Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Page Position Checking SEO Tools Waste Time and Money

The SEO community is always promoting page position checking tools all over the place but those tools are hardly useful and just part of the harmful hype that constantly surrounds the SEO business. Worse yet, they burn up your money paying for crap that most ultimately discard, waste time initializing the software per site, burn more time and bandwidth running them, and worse yet, these tools are against the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Since most SEO's don't give a rat's ass about doing things that are against the Google Webmaster Guidelines, until their sites get penalized in Google, we'll focus on why it's a waste of time and money.

Why would you possibly need a page rank checker?

  • Customer wants a position report.
  • Keeping an eye on the competition's ranking.
  • Don't know how to interpret traffic analytics.
  • Because everyone else does it.
Customer wants a page position report

There must be a motivating factor driving all of this rank checking mania, we'll call it money, because it certainly isn't common sense. I've never hired outside SEO but I'll bet customers get charged extra for these silly reports to cover the costs of the software or service they pay to create those reports.

The customer probably didn't know he needed a position report until some SEO claimed "Top 10 position guaranteed!" or something equally as silly which put that thought in his head in the first place. Now that the customer has that idea about a single position you need to either educate them about why it's garbage or spend time and money pounding the search engines running reports that put your money where your mouth is.

I would probably opt to educate the customer about what really matters and show increases in traffic and conversions and skip right past the silly rank checking. If you want to spend money wisely and help the customer spend it wisely as well invest in really good analytics and skip directly past page rank checking.

Unfortunately, we all know some customers will be fixated on ranking #1 for some term and won't see or appreciate the big picture in overall traffic improvements and will have a single-minded focus on that single keyword. Those are customers I would walk away from because anything short of achieving that goal and they'll never be happy and misery flows downhill. Run, do not walk, away from this situation.

Keeping an eye on the competition's ranking.

Considering that the bulk of the traffic usually comes from less than 30 keyword phrases (ok, I just picked 30 as a random number for discussion, your mileage may vary) it's pretty easy to eyeball these phrases in the search engines every now and then just to get an idea what the competitive landscape looks like. Spending tons of money on software just to track this competitive analysis is also silly because you know for a fact that when you improve your traffic and conversions on certain terms you're taking them away from someone. Likewise, if you lose traffic and conversions on certain terms you can typically assume someone is taking that traffic away from you and you can easily eyeball that term in the search engine to see where it went.

Don't know how to interpret traffic analytics.

Anyone that has ever run a web site for any length of time will realize that everything you'll ever need to know can be found in your log file analysis. If you rank well for a keyword or phrase you'll be getting a lot of traffic on that term and if you don't rank well, or at all, you won't get traffic for that term. Pretty simple to figure out what terms rank because everything that doesn't show up in your log files either doesn't rank or if it did rank, doesn't drive traffic because people don't search for that phrase so it's meaningless.

Learning how to properly understand the traffic to your site can seem a little overwhelming at first because not all traffic is good traffic. The easiest way to really understand where to focus your energy is tracking conversions to see which terms bring in the most customers that convert and then expand your search engine marketing around what I like to call "the phrase that pays".

Usually it's a lot of phrases but that's a different discussion for a different day.

I always recommend a combination of server side and service provider analysis tools as you need something that can analyze your raw server log files and it never hurts to use something free, especially if you're on a budget or not terribly technical, like Google Analytics as it's easy to install. Additionally, consider looking into some of the information provided by Google Webmaster Tools.

The main difference between a javascript-based analytics tool like Google Analytics and server side stats is that the javascript-based tools tend to only show real humans surfing the web. All the 'bots that crawl don't tend to be javascript capable which is why the two tools will show a huge discrepancy between your raw server logs and analytics services. Don't forget that many surfers disable javascript and run various ad blocking software which may also block your analytics tracker for privacy reasons. Therefore, the truth about your traffic lies somewhere in the middle of the raw server logs and a hosted analytics service but you usually can't go wrong basing decisions on the results of an analytics service.

Because everyone else does it.

That's not even a reason, that's an excuse.

This article wouldn't be complete if I didn't admit once upon a time, a long time ago, even I fell for the page position tracking trap and did it for almost 6 months before I realized I was wasting my time. Worrying about minor fluctuations are silly because the search engines are constantly in flux and your site may go up or down a little on various terms all the time, it's natural. However, if your site moves up or down a substantial amount on a term, your analytics will point this out just as well as the rank checker so it's completely redundant and doing the same job twice is obviously a waste of time and money.

That's why I abandoned checking my page positions years ago, increased my traffic more than I ever did looking at those silly reports, and both made and saved a lot of money in the process.


Skip the rank position checking except for manually eyeballing the search results every now and then for some top terms and invest heavily in analytics.

You'll be happier, you'll be focused on what really gets better results and you won't feel like a schmuck.


Ban Proxies said...

Log files are gold. If anyone is using a hosting provider that doesn't include a "Stats" program consider changing hosts very quickly.

Gold mining tip:

- Search Keyphrases (not Keywords). I start with phrases that get 1 hit a day. Select a phrase and search the 3 major "engines" for the position of your page. Many times you will find the page on page 2 or 3 of the results.

Now, link to that page from anywhere you can, blog about it if you want to. Search G for: keyphrase . That search will show you all the pages you have that are related to this one phrase. Use one of the pages to link to the page you want to elevate in the search results.

Bill told you where the gold is and all I've done is given you an idea about how the gold can me mined. It's your site, do as much as you can before you pay anyone to do very simple things that can improve your ranking.

Anonymous said...

You've never been an SEO for a client. They want keyword rankings. The boss wants it. The other SEO firms offer them. So you must provide them.

If you bill the actual time it takes to check rankings, they will fire you. If you underbill, you will go broke. If you don't provide what the customer needs, they will fire you.

Where's the mystery?

IncrediBILL said...

You would be wrong as I have done SEO for clients and I told them I wouldn't do those silly reports and told them why.

We worked on analytics and overall sales performance just like I posted and I wasn't fired but YMMV.