Getting started with an API for SEO

Every good digital marketer loves data.

The reason is as a marketer, every decision you make should be backed up with data. Think of data as the instruments on your aircraft. Without instruments, on a foggy day, a pilot literally doesn’t know what direction they’re flying in.

The same is true of SEO.

With that said, there are many different ways to present data. Each presentation tells a different story. Each story gives you unique insights.

This means not every tool or data set will help a marketer find the insights they are looking for. You can’t build a cabinet with just a hammer.

This brings me to the subject of APIs for SEO.

There are times when the standard toolset just isn’t enough. Many marketers turn to APIs when they need their data presented in a specific way.

In this post, I’ll be covering what an API is and how you can use one to improve your SEO. I’ll also show you how you can get started using Rank Ranger’s API. (Our API is sort of like an API with training wheels, but more about this later.)

Before we get into how to use an API, let’s first understand what an API is.

What is an API? 

API or Application Programming Interface is the system that allows devices to communicate with one another. It’s simply a go-between that takes requests from you the user and tells a program what you want to do. It then returns a response back to you.

Okay, but what does this have to do with SEO?

Simply put, an SEO API is a way for an SEO to get raw rankings data that they can arrange themselves. Typically, the SEO will then organize the data using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.

Why Do I Need to Use an API? 

It’s important to note that not every SEO team needs to use an API. For the most part, if all you need is your regular rank tracking data, a site explorer, and a keyword research tool, you’ll not need to invest in an API.

However, there are cases where regular tools simply aren’t enough and the flexibility of an API could really come in handy.

For instance, news sites…

Live API and On-Demand Reporting 


Think about a site that publishes news. Imagine what a normal news cycle looks like…

Articles need to be published quickly, stories come and go on a whim.

In cases like this, the site will need data at the drop of a hat. What I’m talking about is being able to request data and get it immediately. These sites are generally looking to plot trends, fast.

Now if you are using a typical rank tracker or some other SEO tool, the data is normally updated once a day. For a news site, potentially waiting 24 hours for fresh data is simply out of the question.

To solve this, most news sites invest in a live API. A live API will allow the SEO to request fresh data at any given moment.

Also, some digital marketing agencies and in-house SEO teams use APIs to present data in unique and specific ways.

Use an API for Unique Data Presentations 

Although SEO tools are great at presenting data, not every site can use a standard set of reports. For some business models, standard reports are too limiting as the SEO will not be able to paint the right picture with the data.

Many companies need a unique set of reports. Perhaps they need to correlate data in ways that standard tools simply aren’t designed to do. In cases like this, it might be far easier to take raw data and filter it using Excel filters, than trying to use limited reports. Raw API data can really come in handy in cases like this.

What Tasks Can be Done With APIs? 

SEO APIs can be used for a wide variety of purposes depending on what data you are requesting. Here are just a few…

Keyword Research 

Although standard keyword research tools are great for simple keyword research, sometimes an SEO needs a tool that is more comprehensive.

For instance, enterprise-level research requires a more sophisticated approach to data.
Instead of looking at data for a single keyword, an API can allow you to do a batch analysis.

This can give the SEO a big-picture understanding of an entire topic rather than a single keyword analysis.

Content Creation 

When creating content, a content marketer needs tools to help them generate ideas. Content that is based on real people’s needs can really make the difference between mediocre content and epic content that people are dying to share and link to.

Having access to an API that shows competitor’s top pages can really help to see what audiences are interested in. Taking this to a new level, you can use an API tool that shows you how many social shares or links a piece of content gets. This can take all of the guesswork out of understanding your audience’s interests.

Intellectual Property Protection 

For many companies, intellectual property forms a large number of their valuable assets. However, with all the opportunities on the web, there is a great danger of counterfeiters stealing their precious assets.

To deal with this, companies can use image scraping to monitor intellectual property infringements.

Brand Monitoring 

How a company shows up on the web could be crucial for building trust with its customers. The problem is a brand could be mentioned in a myriad of places making it almost impossible to know how a brand is portrayed on the web.

To deal with this, a business can always use online media monitoring. This simply means topics of interest are monitored on numerous media channels such as review sites, news, blogs, forums, and social media channels.

The way this works is a business can enter a specific term such as the business’s name to see all the mentions across the web.

This data can help a brand with:

  • Brand monitoring and management
  • Audience research
  • Competitor analysis

The Rank Ranger API – An API With Training Wheels 

Bicycle with training wheels

This brings me to the Rank Ranger API. If you have never used an API before, this tool is a great place to get started.

The reason is, even though it’s a way to get the benefits of API requests, it also functions like an SEO tool. It’s really an API emulator or an API with training wheels. More about this in the next section.

As I’ve mentioned above, this is a live API. That means you get fresh data served to you instantly. Upon request, the API will bring you keyword data based on the top 100 results.

It will show you:

  • Title tag
  • URL
  • SERP features
  • Meta description
  • Extension Snippets

Now before I explain how you can get started, I just want to explain how you can use the data.

When creating content, it’s important to see what is already ranking. The problem is, when eyeballing the SERPs, it’s difficult to get the big picture at a glance. All too often as a result of SERP features, only two or three results appear on page one of the SERPs.

Instead, you can instantly see all of the top 100 URLs.

What’s more, you can get a good impression as to what the content is about looking at the title tags and meta descriptions.

Big picture data like this can really help you understand what content Google is using to answer the query. What’s more, the SERP feature data can quickly help you see what type of content will help boost visibility.

For instance, if Google is showing a video box or video thumbnails, it makes sense to add videos to your content. If on the other hand, Google is presenting a Featured Snippet, you should structure your content to win the Featured Snippet.

Also, you can get data for many keywords all on one doc. Instead of focusing on one keyword at a time, you can see the content landscape for an entire topic. This way you can use Microsoft Excel filters to see the specific data you are looking for.

Using the Rank Ranger API Emulator

In reality, we’ve made API requests accessible to anyone. In general, for an SEO to make an API request, they need to know how to code. This makes most APIs inaccessible to many SEOs.

To deal with this, we created a simple tool that makes the requests for you.

You can make use of our Search Query API tool if it’s active in your account. Access it in the Campaigns reports under the API Resources tab: Campaigns > API Resources > Keyword Checker Tool 

To get started hop on over to the tool and click the + New Report button.

Rank Ranger Keyword Checker Tool

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to give the report a name, choose the country and search engine and add the keywords you want to track. Let the report run. Once finished you can download the data as an excel file.

It’s as simple as that. The whole process literally takes a few minutes.

API, Your Portal into Data 


In reality, I’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

There are SEO APIs available for almost any form of data you need. And as I mentioned above, as a marketer or an SEO, all of your decisions should be based on solid data and analysis.

The digital world of marketing has taken much of the guesswork out of earning greater sales or acquiring more leads.

The question is what data do you need and how do you get it.

About The Author

Darrell Mordecai

Darrell is a content marketer at Rank Ranger. While working as the SEO manager at a small marketing agency, Darrell discovered his love of marketing and SEO.