlocks ranking data for different locations and mobile devices. Monitoring progress is easier with access to ranking history and a special competitor report. You also get access to the share of voice functionality, which can make a more useful KPI than particular keyword rankings. 
  • Competitive analysis With a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you can get an insight into your competitors’ SEO strategy by seeing which keywords they rank for and how they earn backlinks. 
  • Email alerts A feature you can also find in tools like Ahrefs that lets you set up notifications when a competitor’s site ranks for new keywords or gets new backlinks (watch short demo). You can also get notified of mentions of your brand and products.

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