When you are working with a site that has a large number of new or changing pages, it would be ideal to have a tool that can do a deep submit to the various search engines, according to their different limits. That's exactly what Position Pro has offered since the middle of 1999. It's one of the few decent deep submit services I've seen worth recommending.
Over the past few months, Position Pro has added some page analysis tools, to help the service go beyond its submission roots. However, submission hasn't been forgotten, with new features also added to help enhance things there.
At its core, Position Pro is designed to submit multiple pages from your site to the major crawler-based search engines. How many pages depends on how much you are willing to pay: it's $350 per year for 50 pages or less, rising to $1,100 for 200 to 300 pages. Custom pricing is available for sites who want to submit more than this. Position Pro's staff will also submit your site to human-powered directories such as Yahoo, LookSmart and the Open Directory, though any express fees for these services must be paid in addition to your Position Pro subscription.
The service is entirely web-based. After you sign up, you can log into the service and view all the pages in your site that are accessible to crawler-based search engines from the service's "Analysis" area. Position Pro knows about these pages, because it uses its own spider to visit your site and find them.
After Position Pro's initial spider assessment, the service revisits customer sites every two or three days, while Position Pro's staff works with its clients to determine the content of their web sites and identify problems. Following the setup period, spidering then occurs every two weeks, unless a more custom schedule is requested.
Not all the pages Position Pro finds will be submitted. How many depends on the level you selected when signing up. For instance, Position Pro might discover that you have 1,000 pages that crawler-based search engines could access, but if you only selected the 50-page submission level, then only 50 of these 1,000 pages would be actively submitted to search engines.
If left to Position Pro, pages from your site with the best "index values" (as explained below) will be submitted first. However, you can easily override this and select the exact pages you want to submit using Position Pro's "Site Analysis" chart. This chart lists each of your URLs, and selecting the "Info" button for a particular URL brings up the "Page Information" screen. From this screen, you can move the URL to the top of the submission queue by marking it as "Priority submit" or select exactly which major search engines the URL is submitted to, if you don't want it to go to all of them.
Once you've made your choices and your account is fully active, Position Pro goes to work. Pages will be submitted daily, but never in excess of the different limits each search engine allows. In fact, less than the maximum amount may be submitted for smaller sites, in order to avoid any possible spam concerns or connection problems.
"Let's assume that a search engines loses its submissions for a day. If you space it out over a period of time, I think it's better," said Jim Stob, Position Pro's creator.
After all your selected pages have been submitted, Position Pro won't submit them again unless some problem is detected. For example, if a Position Pro account manager notices that a significant number of pages have been dropped from a search engine, which can happen for various technical reasons to any site, then submissions would begin again. Similarly, if a client has many changes to their site, a respidering and resubmission might be in order.
Over all, Position Pro follows the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule that I recommend, which means don't resubmit unless you see a particular and continuing problem with a search engine.
Identifying Your Best Content
If you have a large site, you'll bump into the issue of not being able to actively submit all the pages you have within the submission limits of the major search engines. For example, AltaVista generally allows up to 5 pages per day per site to be safely submitted. That means over a year, you can only directly submit 1,825 pages -- bad news if you have a site with double, triple or 100 times that number.
This really isn't the "problem" that it seems. Search engines can and do crawl independently of what they receive via their Add URL pages. Submitting to Add URL pages is absolutely NO guarantee that your pages will actually get listed. However, submission generally doesn't hurt and can at least help ensure that the search engines know about the pages you consider important. This is where Position Pro's new analysis tools come in. They are designed to help you understand which of your pages deserve priority in the submission stream.
Using the aforementioned Site Analysis chart, you can see at a glance the "index values" for each of your pages. You can think of this as a content quality rating. Position Pro scores each of your pages against a licensed analysis algorithm, to show you how rich in content it believes each page to be. In particular, it examines the location, frequency and uniqueness of terms on the page.
In no way should a page's index value be taken as a guarantee of top scoring with the search engines themselves. However, Position Pro reports that those who manage to get pages within the 150 to 350 index value range tend to find that these pages generally do better with search engines. It also helps for the pages to be between 250 and 600 words in length.
