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Mark Jackson

Tools of the Trade

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My last two articles focused on what to consider when outsourcing your search engine optimization efforts. This week, we’ll assume you are either an SEO or are handling things in-house, presenting some tools you might want to use. I’ll break these tools out by the various deliverables associated with a properly managed search engine optimization campaign.

Keyword Research


One thing is for sure – there is no such thing as the perfect tool for keyword research. After having worked for Lycos and AOL Time Warner, I can tell you that even an “insider” can’t gain access to the actual number of searches performed against a given keyword. The best you can do is get estimates.

WordTracker: This tool is the default standard for most search engine optimization companies. WordTracker works by compiling a database of over 300 million search terms which, according to its website, is updated on a weekly basis. All search terms are collected from the major metacrawlers – Dogpile and MetaCrawler.

Keyword Discovery: I have found Keyword Discovery to be very helpful, especially when doing keyword research for businesses that have to consider seasonality. For example, a business that specializes in selling flowers might want to look at the period preceding Valentine’s Day to get a more accurate picture of searches performed during this season.

According to its Web site, Keyword Discovery collects search term data from over 200 search engines worldwide. It claims the largest keyword database containing over 36 billion searches. Keyword Discovery also offers many language-specific keyword databases sourced from regional search engines and users from those regions including: Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and the UK, with plans to offer many others.

Site Structure Analysis

W3C Validator: While having a “valid” Web site does not guarantee rankings, having clean and solid code is a good indicator of having a quality, search engine friendly Web site.

Section 508 Validation: Again, having a Web site that abides by Section 508 does not guarantee better search engine rankings. However, as with W3C compliance, fulfilling Section 508 standards is a pretty good indicator of a Web site pursuing search engine optimization best practices

Competitive Analysis: There are many great tools here, so I’ll just point out a couple. We Build Pages' Cool SEO Tool is a great place to get a snapshot of your Web site versus those ranking on given keywords.

There is also Yahoo! Site Explorer, which provides great information on the number of pages indexed in Yahoo! as well as the number of backlinks leading to a particular Web site. Google and MSN’s numbers when searching “site:www.sitename.com” can be suspect, but Yahoo!’s information is usually pretty solid.

Link Analysis: Again, there are many tools available. We Build Pages created another great tool with its Neat-O Backlink Checker. This tool allows you to see the backlinks of any Web site as well as the associated anchor text for these links. Even better, the summary report will show the number of times a specific anchor text phrase is in use, as well as the total number of unique backlinks. See Yahoo! Site Explorer, too, for information on backlinks to a particular Web site.

Ranking Reports

WebPostion: While I wouldn’t count on this software providing you everything that you need to know to optimize your Web presence, it is a solid product for regular ranking reports and competitive information.

AdvancedWebRanking: Some clients, I have found, prefer the reporting from AdvancedWebRanking. This system is the only option for those concerned with ensuring that it works on multiple platforms. So, if you’re using a PC, Mac or Linux, this is the tool for you.

Web Traffic

Everyone will have their preference and will need to find the right tool at the right price to meet their needs. The following analytics products should give you a wide range to choose from.

WebTrends: On the higher end of monthly costs, this product has a solid reputation for quality reporting and stability.

Google Analytics: The price is definitely right – it’s free. You’re able to set up conversion tracking and get most of the information one might need, to understand Web traffic. However, the information is not real-time; so if that’s important, go with something else.

Omniture Site Catalyst: An enterprise-level, real-time analytics application. It has features for monitoring and optimizing social marketing programs and rich-media usage and abandonment.

HBX Analytics: We have clients effectively using this to better understand the lifetime value of their customers, as well as assigning unique identifiers (Customer IDs) to better optimize their marketing efforts.

Other Cool Tools

SEO Tool for Firefox: This is a great plug-in to your browser to get you quick, easy-to-understand information about why a given Web site may be ranking for a particular search phrase.

SEO Quake: Essentially the same type of information that you’d get from the SEO Tool for FireFox, but a little more comprehensive. Might be more information than you’re looking for, but if SEO is your “thing,” you’ll want to check this out.

SEO Digger: A quick and easy to use tool. Helps you see what search phrases your Web site may be ranking for on Google.

As always, I love feedback. So, if you have any tools you think are worthy of a mention in a future article, please send them over!


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