PageRank, HUH! What’s it Good FOR?! Absolu – WAIT – I take it back!
PageRank, huh, yeah. What’s it good for?! Absolutely nuthin! Say it again. PageRank!
Okay, it makes a good song, but I still haven’t ditched this once be-all-end-all SEO metric. Here’s why.
Do you notice sometimes how when almost any type of resource falls from being the king of the hill to having far less inherent value than it once had, that the masses are all to eager to burn it at the stake—almost out of bitterness? “I resent that you no longer give me a simple formula for success. Go away now, I don’t need a reminder of a time when it was that easy”.
Yes, well. Let’s keep things in perspective. Throwing baby out with the bathwater? Bad, mmkay?
PageRank – From Important Metric to Useful Metric
So Google’s toolbar PageRank no longer solves all the Web’s search visibility riddles for you. No problem (and what a relief; yet another easy-to-game metric has that much less weight as a ranking algorithm), that’s good news, in my book.
But in a largely non-exact science (which loosely translates to not a science) such as SEO, you need as many good troubleshooting tools as you can find. And in my opinion, Google’s toolbar PageRank is a great troubleshooting tool.
Now I may have lost some of you with that last bit. You know, about the science. Many aspects of SEO are scientific in nature: statistics, research, analytics, etc, but many aren’t. (The last time I checked, Google still hasn’t put their ranking algorithms up in a live Google Doc for us).
Websites have many layers that work with one another: information architecture, content, back-end and front-end coding, link popularity, and the list goes on. Some of the art of SEO involves paying close attention to each layer while ensuring that the others are complimented, not interfered with.
So yes, much of search engine optimization centers around details, but sometimes the most valuable tools are the ones that allow you to step back a bit to assess a site’s health up and down its hierarchy.
Google’s PageRank Tool can be one of the best alerts that something is hurting a webpage’s health.
Toolbar PageRank Can Help You Find That Structural Needle in the Haystack
Often, the first stage of optimization is an audit. Content, keyword targets, structure, you name it, it needs to be documented and evaluated. Some of the first considerations of a structural audit should be an evaluation of how the site’s architecture is affecting the health of its most important pages (if not all) across the site.
If you have 100 pages to optimize, you’ll likely have a spreadsheet documenting each page: it’s title, internal links, what needs fixing, which pages are complete, etc. Let’s say for example, most of the site’s internal pages have a PR of 4, but somewhere along the hierarchy, a group of pages have no (greyed out) PageRank—and you know the pages aren’t new. In fact they’re just as old as the rest of the pages in that section and just as important. Boom, instantaneous sign that something is up in this corner of the site. 9 times out of 10, if those pages aren’t new, it’s an immediate sign that there’s either:
- A serious structural problem preventing link-juice from flowing to those pages.
- Duplicate content issues preventing search engine from respecting and indexing those pages.
Sure, there are other ways to troubleshoot for duplicate content and structural or other problems and penalties, but few are as quick and efficient at spotting critical issues, quickly letting you know something is up right from the start.
Mix in the fact that the API is available, and you can roll your own first-pass structural audits that include PR data.
Compare Google’s Toolbar PageRank with SEOMoz’s MozRank, and you get even more value. For instance, if any given page has a Google PR of 3 and a MozRank of 6, Google has likely passed the page a penalty, since MozRank uses a very similar algorithm as PageRank, but can’t incorporate Google penalty data.
PageRank isn’t dead in my book—it’s just different.
Raven Tools offers a fantastic set of SEO reporting tools. The minimalist interface is clean and intuitive.
Unless your only job is preparing website monitoring reports, I think simplicity should be on your software shortlist (there is such thing as too much data).
What I like about Raven Tools
- Raven does keyword tracking really well. This is 90% of what I use my account for.
- The reports are elegant, clean, customizable, and brandable, i.e., I can use my logo instead of theirs—this is important for any business.
- Raven pulls data from multiple sources (SEOmoz, Majestic, SEMRush, Google Adwords, etc).
- Support is phenomenal.
Raven Tools does a good job of giving us the choice of meaningful data to track, and making it easy to populate, easy to customize, and easy to output.
How could Raven Tools improve?
I’m adding my suggestions here as to how they could easily improve certain features. (If I didn’t like their product, I wouldn’t bother). BTW, Raven, I’m hoping you don’t mind my “open letter” suggestions; I’m hoping others that use your product will comment here.