"How we've come up with these numbers is that we've taken all of our pages [2 million have been spidered by Position Pro” and looked at the scores for each of them, and then we look at which pages have ranked well with the search engines," said Stob. "We show that that the average index value [of a top ranking page” comes in at 250, with a word count of 200 to 300 words per page."
It's important to note that the index value is linked to the three top keywords (or key phrases) for each page. Those keywords are determined automatically by Position Pro's algorithm. It looks to see what terms the page appears to be targeting, paying special attention to words appearing in the page's title tag. This is one reason Position Pro works with clients to have them at least make title tag changes before running an analysis to choose which pages to target with further optimization work.
Indeed, though Position Pro started out as a submission tool, it is the analysis option that I think really offers the most value, especially to those with large web sites. If you have a site with 10,000 or 100,000 pages, where do you focus your efforts? Using Position Pro's index values as a guide, you can quickly home in on the pages that seem to offer the most potential for ranking success through minor tweaking.
That's the theory. Does it work? Several optimization specialists I've talked with are happy with the service. Position Pro also counts among its clients businesses such as About.com, Business 2.0, Ticketmaster's Citysearch and even a portal, Canada.com. Stob says most of those who try the service stick with it.
"Our resubscription rate is over 95 percent. Those that do not are the ones that signed up and don't know how to put the work into it," Stob said.
Optimization Tool, Not Optimization Company
This is where it is important to stress that Position Pro is not a search engine optimization company. They simply make a tool for search engine marketing experts to use. However, to help customers learn how to "put in the work," as Stob puts it, all clients are assigned an account manager to get started with Position Pro.
The account manager initially reviews the site, then discusses some immediate optimization suggestions (such as custom page titles) and ways to move forward with optimizing the site in an orderly fashion over time.
"In many cases, what we'll be doing is getting them to make alterations to their titles initially. We might have some content changes, but we'll start the submissions after the titles are done," Stob said. "The [entire site's” optimization is going to be done over a period of time, and if we waited for all of the optimization be done, we might not get going for five months or longer.
The focus is to get clients to make the basic changes to their existing pages rather than creating highly optimized doorway pages. Altering page titles and improving body copy are the small things that still can bring results.
"Simple changes can make the difference," Stob said. "You cannot believe how much."
After the site is running fully with Position Pro, account managers are supposed to make contact at least once per month with clients, though they will monitor status reports twice per month, to watch for any problems, Stob said.
Who Should Consider Position Pro?
Is Position Pro for you? If you have a large web site that has some solid content already, it certainly is worth investigating. However, it's not a tool for beginners. It assumes you have some fair knowledge of how search engines work, and help files are non-existent, especially since the account managers are there to help a client learn to use the system.
Of course, the same online tools could be useful to those with small web sites (and small budgets), which is why a version of Position Pro with training wheels was recently released. Called Submit Director, the $149 annual service is exclusively for sites of 50 pages or less, at the moment. Unlike Position Pro, you'll find plenty of help files and tutorials to walk you through the optimization process, yet you'll still have access to virtually the same analysis and submission tools that the normal Position Pro service offers.
Those considering Position Pro should also be aware that not all sites are accepted to use the service. "We turn down over 50 percent of the sites that apply," Stob said. In particular, affiliate and adult sites are generally refused. "We look at a site and say, 'Would we have any problems placing this with LookSmart or Yahoo?' If not, then we accept it," Stob said.
There are many other features to Position Pro and Submit Director beyond what I've already mentioned, and I wanted to highlight a few more of them, especially for those who may be using Submit Director and looking for extra guidance.
Site Analysis Chart Revisited & Page Analyzer Tool
I've mentioned the Site Analysis chart already, but I return to it because it is the heart of Position Pro. Using it, you can see the top three keywords or search phrases that each of your pages appears targeted toward.
What if you disagree with the assessments, which Position Pro generates automatically? Take a close look at the pages where you disagree, to see if they perhaps need changes.
