SearchMasters’ search engine rank tracking setup consists of a virtual desktop running Advanced Web Ranking (AWR) so that we can make the most of the low subscription fee of AWR desktop vs AWR cloud. For most clients, we run monthly ranking scans, and then analyse the results, and for other clients, we do weekly or even daily scans. The scans can take quite some time to complete, depending on the number of keywords and search engines (e.g. as well as and perhaps city-specific results) we are keeping an eye on.

Sometimes a reported ranking seems not quite right and so we need to confirm whether the result is authentic. Manually confirming the results used to be rather straight forward, because Google Search had an option to specify a search location before submitting a query.

Google’s Ad Preview Tool

We soon discovered that Google Search still does have an option to specify a search location - if you apply a bit of a workaround to Google’s Ad Preview Tool. The Ad Preview Tool can be used for another purpose - browsing search engine result pages (SERPS) to see changes in rankings for clients or client’s competitors. The preview tool’s intended use is to allow marketers to preview what their ad looks like before publishing it. The preview generated shows both the adverts as well as the organic search results. If you need to quickly check the ranking position for a specific phrase from a certain location and search engine, then the Ad Preview Tool will come in handy.

You may notice that none of the SERP preview links can be clicked, including the link to go to the next page of results. If you don’t mind getting into the source code of the page a bit, there are two possible workarounds. The SERP preview is a real-time preview of the result, using an iframe. The iframe source URL can be edited or copied in order to get to the new page.

Method 1: edit the iframe source URL and add &start=10 to the end of the URL. This will take you to the second page of results. Increase the number by increments of ten to browse to the next SERP.

Method 2: copy the iframe source, and visit the URL in a private browser window. In this view, you can fully interact with the SERP, including browsing to the next page of results. Furthermore, the most powerful part of this workaround is that you can change the search query to whatever you like. Want to check another keyword for the same location? You can.

I have compared the results produced by method one and two, the results are in the same order even if you change the search query.

This is not the first time SEOs have used an AdWord’s tool for the purposes of SEO. The Keyword Planner is a popular tool for researching what search phrases you ought to target in your niche, as well as the traffic for each phrase.

Recently, the reported traffic for each phrase has started to appear in ranges, rather than absolute numbers. For example, the phrase auto parts? has 720 monthly searches from New Zealand, but it can show up in the keyword planner results as 100 - 1000? hits per month. Clearly, the exact number is of more use. I have found that the exact number only appears if I am logged into an AdWords account that has a reasonable amount of spend on it. Google deliberately throttled the data for AdWords accounts that have low spend.