Suggestions (Only worth reading if you’re familiar with Raven Tools)
Here are a few items I think would be nice additions:
- Numbered rows: Result rows such as in the ranking report (and in the dashboard as well), would be more user-friendly with numbered rows. When discussing the report with a client, I had to describe where the row was, instead of just telling him the row number. Not the end of the world, but a bit distracting.
- Left-aligned column text: Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen to center the text in the keyword column of keywords reports; the general consensus from a usability perspective is that centered text in tables is harder to scan than aligned. Again, not a huge deal.
- Multiple “side-by-side” competitor comparisons: Allowing more than one competitor to be compared “side by side” in ranking reports would be a big improvement. As it is, if I want to provide side by side competitor comparisons in reports, I need to add additional SERP trackers for each competitor which creates a lot of redundancy (identical ranking reports with only the side by side competitor being different). This is confusing and impractical for both my clients and myself. Here are some possible solutions to the side-by-side competitor display issue:
- Since space is an issue, maybe allow a certain number of columns in a ranking report. If I decide to remove global Adwords KW total searches from my report for example, I could add an additional competitor. A notification could let me know how many column selections I have left for my output combination.
- Substitute competitor names with numbers that correspond to a legend.
- Display competitor websites vertically in their columns.
- Allow reports for the campaign website and side by side competitor rankings only. All the detailed columns could be reserved for the main ranking report; a separate one for competition comparison only would be really nice.
With all this being said about solutions to the side-by-side competition comparison, in the reports I’ve generated so far, there’s actually been enough room for another couple of competitors, the option just isn’t available unfortunately. I’ve been tempted to export my .csv’s from my Raven Tools’ dashboard and make my own reports, but I’ll wait until the option (hopefully) becomes available.
Until then, I’ll continue with Raven tools, great product.
SEOMoz is currently allowing free, full access reports from their brand spanking new Open Site Explorer link popularity checker. The online tool has a sleek, intuitive design, and has the potential to pull in many new SEOmoz PRO Memberships, including mine. I highly recommend that you check out the full version for the remaining 24 hours of the free access preview.
One of the first places I headed to look for a review of the tool – before actually looking at it in depth – was SEO Book. Expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised to see Aaron Wall cast aside political industry differences, and give the tool a thumbs up. It’s nice to see search resource leaders on the same page sometimes.
I won’t go into all the features of the tool (I urge you to check them out for yourself), but I will cover a few points I’d humbly like to see addressed or improved upon sometime in the future.
On the ‘Linking Pages’ Tab, the title URL of external links are displayed, along with referring page anchor text, page authority, and domain authority.
The first search filter gives you the option to filter followed, no-followed and/or 301 redirected links – this is great.
The second filter allows you to view links from internal and/or external pages – also great.
The third filter allows you to view links to either the page you specify, or ‘all pages on the subdomain’, or ‘all pages on the root domain’.
What I believe is missing here is the ability to view which of the individual pages on the domain are receiving links, should you choose to filter results by ‘all pages on the root (or sub) domain.
When results are given on a domain, they’re displayed at the top of the page in the following format:
Page Authority [x] – Domain Authority [x] – Linking Root Domains [x] – Total Links [x]
However, when you filter the results according to your preferences, the new data correlating to those filtered results isn’t displayed at the top of the page; therefore to see the number of results of your filtered data set, you must go to the last page of results to find out. At the very least, it would be a good idea to update the number of ‘Total Links’ on filtered results.
Numbered results would earn another point for usability.
When looking at the tab for ‘Full List of Link Metrics’, in the ‘Domain-Level Metrics’ column, ‘Total links’ s defined as:
All links including internal, external, followed and no-followed to any page on the given website. Two or more links from the same URL to a single page are treated as one link.
I’d like the option to view these actual links, as bloated and redundant as a lot of this data can be.
The ‘Linking Domains’ doesn’t give as much information as it could, but SEOMoz has addressed that already – we’ll see some more data in this section in the coming months.
SEOMoz wisely chose to wait until after the 48 hour free-for-all preview to enable .csv export. You’ll have to go Pro for that.
You have 23 hours and 20 minutes left to data scrape and test the full version of this exciting new tool to your heart’s content – for free.