One assistant here is the Page Analysis tool. At the top of the Page Information screen, which you can bring up using the small Info button for any URL listed on the Site Analysis chart, you'll see a link to the Page Analyzer tool. It shows you the top content words for that URL. By revising your page copy, you can push up the values of particular words. Just use the Page Analyzer again after making changes, to see how the scores have been changed.
While the Site Analysis screen is useful, there's more that could be improved. It needs to provide greater customization. It would be helpful to choose what information you want to have displayed for each page, such as the page title and meta tags. This information is available in other ways, but not in a unified table that ideally could be downloaded.
More important would be the ability to filter and sort. You can tag pages that have been optimized, but there's no way to then filter these out of the Site Analysis chart, in case you wanted to see only the pages in your site that are NOT optimized. The ability to sort by URL could also help if you want to quickly find a variety of pages, instead of having to locate them individually using the page lookup tool.
Stob said such suggestions may come in the future, and also stressed that for Position Pro clients, custom needs can also be handled on a per request basis.
Meta Tag Generator
Position Pro offers an automatic meta tag generating tool. By selecting the Meta Tag Generator link at the top of the Page Information screen, you can create some generic meta tags for that URL.
When you select the meta tag link, the URL is retrieved in real time and meta tags are created for it automatically, based on the content of the page. There will be two choices, but the only difference between them is the meta keywords tag.
That keywords tag is created by using software to analyze the page for unique terms. Since this analysis isn't perfect, a second run is done with slightly different parameters, to provide a different and longer version of the meta keywords tag for choice two.
Position Pro advises that you look at both versions of the meta keywords tag that are generated and choose the one that you think best reflects the content of the page. In general, the longer tag is not as good if the page itself is fairly short. Position Pro also advises that the page's HTML title should already be altered to reflect what you think the page should be targeted toward before running the meta tag generator.
As for the meta description tag, this comes by grabbing the first significant sentences from the page to use as a meta description tag.
While it would be better to manually create distinct tags for each of your pages, using automatically created custom tags is better than not having them at all. You can also always go back and tweak the automatically generated tags later.
"We'd rarely say use these exact tags. Almost always, we would recommend some modifications," Stob said.
Unfortunately, there's currently no way to have Position Pro automatically create tags for every page in your site, but a special run can be requested by clients, Stob said. Don't forget, once you make the tags, you still need to install them on your pages.
As an extra service, Position Pro can also spider sites with dynamic content. It essentially creates mirror pages on the client's server that search engines can crawl. It can also handle situations such as shopping sites, where information about prices and product availability would be stripped out of the mirror pages and replace with "view" links that those reaching these non-dynamic pages can use to retrieve the latest information.
The future of any submission tool really lies in the growth of paid inclusion programs. As crawlers become less reliant on their Add URL pages because of spam problems, then submission-only tools that depend on these pages aren't of much value. Here's where Position Pro has a key advantage in the field, in addition to its page analysis features. It is owned by Position Technologies, which is one of Inktomi's paid inclusion partners. You don't have to use Position Pro to have paid inclusion with Inktomi, but if you are a Position Pro user, then the Inktomi paid inclusion is integrated into the service.
The integration could be stronger -- Inktomi included pages aren't automatically excluded from the submission schedule or highlighted on the Site Analysis page, for example. However, you can view a special report similar to the Site Analysis page that lists all of your pages ranked by index value. Using check boxes, you can then order that any of these pages be added to the Inktomi paid inclusion system -- and those already in it will be indicated. This makes it easy to at least focus on pages that may have the most luck in bringing traffic.
The Inktomi integration will probably improve over time, and the combination of page analysis tools along with a guaranteed inclusion (if you pay extra) into Inktomi gives Position Pro a powerful combination as a search engine optimization tool
Position Pro's page analysis tool uses algorithms licensed from the National Research Council of Canada. It can work with pages in English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese. Here's a demonstration of the technology that you can run against your own pages.
How Inktomi Works
Articles about paid inclusion into Inktomi can be found here.