Visualising search engine rankings by keyword in Excel

Richard Baxter

Originally posted on SEOmoz, this post still has legs, having been recently referred to in a number of Excel related posts. I thought it would be great to revisit the post, give it a bit of a rewrite and share it with our readers.

Despite what some say, tracking rankings for your target terms is an important part of an organic search marketing campaign. On occasion, SEO people who follow specific niches tend to describe ranking fluctuations with smart looking charts describing ranking position, by keyword over time. If you’d like to be able to build those charts quickly and easily, you’ll need this step by step guide. By the end of the guide you’ll have a rankings chart that looks just like this:

the finished product

Step 1: Collect your data

To be able to produce a chart like the example above, you’ll need Microsoft Excel, and a rankings checker that will export rankings data, by search engine and by date. For tracking rankings over time, I’m using Advanced Web Ranking.

Start by putting your data in an Excel table named “rankings” just like this:

data from excel

Create a pivot chart

Pivot tables were designed for exactly this type of application, and making them is heaps of fun. Let’s start by selecting “Insert > PivotTable >PivotChart” in the options along the top of your Excel ribbon.

You should see a window appear like the one below. Make sure you’ve named the correct range and select “New Worksheet“, followed by OK.

create a pivot table with Excel

Drag and drop your legend, axis and value fields

The cool thing about making a pivot table is the drag and drop functionality when you’re creating the row labels and values for the table. Here’s the visual explanation of where to put your keyword, date and position data:

pivot table field list from microsoft excel

Now, filter for the keywords you’d like to create a chart for. It’s quite impractical to create a chart with hundreds of keywords, but you can add a good number for comparison purposes. Head to the “Column labels” drop down and filter for the keywords you’d like to build the chart for:

select your column labels in excel

Filter by search engine

If you’ve collected data on multiple search engines, you’ll need to add a filter. Drag the “Search Engine” field down into the “Report Filter” section, and select the search engine you’re interested in using the drop down at the top of your pivot table.

fliter by search engineFormat your chart nicely

If you’ve followed the instructions so far, you’ll see a slightly noisy and weird looking bar chart, so next we’ll create a line chart to show the positional changes over time.

For pure charting awesomeness, a simple right mouse click on the chart, followed by “Change chart type > Line“, will do the trick. Finally, you’ll need to reverse your Y axis, leaving position 1 at the top and your lower rankings at the bottom. Using your right mouse button, click on the axis and select “Format axis” – you should see a window like this:

select your axis options

The end result

After spending some time having fun with formatting, you can create really nice charts. Here’s mine:

the finished product

Hope you find this approach useful – it’s certianly handy for visualising rankings over time. Enjoy!

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