I’ve been using SEOmoz’s Mozbar for about a month now, and am looking forward to getting a Pro SEOMoz account in the very near future. I enjoy comparing the difference in Mozrank and Pagerank on all the pages I visit, but I have to admit, I haven’t explored the toolbar as much as I probably should have. The features that interest me the most with it are available only once you get a pro account for $79.00/year. By the way, I have no vested interest in endorsing SEOMoz or their products (in case this is sounding overly promotional), this is purely enthusiasm, I assure you.
And there is now a lot more to be enthusiastic about with the new Mozbar release.
The new ‘analyze page’ button on the toolbar provides valuable off-page information and a wealth of on-page SEO information in one click, including data
- The URL
- Page Title
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
- HTML Text
- Alt Text
- Meta Robots
- Rel=”Canonical” usage
- IP Address
- mozRank (for the URL, subdomain and root domain)
- mozTrust (for the URL, subdomain and root domain)
- # of External Links (for the URL, subdomain and root domain)
- # of Linking Domains (for the URL, subdomain and root domain)
Because my on-page SEO strategies include coding pages in accordance with W3C standard recommendations, as well as focusing on semantic markup (often collectively refered to as clean code), this tool is a nice time saver. Quickly scanning a web page for semantically rich elements without having to control-f my way through oodles of nested tables and incredibly bloated HTML is very convenient when a client or colleague is on the phone asking for a quick opinion on the state of of their pages’ code. Sure beats the usual “mmmkay, one sec, let me just also check this.. yes, hold on one minute, just checking something else”.
Yesterday evening, Google announced the release of their Search-based Keyword Tool (beta) (SBKT), a nice little addition to their ever expanding suite of free internet marketing and keyword research applications. Google’s SBKT suggests terms that are semantically related to the content of any provided URL – ones that aren’t currently part of an AdWords campaign associated with that particular site.
If you don’t run an AdWords campaign on the website that you’re doing KW research for, the tool can still come in handy by providing you with a list of related terms; similar to Google’s regular Keyword Tool, but with somewhat broader, yet highly relevant results. If, however, you are logged into your AdWords account when you perform the search, SBKT will display only the keywords that you aren’t already advertising for.
For each keyword or keyphrase displayed in the results, columns representing monthly search volume, competition, and suggested bids are offered, as they are in some of Google’s other tools. Some extremely valuable information is offered in the data column that displays what percentage of time you’re showing up in search ad spots for the AdWords campaign you’re running.
SEOs will be glad to know that Google says the Search-based Keyword Tool doesn’t generate keyword ideas from AdWords accounts associated with any websites, and that data is derived from
aggregated and anonymous Google search data from Google users in several different countries.
Comments, as usual, are welcomed. Let us know what you think of Google’s Search-based Keyword Tool!
By now it’s widely known that Barrack Obama’s superior internet marketing campaign surpassed McCain’s online strategy by fostering an efficient online community early on. Both of the campaigns took advantage of online behavioral targeting, using cookies set on visitors browsers to track what types of sites they visited, and displaying targeted ads to them on subsequent visits. BarackObama.com’s much higher traffic was complemented by social media platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Wikis to Organize Volunteers, as well as reaching to various demographics with text messaging for younger voters, and succinct emails to older ones.
Obama’s web team not only raised incredible sums in $30 and $50 increments, but also maximized their fund raising efforts by running multivariate conversion tests to optimize donations and minimize bounce rates.
Obama’s Donations page utilized free Google Website Optimizer to test the most successful of a variation of t-shirt gifts on donations of $30 or more – and on the site’s home page, displayed variations of campaign images, in order to measure bounce rates.
It seems Political Campaign Internet marketing change is here to stay!
This week Google added another source of useful data to the crawl error section of their Webmaster Tools. The original addition of this feature to the popular tools in August 2006 allowed account holders to view the types and counts of server crawl errors such as URLS not found, not followed, restricted and timed out. Due to popular demand, this feature is now complimented by the internal or external sources of ‘Not found’ (404) crawl errors
Whether you choose to view the data in the online application, or download all your crawl errors for later analysis, webmasters may use the data to track down exactly where the 404 errors are coming from, fix the internal ones, and attempt to fix the external ones
Crawl Error Sources Data Benefits Search Engine Optimization
If your server spits a 404 error because of an external linking error, the valuable link juice need not go to waste. Knowing the source of the 404 allows you to either contact the site owner to request a correction, or, you can simply 301-redirect the misspelled URL to the correct version. Presto, the vote for your site as an authoritative source of content is restored, earning you the valuable natural Pagerank points that your site deserves from the incoming link
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